Traditionally speaking, college is, by its very nature, all about education. Meeting new friends and having fun is usually a by-product, but fundamentally school is where young adults go to learn. Gaining knowledge can take many shapes and forms, but often those of a geeky persuasion are happiest when managing their own time away from the college grounds. So what happens when the lines between geek-time and learning become unmistakably blurred? What happens when the geeks take over the classroom? Find out in our article on ten bizarre college courses designed for geeks.
10. Zombies in Popular Media, Columbia College Chicago
You would think that the most important lesson one can learn about zombies would be to run away as quickly as possible or, if necessary, to shoot them in the head. However, this course at Columbia College Chicago goes a good deal further than that. It promises an “intense schedule” that “explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts.” Those with an aversion to gore need not apply to this critical theory class. However, geeks with a taste for flesh, form an orderly queue. Let the shambling commence!
9. Strategy of Starcraft, UC Berkeley
StarCraft — and its recent sequel StarCraft II — are real-time military strategy computer games developed by Blizzard Entertainment. This class, which started in 2009, is made up of lectures on battle theory and other “computational” aspects of how space battles are fought. Students’ game-playing is analyzed and “homework” is assigned. Sounds tough. Other than a love of gaming, the only requirements for the course are a copy of Starcraft: Brood War and an “open mind.” While all this may sound too good to be true, there is a catch: the course credits are not counted towards general education pre-requisites. Who cares, though, if a career in competitive gaming awaits?
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oberlin College
No doubt many a geek will have studied the image of Sarah Michelle Gellar in her most famous role as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The phenomenally successful TV series ran to seven seasons from 1997 until 2003 and has left a lasting imprint in the cultural consciousness. This course at Oberlin “Experimental” College in Ohio is an example of what some like-minded academics call “Buffy studies,” the show having attracted a good deal of intellectual attention. The course assumes that students will have a “basic familiarity with the program.” Wooden stake and crucifix sadly not included.
7. Lego Robotics, MIT
You don’t have to be a geek to love Legos. But in this course at MIT it probably helps. Using Lego as a “fun tool to explore robotics” and more, the course provides students with the resources to design, build and program working robots from the little plastic bricks and a “few other parts, such as motors and sensors.” Just don’t let any younger siblings anywhere near your work in progress or you may have to ask for a deadline extension on that end-of-term project.
6. Philosophy and Star Trek, Georgetown University
Philosophy tutors love Star Trek. In all its incarnations — from the 1960s onwards — the show has contained philosophical themes and subtexts for would-be Platos to chew over. This course at Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University — worth three Earth credits — takes Star Trek as the starting point for a whole semester’s worth of deep thinking and debate. Metaphysical questions sparked by the sci-fi staple and covered include “Is Data a person?”, “Is time travel possible?” and “Could you go back and kill your grandmother?” Would Spock approve? Guess you’ll have to sign up to find out.
5. Biology of Jurassic Park, Hood College
Hood College, Maryland claims that dinosaurs can help students understand many biological principles, such as patterns of evolution, ecology and behavior. All this despite the fact that they are extinct. Impressed? We were. The course is comprised of three lectures and three hours in the lab, so don’t expect it to be too taxing. Asking such questions as “Are birds really dinosaurs?” and “Were dinosaurs ‘warm-blooded’ or ‘cold-blooded?’” the classes are most assuredly aimed at clever girls and boys. And Velociraptors.
4. Sindarin (Elvish), University of Wisconsin
Back in 2004, at the very height of Lord of the Rings mania, the University of Wisconsin offered this course in Sindarin, otherwise known as Elvish. The language that novelist JRR Tolkien invented to be spoken by his long-legged, fair-headed Elves was taught by David Salo, who worked on the Rings trilogy of films as a linguistic expert. Obviously a deep knowledge of, and respect for, Tolkien’s languages was of great benefit to Mr. Salo; others, however, may well ask what they could expect to gain from such studies…
3. Science from Superheroes to Global Warming, University of California, Irvine
Ah, superheroes. A true geek staple. The undisputed world champions of geek culture ever since Superman lifted up a car on the cover of Action Comics #1 in 1938. For most hard-working students, superheroes and comic books are a pretty firm no-no in the classroom. Until now, that is. With this fiercely geek-friendly course, the University of California, Irvine promises students will develop a “better appreciation for science and the scientific method” while exploring questions about the powers of their favorite childhood heroes. Case studies are drawn from global warming and real-world experience, as well as movies and, natch, superheroes. Don’t get too close to the kryptonite!
2. The Science of Harry Potter, Frostburg State University
The Harry Potter saga may be over, with J.K. Rowling having written her last book — and the movie adaptations’ young cast matured into adulthood — but that hasn’t stopped the enormous popularity of the franchise. Back in 2003, when the Potter cultural empire was still gathering steam, Frostburg State University, Maryland offered this seminar in The Science of Harry Potter. Students were expected to examine the books to “assess the possible science behind the fantasy.” Alas, there is no mention of whether any Quidditch contests took place.
1. Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond, University of Texas at Austin
Salt and pepper. Milk and cookies. Geeks and Star Trek. Some things are just meant to go together. The designers of this course at the University of Texas, Austin obviously thought so too, using the fantastical alien language of Klingon as a jumping-off point for exploring some fairly weighty linguistic and philosophical areas through the use of literature, films, the internet and, presumably, a lot of TV. Logical. But as every Star Trek fan knows, logic isn’t a Klingon’s strong point.