Each college is known for having a professor or class that “changes your life.” The professor who calls out student errors like no teacher ever, the course that is impossible to get anything better than a "C" in, the research assignment that has you tenting downtown to get primary data on your town’s homeless population.
But what about courses that are simply unique in their own right?
Here’s our list of some of the most unique classes offered at institutions across the country. And get this: most have earned reputations and won awards, so you can tell Mom and Dad it’s a good use of your time (and their money).
What is the South Course, Cornell University
Or as it’s more accurately listed in the course catalog, “Horton Foote to Honey Boo Boo: South in the US Imaginary.” This Performing Arts and Media course at Cornell explores how southerners appear in U.S. popular culture, academic work, and in everyday interactions. What does it mean to be from or in the South? You’ll look at all of the ways the South is represented in theatre, performance art, film, television, music, and journalism, and in the everyday performance of self. We're eager to hear the professor's take on Mama June and Honey Boo Boo.
Lady Gaga Course, University of South Carolina
USC’s Sociology course “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame” looks at what fame actually is, based around two quotes that came from Lady Gaga eight years apart. "I want the fame,” Gaga was quoted as saying in 2008, and in 2016: "The last three years I spent trying to erase fame from my mind." You’ll unravel some of the sociological conditions of the origins of Lady Gaga's fame, as they relate to business and marketing, law and legalities, media, fans, religion and political activism, sex, gender, and more, along with the impact of the explosive rise to fame, as evidenced by Lady Gaga. Fingers crossed we learn how exactly to define a Lady Gaga "monster."
Zombie Apocalypse Course, University of Michigan
University of Michigan has been offering an award-winning zombie apocalypse primer for several years now. "Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse – Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior" is an online course (anyone can enroll!) that teaches us about how and why humans behave the way they do during disasters and catastrophes. Students ask themselves why some survive serious trauma and others don’t as they're placed into “survival groups and face multiple challenges and tasks as they attempt to survive the catastrophic event, escape death, and preserve the future of civilization.” The course emphasizes that the ability to survive lies in how well one adapts and succeeds within a group.
The Jewish Kitchen Course, Oberlin College
“More Than Matzah Balls: The Jewish Kitchen” is a one-credit class offered at Oberlin College in Ohio that is more of a culinary adventure and exploration in the Jewish kitchen than a class. You learn about the foods and culture of the holidays in the Jewish calendar, and how different Jewish communities throughout history and geographic placements have their own local influences and traditional practices. Each class is divided into three parts -- conceptually, historically or anthropological -- and ends with a hands-on cooking demo (and of course, a sample of that day’s delicacy). Come to class hungry.
#SelfieClass, University of Southern California
While it’s technically listed as “Writing 150: Writing and Critical Reasoning: Identity and Diversity,” this USC course takes a look at how selfies have become an expression of self-identity in 21st century culture. The selfie is at the heart of the course, as it’s considered a “cultural artifact” with a “delicious ironic energy around them," according to the professor who teaches the course. As he told USC News: "They've been trivialized by lots of people—which is another sign that it's probably taking a look at them from a cultural studies point of view."
Ice Cream Short Course, Penn State
You’ll learn the ins and outs of ice cream manufacturing in Penn State’s “Ice Cream Short Course,” a 7-day course offered yearly in January. Students -- and by students, they mean the biggest names in ice cream making -- attend more than 20 workshops on specialized areas of ice cream technology including flavoring, refrigeration, freezing and hardening techniques, and the manufacture of frozen yogurt and novelty frozen desserts. Not only that, this course also holds special accolades: it’s the oldest, best-known, and largest educational program dealing with the science and technology of ice cream, and is also believed to be the first continuing education course in the United States. Yum.
The Game of Thrones Course, University of Virginia
This three-credit summer class at the University of Virginia’s Department of English is devoted to exploring The Game of Thrones universe, from the novels to the HBO series. You’ll compare the ways in which HBO’s approach to the Game of Thrones both changes and confirms aspects that the orignal author (George R. R. Martin) created. Haven't read the book? This might be your opportunity.