Plan II Honors Logo
Plan II Honors

S S 301 • Hon Soc Sci: Socl Rprdctv Hlth

42710 • Potter, Joseph E.
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SAC 4.118
show description

FULL TITLE: Reproductive Health and Population in Texas

General Description

Texas has been experiencing rapid demographic change in recent decades, and reproductive health has become a volatile and contested policy arena in the last two state legislative sessions. This course is focused on emerging population trends, and the impact of dramatic new policies related to family planning and abortion. Drawing on the work and experience of a comprehensive project at the Population Research Center—The Texas Policy Evaluation Project—it will provide students with an opportunity to learn about the elements of reproductive health, as well as methods for evaluating the impact of specific policy measures. The overarching objective is to learn how to use data to understand what is going on.


The readings for this course will be drawn from basic texts regarding demography, human fertility, contraception and abortion (eg. Newell, C. 1988. Methods and Models in Demography. New York: Guilford Press, and Hatcher, R. A., J. Trussell, A. L. Nelson, Cates, F. Stewart, D. Kowal, M. S. Policar. 2011. Contraceptive Technology, 20th Edition. New York: Advent Media), the literature on reproductive health in social science and medical journals, and articles in the press concerning reproductive health politics and policy in Texas. Two short commentaries regarding the issues the course will address are:

White, K., D. Grossman, K. Hopkins, and J. E. Potter. "Cutting Family Planning in Texas." New England Journal of Medicine 367, no. 13 (Sep 27 2012): 1179-­‐81.

D. Grossman, K. White, K. Hopkins, and J. E. Potter, 2014. “The public health threat of anti-­abortion legislation.” Contraception 89(2): 73-­74.

Course Requirements

Students will be given a series of assignments about a specific issue that will involve group work. Completing the assignment will involve finding relevant information, empirical analysis, writing up results, and then presenting them to the class. Questions to be addressed include: comparing Texas to other states, the impact of the 2011 cuts in funding for family planning on unintended pregnancies, and the politics of reproductive health. These assignments will count for 60% of the grade. A short paper and a mid-­term exam will count for 20% each.


Professor Potter is a demographer and Principal Investigator of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, an externally funded five-­year project to evaluate the impact of the reproductive health legislation passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures. He teaches graduate level courses on demographic methods and human fertility, and is the author of numerous articles on reproductive health in the US and Latin America. He is particularly interested in improving access to long-acting and permanent methods of contraception. He has served as an expert witness in several recent court cases involving Planned Parenthood.

S S 301 • Honors Social Science: Psy

42715 • Domjan, Wendy I
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm BUR 220
show description


Psychology is a discipline that is broadly concerned with the ways in which people perceive, understand and interact with the world. As such, it addresses questions that range from the micro level of perception within the eye to the macro level of social interactions among people. The SS 301 in psychology is designed to introduce students to a representative range of the topics subsumed within this discipline. We will be taking a levels-of-explanation approach, in which we will simultaneously explore the biological, environmental, and cultural aspects of each of the selected problems. We will also specifically consider the ways in which psychology investigates these problems, in terms of both methodology and epistemology. The hope is that students will leave the SS 301 with an understanding not only of what psychology studies, but also of how and why.


Schacter, Gilbert & Weber.Psychology

Marcus. The Norton Psychology Reader

Keith. Cross Cultural Psychology


This class contains a substantial amount of writing and will involve both papers and exams. Students will write a series of four short (3-5 pages) reaction papers. For each paper, students will choose one of about five alternative questions, related to what is currently happening in class, to address. These papers are intended to involve analysis and opinion, not factual recitation. There will also be a midterm and a final exam. Both of these exams will have a short answer/short essay format, and will be take-home exams.


Final grades will be computed on the following basis:

Exams:                 50% (25% each)

Papers:                 40% (10% each)

Participation:         10%


Example paper topics:

  • An inevitable trade-off exists in research between control and ecological validity. This trade-off can be seen in a wide variety of ways in psychology: a lab versus a natural location for research, a randomly chosen versus a naturally occurring group of subjects, focusing on a limited set of factors at the expense of the diversity of influences on any behavior. In your view, how should psychology deal with this issue? For example, is psychology a science? Should it be? Should it adopt the same constraints (control) as natural sciences? You can make a strong argument for one approach or the other, or present a balanced middle ground.
  • The argument has been made that, in principle, it would be impossible for human beings to fully understand the nature of their own brain. What is your view of this argument, and why?
  • The current zeitgeist in psychology is to find the neurological mechanism associated with a given cognition, emotion or behavior. Does finding such a mechanism constitute an explanation for the given cognition/emotion/behavior? Why or why not?
  • A major issue in psychology, practically since its inception, has concerned the relative influence of genetics and environment. Originally, this was seen as an either-or question, later as a matter of degrees of influence, and most recently in terms of the components of an interaction. Though it is rarely asked, it is worth considering whether this is really an important question, and why? What is your position on this issue?
  • The research on hemisphere specialization led to the popular conception of people who are right-brained or left-brained. In light of what you have learned about hemisphere specialization, do you find this to be a useful concept? Why or why not?


About the Professor:

Wendy Domjan has a Ph.D. in psychology from The University of Wisconsin, with specialties in perception and cognition, and currently has a major focus on psychology of religion and positive psychology.

  •   Map
  • Plan II Honors Program

    University of Texas at Austin
    305 East 23rd St
    CLA 2.102
    Austin, Texas, 78712-1250