Students have a variety of creative course options

Justin Armburger

From the Star Trek series to classic horror movies, an archive of thousands of movies and TV series stacked on bookshelf after bookshelf, surround Robert West as he sits at his desk on the third floor of Franklin Hall.

West, a retired associate professor of journalism and mass communication, teaches classes at Kent State that are a little different than most. In the spring semester, he will teach classes such as Jack the Ripper and Monster Movies II.

“We look at films about Jack the Ripper from the silent era on up to present day,” West said.

In his class, students watch these early films, as well as the more recent films about Jack the Ripper, such as “From Hell,” starring Johnny Depp. They will also watch documentaries about the famous serial killer from England.

“Students will then see how close the films are to the actual facts, and, in the end, be able to make decisions about who they believe the actual killer was,” West said.

Monster Movies II, another class taught by West, focuses on screen monsters that became popular in the silent era and how they have evolved to present day.

“Pop culture society tells you more than a history book,” West said. “It reflects what was going on with society during that time.”

Other classes, like those taught by West, are also offered by the university. Students can take Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Film Comedy and Orson Welles. They are all non-prerequisite courses, offered through the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

For students looking to take a break from the conventional lecture, Kent State offers Beginning Karate and Self-Defense. A realization of waking up the next day with a sore body is the only pre-requisite for these courses.

There is no excuse for the freshman 15 at Kent State either, considering there are Fitness Walking, Jogging and Dance Exercise classes, too.

And everyone knows that women love a guy who can play the guitar. Kent State offers a folk guitar class that helps students develop the basic folk guitar performance skills. Women can also join this class.

While this campus does offer a History of Jazz course, which reviews the origins of jazz up to present day, it does not offer the History of Rock course, taught at the Kent State Stark campus.

In History of Rock, Patricia Olsson, adjunct professor of saxophone at the Stark campus, introduces the beginning of rock in the late 1940s, with R&B and early innovators.

Students then learn about various styles of rock and roll up to present day. Students also watch many television performances, as well as MTV videos later in the class, Olsson said.

Kent State isn’t the only university that offers students unique courses. In the article “The Dirty Dozen: America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses,” on the Young America’s Foundation Web site, the foundation looks at some of the more interesting classes offered to college students around the nation. Some of the most interesting ones, however, come from the “Dishonorable Mentions” list.

Sex, Rugs, Salt & Coal, offered by Cornell University in New York examines topics such as: Why are “oriental” rugs collector’s items? Why do we keep salt shakers on our dinner tables? When did coal start replacing wood as a fuel source?

Another class, titled Drag: Theories of Transgenderism and Performance, offered by Hollins University in Virginia, “analyzes historical, theoretical and autobiographical perspectives on drag, including transgenderism and performance in non-Western cultures.”

Contact science reporter Justin Armburger at [email protected].