A Class by Themselves

Unique College Courses Offer a Glimpse into the Curiosities of Today’s Students

college students in lecture hall

For nearly three hours every Wednesday evening this semester, several dozen students at the University of New Hampshire gather in McConnell Hall to discuss such seemingly unconnected topics as PSI measurements, applying discipline in a collectively bargained work environment, and the influence of thermodynamics on the air-retention capabilities of a polyurethane bladder.

You may be tired of hearing about Deflategate, but these students aren’t. So many signed up for Intercollege Course 460, Section 1 – Deflategate – that the university had to move Michael McCann’s class to a lecture hall large enough to handle the larger-than-projected crowd.

I know what you’re thinking.

“A course about Deflategate – seems like a class that would help me pump up my GPA.”

“Probably less pressure in this course than other electives.”

“Do I take it pass-fail?”

But this class is no joke.

“Learning what labor law is, learning what antitrust law is, learning intellectual property laws is very useful,” McCann told the Portland Press Herald recently. “For a course title that doesn’t sound like it would be practical, I think the substance of the class is very practical.”

It would be easy to suggest that McCann holds an over-inflated opinion of his own class (that’s the last deflationary pun of this piece, I promise). But the reality is that there are courses focused on subjects like Deflategate held every semester on campuses across the country. And there always have been.

Over the summer, for instance, the University of Virginia offered a literature course that, according to its online description, dealt with “characterization, geography, racial and cultural allegory, resistant conclusion and promiscuous identification.” The title of the course? ENSP 3860: Game of Thrones.

The summer before, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University offered a class that examined the Politicization of Beyonce. Students at Pitzer College can learn in Learning From YouTube, while students at UC-Irvine once flocked to register for a physics course entitled, “Science from Superheroes to Global Warming.”

Do any of these sound “practical,” to borrow McCann’s word? Maybe not. But an article in the recent Education Issue New York Times Sunday Magazine asked a vital question, What is the Point of College? The author suggests that there are generally two schools of thoughts about these schools of thought: colleges tend to focus either on value (Utility U.) or on values (Utopia U.).  Spoiler alert: there are benefits to both approaches, and even greater benefits to college educations that can weave together an experience that sets up students for professional success while developing them as free thinkers.

A recent study by YPulse found what many of us have suspected for years – that education (a college education, in particular) is a greater priority for Millennials than it might have been for generations before. Apparently, they want to take Trig and plot points on a GDP curve in Macro 101 and be baffled by Beowulf like everyone who came before them.

But they also want to learn about the world they’re growing up in. How else can you explain the proliferation of college Quiddich teams over the past decade? Ten years ago, Middlebury College hosted what is considered to be the first non-fiction Quiddich match in history. Today, there are hundreds of college Quiddich teams, from USC in Los Angeles to USC in Columbia, South Carolina.

At Newbridge, we fully support this ongoing quest for Quaffle supremacy. And we encourage our business partners to embrace the chase for the Golden Snitch as well.

To connect with a market of Millennials, we must always be mindful to engage them on their turf. We must introduce them to products and experiences that will enhance their world, not drag them into ours.

We must encourage their pursuit of what interests them, to applaud their curiosity – even when that curiosity is a curiosity to us.

Is it really that surprising that so many college students jumped at the chance to earn four credits studying the manufactured drama surrounding a bag full of deflated footballs? It shouldn’t be – certainly not anymore surprising than when the University of Wisconsin offered up its own soap opera study, Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles.

Just ask yourself: If you were a college student today, would you have registered for Deflategate?

Admit it. Of course you would have. And you would have been a little pumped to do so.

David Seigerman’s latest book, Take Your Eye Off The Ball 2.0 (Triumph Books)
will be released this fall. Follow him at @dseigs18.

Share this post