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.



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.”

Read more:


CM 414: Discipleship Development of the Family

The course’s name reads like a fitting title for a dark comedy about the overly religious childhoods of too many Southern kids. Fade from black: a living room scene. The kid, at 3, on her preacher pop’s knee, trying to remember all the disciples’ names for applause and Goldfish crackers. Company aghast at how she smashes the crackers into her mouth as soon as she says “…and Matthias!” (For those who came up sans “discipleship development,” that’s the apostle who replaced Judas.) Could it be Freudian repetition compulsion that Laurel students will probably snack on Goldfish while writing term papers for this class?. Translation: If you take this class, be prepared for some later-in-life “Twilight Zone” level food voodoo.

ED 215: Developing a Philosophy of Christian School Education

This class aims to snag college kids and whip them into shape as philosophizing teachers-in-training. Sounds great, except that the “special attention given to the Christian school movement” isn’t likely to delve into the historical fact that most Christian schools in the South emerged suspiciously close to court-ordered school integration? Just saying. Otherwise, more colleges should pick up on the idea of schooling teachers in philosophy. As the life of Socrates shows, a little intellectual humility goes a long way — if it doesn’t kill you first.


TH 239: Holiness Prior to John Wesley

Holiness provides a semester-long education in the writings and practices of holy (white) men who influenced minister/theologian John Wesley. Some figures probably include Thomas à Kempis — penman of such aphorisms as “fight like a man” and “habit is overcome by habit” — and Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zanzendorf, a Moravian guy. Someone should relay the following saying of Wesley’s to the hapless student who finds herself daydreaming in this course: “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge!”

A&T buildings


PHYS 490: Space Radiation

How do you teach a course on space radiation? What do the field trips look like? Is there a space shuttle kept underneath the school like the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning? What secrets does NC A&T have on their grounds that the public is unaware of? Guess one should take the course to find out.


POLI314: Southern Politics

Yes! Because obviously there are a whole set of rules for the south that doesn’t apply to the rest of the world. Wouldn’t you just love to be the fly on the wall during one of this courses lectures?



ENGL 223: Taboos, Experiments and the Other: Modern Drama

While the title seems almost erotic, this class at Salem College consists of studying some of the most significant playwrights between 1870s and 1990s who stretched the perceived boundaries of theater. Students will have a chance to explore how these playwrights experimented with the dramatic art form to address social issues of their time.


ENGL 299: Shakespeare Meets Manga

Not sure who asked for it, but it’s been done; Shakespeare has been adapted to manga for all of you anime heads out there. Some of the things the course will discuss are the parallels of Shakespeare’s use of cross-dressing and how it relates to kabuki theater and then incorporated into manga. This class, while walking that thin line of comic relief, requires teacher approval for enrollment.


ENGL 245: Hayao Miyazaki: Anime Master Storyteller and His Influences

Its official, Salem college has been taken over by nerds and we love you for it. There is no arguing that Hayao Miyazaki was a grand storytelling but one mustn’t forget that he is a God amongst Gods in the world of anime. According to the Salem catalog, the “course will analyze Miyazaki’s major animated feature films and explore his literary, filmic and cultural influences to understand the stories he tells, and how and why he tells them.”



RCO 150 Experimental Course: The Cultural History of Tea in Japan

Experimental, indeed. This class — which sounds more like a two-hour lecture than a full-on course — “traces the development of tea and the tea ceremony, chanoyu, in Japan following a history of tea written by one of Japan’s contemporary tea masters, Sen Sōshitsu XV.” Sounds like those of us not enrolled as Spartans could just buy the book.


ATY 300: The Culture of Baseball

In the immortal words of “Summer Heights High,” “Public school is so random.” I’d never expect to find a class all about baseball culture, let alone in the anthropology department, let alone at a public institution. But this class actually sounds amazing: Ritual, superstition, racism, language, immigration — the history and culture of baseball provides a familiar lens to examine and contextualize socio-cultural experience.” The class incorporates baseball abroad too, including the Caribbean, Japan and Mexico.


ATY 477: Zooarchaeology

Don’t read too fast and mistake this for zoology: this is the much more interesting crossroads of the study of animals and archeology. A whole anthropology class dedicated to animal bones! Hopefully this covers dinosaur bones as well, because there’s no independent course on the subject at UNCG. That would be a grave oversight.


CPS 540: Social Entrepreneurship: Justice and a Green Environment

This Conflict & Peace Studies class looks at social entrepreneurship as a way to affect change around environmental sustainability. UNCG offers a handful of entrepreneurship classes that go beyond the predictable, including ENT 455: Entrepreneurial Career Strategies for Dance & Performing Artists that addresses founding and sustaining an arts-based business.

Read more: 


HUM 2710: Murder as a Fine Art

Yes, this humanities course at UNC School of the Arts is actually called that. The course description is a little less interesting, explaining that the class is a study of the murder-mystery genre that will discuss “the criminal as artist, the detective persona” and, most intriguingly, “the cultural significance of the murder mystery’s popularity.” How many people who grabbed trashy, murder-mystery beach reads this summer considered themselves consumers of fine art, and did they ponder the deeper societal implications of the genre’s popularity while brushing sand off their toes?


HUM 2111: Paths to the Present: History of Suburbia

“Many of us grew up in a suburban neighborhood,” begins the presumptuous class description, which is likely great insight into the composition of the student body at UNCSA. But the course sounds fascinating: “This course examines the historical foundations for the suburb… the suburban ideal and its representation in popular culture including advertisements, novels, movies and television.” Few things could be more important than teaching kids from the ’burbs how such places came to be and forcing them to think about the cultural values that shape such enclaves, and really we’d all benefit from such an exploration.


MAT 1200: Foundations of Finance

There are plenty of cool classes at this arts-based school — such as The Art of Making a Difference: Documentary & Community Involvement — but Foundations of Finance is the kind of course that my peers at Guilford College all wished we’d taken when graduation arrived. Most of us could probably still use it. “Among the topics studied are uses and abuses of percentages, simple and compound interest, compound interest for interest paid n times per year, continuous compounding, savings plans, total and annual returns, types of investments, loan basics, credit card debt and fixed rate options, and mortgages,” the description reads.


ENG 1200: Writing About Popular Culture: Toys

Uh, yeah. This class is all about toys, and their “significance and implications.” Seems like students can almost minor in examining their suburban childhood here. “Material might include poetry and fiction such as Sandra Cisneros’ Barbie-Q, artworks like The Nutcracker, non-fiction and documentaries, movies such as Barry Levinson’s Toys and, of course, Toy Story and field research.” Field research? Sign us up.


ENG 318: Culture and the Sitcom

All those years of watching back episodes of “The Brady Bunch” and “Cheers” pay off in this English class, which calls the situational comedy “one of the oldest and most ubiquitous forms of television programming.”


HST 348: Samurai and Geisha: Fact, Film and Fiction

Two of the more notorious castes in Japanese history come under scrutiny in this history class that overlaps with the Japanese Studies Department. Using contemporary and classic film, ancient fiction and primary sources, “the course considers how Japanese and Western historians, novelists and filmmakers have portrayed the two groups and by implication Japan and its history in the modern period.”


MUS 185: John Cage: Works and Thought

John Cage was an American composer of the avant garde, sort of the Andy Warhol of postmodern classical music — one of his most famous pieces, 4’33”, requires that the musicians hold their instruments in silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. This music class is a study of his music, poetry, art and philosophy.


WGS 100: RAD: Rape Aggression Defense

This intro-level class from the Women’s and Gender Studies Department trains college first-years “basic physical self-defense tactics and risk reduction and avoidance,” with required readings on the research of violence against women. It’s a pass/fail.



LLS 301: Blame it on the Boogie: Exploring the Music and Health Connection

WSSU has the best class names. This one delves into the physical effects of listening to music. “You will participate in music activities and review research to discover the effect music has on social behaviors, physical condition and ways of thinking,” the course description reads. It culminates with a lab.


MSM 1301: Introduction to Motorsports

It may seem counterintuitive for Winston-Salem’s HBCU to have a motorsports major, seeing as the sport appeals largely to white guys. But the program has access to the track at Bowman Gray Stadium, where the university football teams also plays, and has been matriculating graduates for more than a decade. This intro-level course covers the history of the sport, classifications and governing bodies, its economic impact and industry-specific literature.


LLS 1315: Pop Culture

The class description says it all: “You have now been transformed into junior editors at the Acme Publishing Corporation. You will create one of four Pop Culture magazines for one of the decades including the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s. Your magazine will cover topics such as iconography, notable biographies, popular advertisements, politics, current events of the period and entertainment.”


LLS 1337: Oh No She Didn’t: An Exploration of the Negative and Stereotypical Behaviors of Black Females

This class busts the stereotype of the “eye-rolling, neck-twirling, finger-pointing, loud-talking, ‘ghetto fabulous’ creatures” portrayed in literature, film and media for generations, examines the

mythos of the strong black woman and adds historical perspective. “The seminar explores the rationale behind the labels and what truly defines a black woman,” the course catalog says.


SOC 3347: Deviant Behavior

More of a study than a how-to guide, this sociology class “examines the relationship between deviance, conformity and social control” in an attempt to understand the label. “An attempt will be made to dispel the belief that the roots of deviant behavior can always be understood from racial or inherited qualities of individuals, and rather help students to understand the relationship between social arrangements including religion, government, family patterns, economic conditions, differential association or interactions and deviance,” according to the course description.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡