Every year, first-year students in the Georgia State University Honors College are required to take Honors 1000, a specialized seminar style course. This fall 2015 semester, the subjects ranged from fairytales to politics to theater and religion, with an assortment of subjects in between. These honors seminar courses give Honors College students an early introduction to research, and allows the students to engage in conversation with faculty and other students about topics of interest. One of the great things about the selection of Honors 1000 courses is that students can learn about subject matters outside of their majors.
This semester Dr. Anne Murphy is teaching an Honors 1000 course, entitled “Sex, Gender, and Mental Health”. Dr. Murphy suggested this course as a possible Honors Seminar because she wanted to direct attention to the fact that sex differences play a role in the instance rate of mental illness, as well as the causes and treatment strategies. “Who doesn’t like sex differences in psychopathology?” she asks.
From the very first meeting, it was apparent that this class would be different. Dr. Murphy made it a point to emphasize that there was a distinct difference between sex and gender. “Sex,” Dr. Murphy says, “is biological, in terms of chromosomal determination. Gender is how you perceive your sex. [It] is your perceived sex.” Dr. Murphy went on to describe the importance of this difference. “When dealing with animal models of disease, it is critical to use the term sex because these animals don’t have a gender.” According to Dr. Murphy, if this course were strictly about animal models of disease, then the class would be entitled “Sex and Mental Health”, not “Sex, GENDER, and Mental Health.”
Throughout the course, students are put in groups to conduct research and create presentations on specific aspects of certain mental disorders. The unique style of this course allows students to develop research skills and answer questions for themselves. Furthermore, the way Dr. Murphy conducts the class gives it a more conversational feel. Anna (Rory) Nall, a first-year psychology major, says that her favorite part of the class is its “informal atmosphere.”
When asked what students are expected to take from this course, Dr. Murphy replied, “I expect for them to take from it a greater understanding of a variety of different disorders, including autism, depression, schizophrenia…” Overall, she shares that her biggest goal is to make sure that her students enjoy the honors seminar, and get something out of it. Dr. Murphy wants the students to feel that this class was a worthwhile use of their time. It is safe to assume that she has succeeded. “I think the class is great!” says first-year, Chemistry major, Ranil Patel. “It’s good that we get to discuss different mental disorders….the info would be good for everyone to know.”