by Brian Clarey, Eric Ginsburg, Naari Honor and Jessie Morales. Photos by Alex Klein
In some ways, all college course catalogs are the same. You can take American history anywhere, or microbiology, or statistics. But delve deep into the undergraduate offerings at our Triad-area four-year colleges and universities, and you start to find the good stuff: obscure topics, professorial pet projects, classes that exemplify a school’s mission or particular bent, some that reflect the cultural zeitgeist and others that defy easy categorization.
And some are just weird.
Our area colleges and universities are no exception: Greensboro College, Guilford College, High Point University, John Wesley College, NC A&T University, Salem College, UNC School of the Arts, Wake Forest University and Winston-Salem State University all have fascinating nuggets of scholasticism tucked into their offerings. These are just a few.
BI 205: Histology and Biological Microtechniques
As a mid-med-school specialist elective, this challenging class might be par for the course. But to take a twittering class full of 19-year-olds and teach them “histological techniques useful in biological research,” as the course description touts? That’s a recipe for getting mad props from tired med students 10 years the young scientists’ senior.
PS 350: Afri-centric Psychology
This class dives into emerging takes on psychology based on African and African-American traditions in the discipline. From historical models of mind and spirit in African cosmology to the field of black psychology in its United States iteration, this course offers the kind of identity-based, multimedia psychology course that will appeal to tech-and-politics-savvy millennials. Bet the course’s book list comes packed with enough obscure theorists to dazzle most professors, too.
EN 209: Readers Theater
This course presents students with the opportunity to perform syllabus-assigned plays in front of their peers in class. While many undergraduates likely shudder at the thought, this would have been all-out paradise for many a former English nerd professor when they were in college. While other kids peaced out to watch the game, they probably created dorm-wide renditions of Hamlet while drinking peach schnapps from teacups. Students brave enough to take this course will probably find their tribe.
GER 2210: The Fairy Tale
Can’t you just picture it now? Your parents ask you what subject you are taking in school and you reply, “The Fairy Tale, Dad.” I’m done! Greensboro College has this fantasy field class as a part of its teaching curriculum. The class takes a look at the origin of Italian, French, German, and twenty-first century fairytales. Who wouldn’t want to take this class out of general curiosity?
KIN 1510 & KIN 2510: Ballroom Dance I & ll
While ballroom dancing is an amazing skill to learn, it’s hard to believe students can study it in college, let alone at two different levels. There are no prerequisites for this course, so it isn’t like it is reserved for dance majors. Any kid who wants to dance can waltz on in and get their groove on. (Yes, puns intended.) The class is intended to help students sharpen their social skills while teaching them the fox trot. It’s getting an extra toy in a happy meal.
MUS 1607: Handbells
Dude, there is a class for handbells. Handbells! Does anything more need to be said?
REP 3600: Punishment
Yes, the class is called punishment, however there are no dungeons or chains involved. The course is a part of the school’s Religion, Ethics and Philosophy Department. Students will have the opportunity to compare medieval and current methods of punishment. Sounds yummy, right?
REL 237: Jesus in Film & Pop Culture
Maybe you go to church every Sunday. Maybe you post scriptures on Facebook, and maybe you’ve seen The Passion of the Christ. But have you studied the so-called son of God through literature, film and art, or “the many ways Christians and non-Christians have created Jesus Christ, and what significance those diverse creations hold” before? Now you can.
IDS 461: Nothin’ But Disasters
How do you choose which stands out more when Ethics of Capitalism, Barrier Islands: Ecology & Development and Culture/Travel/Writing and are all competing? Guilford College seniors are required to take an interdisciplinary IDS class, and the subjects all sound unusual, including the very Guilford-esque Quakers, Community & Commitment. It’s somewhat arbitrary to select Nothin’ But Disasters — which studies everything from tsunamis to meteorite impact and mass extinctions through the lenses of science, myth, literature, economics and more — over The American Upper Class, but the name is too good to ignore.
PPS 240: Cape Fear River Basin Seminar
Also categorized as ENVS 240, this “principled problem-solving” class is all about place-based learning. That means getting outside of the classroom to study North Carolina’s Cape Fear River Basin, including “a three-day canoe camping trip and multiple class field trips” that are mandatory. Guilford’s beloved Maia Dery teaches this and a few other related courses that didn’t exist during my tenure at the Quaker school, and it’s enough to make me want a do-over.
SPST 213: Stress Management
Few things could be more pertinent to college or the realities of work in this society than stress management. This sports studies class “teaches how to identify, understand and combat the stresses of everyday life while developing a healthy living concept.” If students can master this, they’ll save countless miserable hours at home, at work or in therapy for years to come. That and UNCSA’s class Foundations of Finance may be the most important skills a college could teach. This class does so through exploring Zen meditation, yoga, music therapy, time management, tai chi, massage therapy and more. Hopefully the progressive and radical non-athletes don’t overlook this one.
HIGH POINT UNIVERSITY
COM 2261: Theory and Design of Games
This communications course plays around with game theory for a full semester. Since it’s not a computer science course and students won’t physically design their own video game, for example, this course sounds like a real opportunity for shenanigans. Textbook cornhole? D&D? The possibilities are infinite.
HST 3222: Enlightenment and Revelation: Rational and Irrational in America
This sure sounds topical when it comes to the upcoming presidential elections. And, like the best trivia team names, it’s topical and lascivious. The course description advertises “case studies in the intermingling of rational and traditional perspectives [on] science.” Does that hint at a time-traveling prediction of what a 3-way Franken-baby engendered by Bernie, Hillz, and Trump would look like?
COM 3394: Media Masters: The Coen Brothers
A standard academic argument involves a decision on whether to expand the “canon,” or most important body of texts, to include more masterpieces than those created by dead white guys. While the average socially-aware professor actively promotes diversity with their syllabus choices, this course makes its own kind of contribution to expanding the canon. That’s right, white guys who are still alive dominate its film choices. As the Dude from the Coens’ Big Lebowski would say: “This is a very complicated case, Maude.”