At leading universities, you can savor exotic chocolate, sip wine, and listen to hip hop music.
These classes make us want to go back to school.
From hip hop to happiness – and a little bit of Kanye West for good measure – colleges across the country are freshening up the curriculum. Gone are the days of pure math, science, and reading – now surfing the web and tasting wine and chocolate are fair game, too.
Hip hop artist A.D. Carson, a Ph.D. candidate at Clemson University, recently expanded the definition of “dissertation” by submitting a series of raps for his graduating project. The musician turned in a 34-song album to his professors instead of a standard research paper, according to NPR; now, he’s set to become an Assistant Professor of Hip-Hop and the Global South at the University of West Virginia this fall. There, he’ll teach a music composition course called “Writing Rap.”
Creative as that may be, with Ivy League university tuitions for the 2016-2017 school year ranging from $40,000 to $50,000, can universities find a balance between making a class “cool” — and making it worth the price?
For one, these cool classes are typically not a part of a major’s core curriculum; instead, they’re extras that students can add on. Plus, “usually you know that [a] course hasn’t been designed primarily for the ‘cool’ factor,” New York University Provost Katherine Fleming tells Moneyish. “What matters is that the core content is really serious and of high academic quality.”
Still, “if the packing is cool, hip, and interesting — so much the better,” Fleming adds. “A critical part of making a course cool is the students who are in it.”
Moneyish studied up on some of the coolest college classes we could find, and spoke to a few of their professors. These classes give us serious enrollment envy.
1. The Science of Happiness — This class, offered at NYU’s School of Medicine, “looks at how individuals can create positive change by reinterpreting their goals and identifying steps towards successful experience,” according to the syllabus. “The idea is this: Going to college is one of the most daunting transitions people make in their lives. How do you deal with structure? How do you deal with stress?” says clinical instructor Daniel Lerner, co-author of the book U Thrive: How to Succeed in College and Life. On average, the class enrolls a whopping 475 students per semester (it’s always waitlisted) and assignments include projects like reflective essays on how writing down things that make you feel grateful can change your mindset and mood for the better.
2. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food — Brought to you by Harvard University, this delectable class looks at the various issues relating to chocolate — and there’s tasting involved. Students gain a holistic understanding of the chocolate industry, and even manage their own blog during the semester. “We’re looking at the sociohistorical legacy of chocolate and global politics — essentially, how do the decisions of multinational governments, corporations, NGO’s, and critics affect what chocolate we get to eat,” says Harvard lecturer Carla Martin.
3. Introduction to Wines — Fermented to perfection at Cornell University, this class taught by Professor Cheryl Stanley is (understandably) one of the most popular electives on offer for juniors and seniors. According to the description, “Students will be introduced to the major wine-producing regions of the world. … Exploring [each one] exposes the students to a vast amount of information: history, language, culture… food and social customs, etc.” If there’s tasting involved, then we’re already thirsty.
4. Wasting time on the Internet — Seriously. This class at the University of Pennsylvania involves students spending three hours doing nothing but searching for, and discussing, random content online, according to Professor Kenneth Goldsmith. “Machines are amplifiers for emotion,” Goldsmith told Moneyish, noting than his students will often discover intriguing content that sparks “a highly intellectual and pedagogical moment” in the classroom. Nothing is off-limits — not even pornography. (And there’s no homework, either.)
5. Kanye vs. Everybody — Listening to music is typically a way for students to zone out after a long slog of studying, but at Georgia State University, it can actually be an educational pastime. In this class, Professor Scott Heath encourages “students to think about poetry in a way that included hip-hop artists, and he saw Kanye as the perfect connective character to tie modern media technology to poetics,” according to the description. The course dips into matters of race, social justice, and communications, using Kanye’s notorious and widely-lauded talents to drive the discussion.
6. Project You: Building and Extending Your Personal Brand by Tyra Banks — Banks co-taught this class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Made up of 25 students, the class spanned a broad array of topics from brand management to social media. In an exclusive interview with Moneyish, the supermodel and TV show host said: “I told my students to put on their ‘Kanye West’ vest and not be shy. Personal branding is about the most egocentric stuff.”
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