Honors College to host intellectual discussion “salons”

Kaely Holloway

The Honors College is hosting a salon, an intellectual gathering of people discussing thought and theory over pressing issues and philosophical topics, for any interested students to attend.

Wolfgang Brauner, the academic advisor for the Honors College, and his wife, Elizabeth Gish, a professor in the Honors College, will be hosting the first Honors Salon at their house on Feb. 7.


It is an open group, not restricted to just honors students. Some faculty will be attending as well. The topic of discussion will attempt to answer the question: how does the Internet change the way people think, work and live?

“It’s pragmatic because I’m teaching this [topic as a] colloquium,” Brauner said. “Getting the topic idea was in part from preparing for that course that I had taught before, then I had the idea for the salon and they [the Honors College] said that it might be a first good topic, it’s a popular topic and it makes for a good entry point.”

Gish agrees this is a valid first topic. She said this first meeting could help generate topic ideas for future events.

“The people involved could play a role in the next topic,” Gish said. “We could have a collaborative topic that turns out to be more narrow, or strong interest topic that’s more broad.”

During the early years in the Enlightenment Age of France, salons were hosted to discuss opinions and new ideas, coming from minds like René Descartes and Voltaire.

“Most students hear honors salon and think hair salon; they don’t know it goes back to 18th century salons in France,” Brauner said. “This comes from the idea to bring together people that aren’t normally together. Faculty and students normally don’t come together, and as a teacher, I think it’s important to take students out of the institutional context.”

The results of this salon will show whether more can be held or not. Brauner, having hosted similar salons at his previous job in Boston, is hoping this will have potential to become a monthly event.

Craig Cobane, executive director of the Honors College, will be attending this inaugural salon. He said it won’t be like a lecture.

“Students will be sitting on couches and chairs, and it’s meant to be very casual,” Cobane said. “You’re coming to someone’s home, not a classroom.”

Cobane is also hopeful that this type of event will continue. According to him, the Honors College has been a place for experimental ideas, such as this, to catch on university-wide. This might be the next idea to catch on.

“In honors, we work hard to create collegial associations. Our goal for the college is for students to interact with staff and faculty,” Cobane said. “That’s the way the most prestigious liberal arts colleges work, that’s what we try to do. The salon is a natural extension of this.”