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The University of Tennessee Offers a Dolly Parton-Themed History Class

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Dolly Parton’s life is a true rags-to-riches story: Raised in poverty in rural Tennessee, she beat the odds and rose to international stardom as a country musician, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Now, The New York Times reports that the Southern star’s down-home roots are the focus of an honors history course offered at the University of Tennessee’s main campus in Knoxville.

Called “Dolly’s America,” the seminar uses Parton's personal journey as a lens through which to examine modern Appalachian culture. The singer grew up in Sevier County, about 30 miles outside of Knoxville, and the class looks at how a "'hillbilly' girl from Appalachia grew up to become an international one-word sensation,” according to the course description on the university’s website.

Materials include Dolly Parton’s 1994 autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, and books about Appalachia; movies, TV shows, and historic videos; and scholarly articles. Ranging from lighthearted to somber, they provide a framework for students to examine historic themes like child labor, regional poverty, and the federal-state committee formed by President Kennedy that’s known today as the President's Appalachian Regional Commission.

“Dolly’s America” also tries to dispel deep-seated stereotypes about rural America: ”Reading about how hillbillies and feuds began as made-up characters and tropes in novels and cartoons to the rise of hillbilly music to Christian entertainment and the thread of tourism, students see the processes by which fiction often becomes fact, and how heritage is a blend of the real and the imagined,” the course description says.

“Dolly’s America” was taught for the first time last year, and will be taught again in Fall 2017. That said, admission is likely to be competitive, as the course recently received a Twitter endorsement by Parton herself:

[h/t The New York Times]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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BBC

Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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