or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Business, Careers & Education › NJ College Has Courses in South Park, Harry Potter, Wines, and Complaining About Unemployment.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

NJ College Has Courses in South Park, Harry Potter, Wines, and Complaining About Unemployment.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/turning_learning_on_its_head_f_1.html
Quote:
Turning learning on its head: From 'Circus Arts' to 'South Park,' quirky courses shake up the N.J. college experience

Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 10:45 AM Updated: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 12:09 PM

By Star-Ledger Staff John Munson/The Star-LedgerJonattan Fernandez, 20, of Clifton, a junior criminal justice major, digs through a hoop held by Tyese Beauharnais, 18, of East Rutherford, a freshman nursing major, during the Circus Arts class at Bloomfield College.

While freshman Tyese Beauharnais holds out a hoop, one of her classmates springs off a trampoline, gracefully dives through its center and flips onto a mat below.

Nearby, other classmates spin plates on sticks, practice elaborate magic tricks and master balancing poses. Meanwhile, their professor is busy teaching another student a complex tandem juggling act.

Beauharnais, a nursing major, admits she gets a lot of skeptical looks when she explains to her friends and family that she runs off to join the circus two days a week as part of her college course work.

"They think I’m crazy. But I get four credits for it," said Beauharnais, 18, of East Rutherford.

Yes, "Circus Arts" is a real academic class at Bloomfield College, a private four-year school in Essex County. The popular elective course, which is offered to undergraduates of all majors, teaches students the basics of circus life — from tightrope walking to juggling to riding a unicycle. While it looks like silly fun, professors say the graded class teaches students important lessons about teamwork, conquering fear and overcoming obstacles.

The class is one of dozens of unorthodox, unusual and downright quirky courses popping up on college campuses around New Jersey. Most spring from the minds of creative professors and students trying to find ways to spice up staid topics with references to pop culture or unusual twists. But the classes can also be a marketing ploy, something to set a college apart and show off to parents and prospective students when they take campus tours.

There’s "'South Park' and Philosophy" at Monmouth University, "Gender, Sexuality, and Pop Music in the 1980s" at the College of New Jersey, "The Harry Potter Phenomenon" at Rowan University and "History of Hip Hop and Rap" at Ramapo College. Rutgers University offers "Wine Insights," an introduction to wine-tasting class, and Fairleigh Dickinson University has "The Psychology of Fine Dining," which includes a "food sampling" lab.

Several local colleges, including Centenary in Hackettstown, have begun challenging professors to come up with unusual classes to offer as seminars to incoming freshmen. In recent years, Centenary students have gotten credit for courses on "The Simpsons," cults, reality television and the computer game "SimCity."

School officials dismiss criticism that the classes are a waste of students’ time or tuition money. Though the topics may be unusual, the freshman seminars are designed to teach time management, college-level writing and other key skills.

"It might have some interesting hook, but even if it doesn’t, it gets the job done," said Cheryl Veronda, director of academic transitions at Centenary College.

John Munson/The Star-LedgerMario Vasquez, 20, of Passaic, a junior business administration major, practices juggling with instructor Dan Evans, (back to camera,) during the Circus Arts class at Bloomfield College.

While the growing number of unusual classes are popular with students, some academics worry they are a sign American college courses are getting too easy while schools in the rest of the world are becoming more rigorous.

In their new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," New York University professor Richard Arum and University of Virginia assistant professor Josipa Roksa tracked thousands of students at two dozen colleges and universities. They found most students are not challenged in their classes and few showed significant improvements in critical thinking, complex reasoning or written communication skills after four years in college.

"They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern," Arum and Roksa concluded.

So far, there have been no complaints about Centenary’s unusual courses, Veronda said.

"I’ve never heard of a complaint from parents, which is great," Veronda said. "I think they understand there’s an objective that the course has."

Here’s a look at some of the unusual classes students are taking on New Jersey campuses this semester:

• "Sociology of Salsa" at Saint Peter’s College

In professor Alex Trillo’s sociology class, students don’t just learn about the culture of the salsa dancing scene. They step, kick and sway their way into it.

The course requires students to dance at salsa clubs and studios in New Jersey and New York City while gathering information for an ethnographic study on the dance culture with Latin American roots.

John Munson/The Star-LedgerAshley Troutman, 22, of Maplewood, a senior psychology major, practice plate spinning during the Circus Arts class at Bloomfield College.

"It was sort of this avenue into understanding history and culture," said Trillo, an associate professor at the Jersey City Catholic college.

The class began after Trillo invited his colleagues to a performance that showed off his side passion as a semi-professional salsa dancer. The chair of the sociology department was adamant Trillo add a dance class to his list of more scholarly courses on research methods and statistics, issues in the Latino community and health and inequality.

Trillo, who is the director of the college’s Latin American and Latino Studies Program, said his challenge was: "How can I keep intellectual credibility for a class on salsa like this — that actually included dancing?"

"I wanted to make sure we had some academic grounding, link it to some other classes I teach and train them in the art of doing research," he said.

Now in its third year, the Sociology of Salsa course has become enormously popular, Trillo said. The students’ final paper is composed of field notes, personal reflections on how they evolved in this process and an interview with a dancer or studio owner.

• "Inside the Mind of a Teenage Killer" at Centenary College

In what was probably the most unusual class assignment of her freshman year, student Tiffany Gittinger used a marker to draw the face of teenage killer William Garner on one side of a Halloween pumpkin. On the other side, she drew flames to represent the fires he set in an Ohio home that killed five children.


Comedy class at William Paterson teaches students to stand up and deliverWilliam Paterson Professor Stephen Rosenfield teaches the art of being funny in his class "Fundamentals of Comedy Writing & Performing: Stand up." He helps students refine their jokes until they're clear and concise to reach an optimal laugh-per-minute ratio. The class is one of many unusual courses that New Jersey colleges offer to grab students' attention. (Video by Nic Corbett / The Star-Ledger)Watch video


The macabre assignment was part of the freshman’s study of Garner for her freshman seminar on teenage killers.

Christine Floether, an associate professor at Centenary College in Hackettstown, based the "Inside the Mind of a Teenage Killer" class on the book of the same name by author Phil Chalmers as a way to introduce basic concepts of psychology. The class, a requirement for freshmen majoring in the field, delves into a variety of topics including cyber bullying and drug abuse.

Despite its unusual topic, the course is also used to familiarize freshmen with college life, help them develop good study habits and teach time-management skills.

Floether asks each of her students to pick one teenage killer, research his or her crime and write a short biography.

Gittinger, 18, said she chose to research teenage arsonist Garner because "his case really made me upset." Garner lit a house on fire in 1992 after breaking in to steal electronics. Five of the six kids children inside died.

After doing her research, Gittinger said she found some sympathy for Garner, who had an IQ of 72 and claimed he didn’t intend to hurt the children. He was executed last year.

• "Fundamentals of Comedy Writing & Performing: Stand up" at William Paterson University

The final assignment in professor Stephen Rosenfield’s stand-up comedy class at William Paterson in Wayne, requires students to stand up in front of real audience at a New York City comedy club and get people to laugh.

A good stand-up comic makes being funny look effortless. But hours of work often are behind seemingly simple routines, Rosenfield said.

"There is a tremendous amount of writing, and it’s interesting because it’s very technical writing. It’s similar to iambic pentameter," Rosenfield said, referring to the Shakespearean verse.

Rosenfield started teaching at William Paterson about eight years ago after one of the university’s professors took his class at the New York City-based American Comedy Institute, where Rosenfield is the director.

In his introduction to stand-up class, Rosenfield teaches his William Paterson students to make their jokes clear and concise to reach an optimal laugh-per-minute ratio. He explains various techniques, such as the "roll," popularized on late-night comedy shows in the form of Top 10 lists. He also tells students to draw on their experiences for funny anecdotes and shows them how to develop a persona.

John Munson/The Star-LedgerJonattan Fernandez, 20, of Clifton, a junior criminal justice major, does a flip during the Circus Arts class at Bloomfield College.

"We’re looking for upwards of four laughs per minute," he said. "That takes an understanding of some very specific structures of writing."

By their fourth year of study, NJIT’s architecture students have had plenty of chances to create buildings on papers. But building a real house for a real family is rare.

That is what students in Darius Sollohub’s class are competing to do in a course designed three years ago in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit group that builds houses for needy families.

Each student designs houses with construction costs under $100,000. Then, a five-person jury picks the winning project.

This fall, the class is working with Habitat for Humanity’s Paterson chapter for the first time, Sollohub said. The organization’s architect of record, Jak Inglese, comes to about one-third of the classes on the Newark campus and serves on the jury. The winning student and first runner up are given internships with his East Rutherford architectural firm to finish their designs during winter break and into the spring semester.

Ben Nicolson, an architecture student from Whitehouse Station, said he was drawn to the course because he was interested in the competitive aspect and the real-world application.

"This is the only studio where we’re working with actual clients," said Nicolson, 23. "We’re actually designing for them."
post #2 of 11
I skimmed, can any of these be taken for a letter grade? If so, that would be nuts... We have something similar at our school that you can earn actual units for; there's a Lord of the Rings class, Wheelchair basketball, a LA Lakers history class, Salsa dancing, Starcraft (I had a friend take this and it actually was all about high level mathematics; linear algebra, matrices, vector spaces and all that), hundreds more etc...

Anywho, up to 1/3rd of your units can be these "classes" too; it's how D1 athletes survive.
post #3 of 11
lord of the rings is a significant work and while studying it may not improve your job prospects, at least it qualifies as real literature with interesting roots to linguistics (tolkien's major interest). Comparing it to the sociology of salsa and a circus class is not really fair...
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek View Post

lord of the rings is a significant work and while studying it may not improve your job prospects, at least it qualifies as real literature with interesting roots to linguistics (tolkien's major interest). Comparing it to the sociology of salsa and a circus class is not really fair...

Never change.
post #5 of 11
You really can't complain about not being employable after graduating with a worthless degree in sociology and time spent learning about South Park.

I have my undergrad in Philosophy. Every time I see one of those neat pop culture tie ins like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy" I cringe. Assholes, how about a "Simpsons and Math" book? Or "The Chemistry of Breaking Bad?"

Actually, I might read the Breaking Bad chemistry book.
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by FLMountainMan View Post

Never change.

I won't. Not sure if future wifey knows just how big a nerd I am. MMORPGs have not been discussed. laugh.gif
post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by FLMountainMan View Post

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/turning_learning_on_its_head_f_1.html
Quote:
Turning learning on its head: From 'Circus Arts' to 'South Park,' quirky courses shake up the N.J. college experience
Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 10:45 AM Updated: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 12:09 PM
By Star-Ledger Staff John Munson/The Star-LedgerJonattan Fernandez, 20, of Clifton, a junior criminal justice major, digs through a hoop held by Tyese Beauharnais, 18, of East Rutherford, a freshman nursing major, during the Circus Arts class at Bloomfield College.
While freshman Tyese Beauharnais holds out a hoop, one of her classmates springs off a trampoline, gracefully dives through its center and flips onto a mat below.
Nearby, other classmates spin plates on sticks, practice elaborate magic tricks and master balancing poses. Meanwhile, their professor is busy teaching another student a complex tandem juggling act.
Beauharnais, a nursing major, admits she gets a lot of skeptical looks when she explains to her friends and family that she runs off to join the circus two days a week as part of her college course work.
"They think I’m crazy. But I get four credits for it," said Beauharnais, 18, of East Rutherford.
Yes, "Circus Arts" is a real academic class at Bloomfield College, a private four-year school in Essex County. The popular elective course, which is offered to undergraduates of all majors, teaches students the basics of circus life — from tightrope walking to juggling to riding a unicycle. While it looks like silly fun, professors say the graded class teaches students important lessons about teamwork, conquering fear and overcoming obstacles.[...]

Sorry kids, but if you think you'll find a job entertaining your Chinese overlords by spinning plates whilst riding a unicycle you're sadly mistaken. The Chinese Circus has a 5000-year head start on ya.
post #8 of 11
If we're going to make people take XYZ% of their credits as breadth in humanities, social sciences and sciences, why not make them interesting?

My school does "Math of Music" which is, from what I heard, stuff about the ratios of tones in scales, and like... wave mechanics. Totally fine by me for the non-science majors. Using Tolkien as a lit class would work great too. Hell, teaching science/business/engsci majors satire using the Simpsons/Futurama/South Park makes a metric asston more sense than teaching them satire using Swift, since they won't get the jokes/whats going on in Swift - whereas they ought to get the satire in the above.

It's like Cartman said: "HOW CAN I REACH THESE KIDS" rotflmao.gif

(Note: this more or less requires you to have a competent prof for these, and to mostly make them for GURs, or WQB, or whatever your school has, not for your people majoring in these areas)
post #9 of 11
I took a tennis class and a badminton class. They were only one credit each, but it's not automatically less absurd than a Circus Arts class or whatever.
post #10 of 11
I actually hated lower division classes, electives etc. For me it involved a lot of wasted time and effort, while not learning anything. I was working 2 full time jobs in college and didn't really have time for BS classes, plus they still charge you a the same $$$ per credit regardless if you taking a theoretical physics class or Music class where you learn about how John Cage composed 4'33 for the piano.

If you don't know John cage 433 here's a link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUJagb7hL0E

Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century(copied and pasted from wikipedia) I don't care what my music professor or what anyone says. It's garbage.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post

I took a tennis class and a badminton class. They were only one credit each, but it's not automatically less absurd than a Circus Arts class or whatever.

The Kinesiology department is just overflowing with one-credit courses like that where I go. Some gems include Power Walking, Yoga, SCUBA Diving and Great Lakes Sailing.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Business, Careers & Education
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Business, Careers & Education › NJ College Has Courses in South Park, Harry Potter, Wines, and Complaining About Unemployment.