Sweet Sixteen schools are obviously pretty good at basketball (this year, anyway). But they're also pretty good at coming up with interesting classes that have students clamoring to enroll. Check out some of the unusual past and present offerings in the Sweet 16.
University of Florida: Lightning Research Laboratory. Students and researchers basically spend their summer trying to trigger lightning. It may be a storm chaser’s dream, but there’s a lot more than just chasing going on here: a few years ago, students in this lab made the groundbreaking discovery that lightning emits x-rays.
Indiana: The Art and Science of Beer was a course offered a few semesters ago, and while getting credit to study suds sounds like a great idea to me, the professor who taught the class said many students were disappointed to find out that it was “a real class instead of a keg stand.”
Michigan State: Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes & Human Behavior.
Been watching a lot of The Walking Dead? If the AMC series has you wondering how you’ll prepare for the zombie apocalypse, the Spartans have just the class for you; the seven-week course starts in May. Perhaps taking a cue from all of those zombie movies, the faculty even made a trailer for the class:
North Carolina: Into the West. A study of the American cowboy and his depiction in American pop culture. Class work includes writing and producing a short film starring a cowboy. A semester of Rooster Cogburn and Josey Wales? Sign me up.
Louisville: Communicating Hip-Hop Culture. An “analysis of rap music as a communicative force both within and about hip-hop culture”; topics of study include “the origins, development, and participants of the culture.” Fascinating, and students no doubt get to listen to some pretty great music in class.
Syracuse: Star Trek and the Information Age. What can you learn from Star Trek, you might be wondering? Only everything from management skills to unmanned, remote warfare. “The class’s Trekkie TA also mentioned human rights issues: “Is the android who’s on our team, is he considered a human? And why or why not?”
Wisconsin: Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles. What better way to study familial relationships than by analyzing shows where a character’s stepmother may also be his ex-girlfriend, his child’s mother and his adopted sister?
Officially, the syllabus says:
“Analysis of the themes and characters that populate television's daytime serials and investigation of what impact these portrayals have on women's and men's roles in the family and in the work place. The course will compare and contrast prime-time programs with daytime serials for these themes."
Ohio State: Sports for the Spectator. That’s three credits to “Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business and entertainment.” You think this class involved a couple of field trips?
Kansas: Dance, Dance Revolution. When Dance Dance Revolution was at its height a couple of years ago, Jayhawks could earn a cool credit by getting their groove on with an activity credit. Students who prefer outdoor exercise could play sand volleyball, another pretty sweet way to get a credit.
North Carolina State: Forensic Analysis. This is no textbook course. Students at NC State actually examine bones and other remains to see what they can learn about the deceased. One class even discovered that a previously unidentified victim was actually the sixth in a line of murders attributed to the Edgecombe serial killer.
Baylor: Homosexuality as a Gateway Drug. This course isn't as "interesting" as it is newsworthy: the college made the news in November when they listed this eyebrow-raising sociology class for Spring 2012. After public outcry, the name of the course was changed to “Special Topics in Sociology.” Baylor said the topic was going to be researched by one student as part of an independent study course and was not intended to offend.
We’re always looking for more interesting college classes. If your school has one (or even if you just want to discuss zombies), leave a comment or send me a Tweet.