The Most Unique College Courses Offered Around the U.S.
Find out where you can earn credit just for watching Game of Thrones.
One of the things that incoming college freshmen most look forward to is freedom. Of course, there’s the freedom that comes with living away from home and making your own rules, but there’s also the freedom of selecting your own classes. After four years, you’re officially done with the requirements of high school—so long, calculus!—and you now have the ability to actually choose what you want to study.
Sure, general education requirements do still exist—but your education definitely does get a little more customizable and interesting at the collegiate level. And in some cases, it can get very interesting—like a class on Lady Gaga or the etymology of emojis, for example. Yes, these courses really do exist at the university level (and they hardly compare to the class on surviving the undead). Keep reading to discover some of the craziest, most unique college courses offered from coast to coast!
Dr. Seuss and Y(our) World, Appalachian State University
Most people think Dr. Seuss books are for children, but this college program seeks to disprove that theory. Using Dr. Suess classics, Dr. Don Presnell of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, schools students on timely and relevant themes such as politics, race, class, religion, and ethics—pretty complex issues for children’s books, if you ask us.
Nip, Tuck, Perm, Pierce, Tattoo, Embalm: Adventures with Embodied Culture, Alfred University
From dyeing hair to getting inked, people all around the world modify their bodies in a wide range of ways. But have you ever wondered why people do these things? This class, offered at Alfred University in Western New York, examines the body—and more specifically, how it’s altered—in far-flung cultures and even here in the United States.
Stupidity, Occidental College
Don’t be fooled by its name: This class at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, is anything but idiotic. The course in critical psychology follows the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and Avital Ronell in a philosophical examination of the “operations and technologies” that people conduct in order to be rendered, well, stupid. To do this, students look at subjects often labeled “stupid,” from the president—their words, not ours—to Beavis and Butt-Head. The best part? There are no stupid questions or stupid answers.
Social Construction and Images of Menstruation, Marymount Manhattan College
This course at New York’s Marymount Manhattan College dissects how menstruation has been portrayed in the media over time in everything from 1980s health videos to an episode of 7th Heaven in which Lucy is desperate to reach puberty. The goal is to find out where our views of menstruation—and the way women are treated in regards to it—stem from.
Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, University of South Carolina
This class is as boundary-pushing as its inspiration and namesake. Introduced in 2011 and last offered in spring of 2018 at the University of South Carolina, Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame examines, as its name suggests, Lady Gaga’s rise to stardom, including a look at the sociological conditions that helped her become a global pop music icon. If you aren’t currently enrolled at USC and are curious about this class, you can purchase its accompanying literature online.
Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism: Popular Music and Black Feminist Theory, Harvard University
Beyoncé doesn’t have a Harvard degree. And while Rihanna did receive the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year award, she doesn’t have an actual diploma from the university, either. However, that didn’t stop the Ivy League university from dedicating a course to them. It uses their music to discuss black feminism in the hopes of closing the gap between popular and academic expressions of black women’s concerns.
Going Viral, Montclair State University
Every student at Montclair State University in New Jersey who aspires to make it big on Instagram enrolls in the aptly-named Going Viral class. The lecture-style course investigates why and how certain content takes off and the impact of emerging media on society. It also looks at how social media is transforming the way we engage in business, politics, entertainment, and activism. Students also get to try their hand at—you guessed it—going viral.
Emoji Worlds, University of Michigan
Did you know the emoji was invented in 1998? This is the type of fact you’d learn in this emoji-centric class offered at the University of Michigan. However, don’t think you’ll spend the semester texting and getting credit for it. Rather, this complex course uses the emoji to consider the connection between emotion, communication, and mental images.
Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophe, and Human Behavior, Michigan State University
Whether you actually believe the zombie apocalypse is coming or are just entranced by people who do, you’ll enjoy this out-there class at Michigan State. The fully online course—which even has its own super creepy trailer—fuses social theory and zombie pop culture into a class that’s both engaging and informative. Students and non-students alike are invited to enroll, so if you’ve been looking for a new hobby or a way to entertain yourself in your spare time, you too can become immersed in the world of zombies.
The Art of Walking, Centre College
Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, offers a class called The Art of Walking. All you have to do to pass the class is stroll along the sidewalks and trails of central Kentucky while discussing Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, existentialism, and existence.
Outdoor Living Skills, Lees-McRae College
Though it might sound like this class is all campfires and canoeing, it’s actually offered as a way to prepare students for survival in the wild. In Outdoor Living Skills at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, students master skills like cooking and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, and fire building. They also learn safety skills like backcountry lightening procedures, search and rescue techniques, navigation, route planning, river crossing, weather, and astronomy.
Zipline Skills, Lees-McRae College
More of an athlete than a camper? Well, then you’re in luck: Lees-McRae College also offers a variety of sports-focused classes, ranging from skiing to rock climbing to fly fishing. However, the wildest offering of all is their Canopy Tour/Zipline Skills course, in which students learn to be successful zipline leaders. (If this means that Lees-McRae has a zipline course on campus, we’re going back to college.)
Surfing, University of Southern California
Learning how to surf and getting college credit to do so sounds too good to be true. However, that’s exactly what students at the University of Southern California can do thanks to a surfing course offered at Santa Monica beach every semester. According to its description, enrollees learn everything from the fundamentals of the sport to water safety and wave recognition. Gnarly!
Getting Your **** Together, California Institute of the Arts
In this class that should probably be offered to all college students across the country, art majors at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia learn about survival after art school. From how to write a resume to the best ways to raise money for projects, this course gives students the rare opportunity to learn the basic skills necessary in order to leave college with their **** together.
Vampires, Castles, and Werewolves, Yale University
This English course at Yale examines 18th- and 19th-century gothic fiction and gothic tropes in 20th- and 21st-century film, television, and prose. Material ranges from Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Westworld/Our World, Bennington College
If you find yourself analyzing every episode of HBO’s Westworld and pointing out parallels between the different storylines and everyday life, then the Westworld/Our World class at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, is for you. In this course, students identify and explore allegories in the realms of feminism, sexploitation, artificial intelligence/cyborgs, American Indian and indigenous rights and representation, queerness and speculative fiction, double consciousness, and more. (Yeah, this HBO show covers a lot of ground.)
The Game of Thrones, University of Virginia
The beloved HBO series might be over, but its memory lives on thanks to both streaming services and this class offered at the University of Virginia. It’s devoted to exploring George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones universe, including both the novels and the HBO adaptation.
Science from Superheroes to Global Warming, University of California, Irvine
Unsure what superheroes and global warming have in common? To be honest, we’re a bit confused, too. But according to the University of California, Irvine, this class explores “how science works and what constitutes ‘good’ science” using examples that range from real world issues like global warming to superheroes and their supposed superpowers.
Star Wars Universe, Arizona State University
At ASU, you can enroll in a course dedicated to the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars. Star Wars Universe is a team-taught, multidisciplinary course that uses the movies, lectures, and scholarly texts related to this far-reaching franchise to examine the fabric of the Star Wars universe from a variety of perspectives and explore its unprecedented impact on popular culture. Topics covered include “Star Wars Toys and Action Figures,” “Star Wars: The Alt-Right Strikes Back,” and “Star Wars and the Female Action Hero.”
Film Genre: Romantic Comedy, University of California, Berkeley
Every semester, the Department of Film and Media at Berkeley offers a course on a different type of film genre. Past classes have focused on everything from East Asian cinema to romantic comedies, which examined how and why rom-coms developed such a bad rap, why critics say it’s dead, and its possible revival.
Food Photography, New York University
We know what you’re thinking: “Yes! I can perfect my food photos for Instagram while getting college credit!” And while you will inadvertently address that in this class, food photography isn’t really about getting more likes on social media. This class teaches students how to photograph foods for all types of media, from advertising to journalism. The fact that the material covered is completely ‘Gram-worthy is simply an added bonus.
How to Stage a Revolution, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
The prestigious MIT offers a class that explores the causes and nature of revolution and delves into how exactly people are able to overthrow their rulers and establish new governments. Radical!
Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism, Mount Holyoke
The goal of this class is to teach students about the social, political, and economic aspects of the current racial landscape and how it got that way. “By examining the other side of racism—whiteness—we can see the advantages in education, heath care, and employment that white people continually accrue,” says Sandra M. Lawrence, professor emerita of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, of her class. “I want students to see that racism still exists (even though it seems less overt to some) and that dismantling racism will take the work of all of us working in coalition with one another.”
Medical Cannabis Certificate Courses, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine
As of this fall, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine will offer the first-ever accredited, college-level medical cannabis certificate program to nursing students in New York City. The three courses that make up the program will educate students on the therapeutic effects of cannabis in regard to dosing, self-titration approaches, and ingestion methods while promoting overall health and well-being naturally.
Cyborgs and Transhumanism, University of Arizona
This quirky seminar addresses what it means to be human through philosophical, cultural, and legal lenses. Students examine our relationships with technology, focusing on how our experiences are altered by various gadgets and gizmos. Discussions include transhumanism and the ethics of blurring the line between humans and technology. Oh, and, students get to “interview” machines, ranging from home alarm systems to a personal fitness tracker. And if you’ve never lived without a phone, then read up on What It Was Like to Live Without Today’s Technologies We Totally Take for Granted.
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