20 Reasons to Go to Class
Take a peek at the Schedule of Classes online. There are literally thousands of reasons to get out of bed each day and go to class. At Mason, where innovative approaches to teaching and learning are the rule—not the exception—outstanding and unusual classes are a point of pride. It was hard to narrow it down, but read on for 20 of Mason’s most interesting classes, many of which are taught beyond the walls of a traditional lecture hall.
1. Catch Zombie Fever
Zombies are so in that Anthropology professor Jeffrey Mantz started a class at Mason devoted to the zombie phenomenon called, appropriately enough, Zombies. And be sure to catch Mantz on NPR’s All Things Considered here. He was interviewed by the radio station on his class and the cultural implications of zombiedom. Yes, that’s a word. Read more
2. Baby Animals
Students who take part in the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation at the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, work alongside and learn from some of the world’s most prominent conservation scientists. In recent years, students were able to play a role in one of the institute’s success stories by working shifts during an around-the-clock pregnancy watch for one of the endangered clouded leopards that gave birth to two cubs. Cute and good for the planet. Read more
3. Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
Sensors, circuits, and the Roomba. Mason computer science students begin dabbling with robotics as early as CS 101: Preview of Computer Science. They then have ample opportunities to explore the field throughout their time at Mason, including by joining the RoboPatriots team, which competes internationally, or working in one of the state-of-the-art labs such as the Autonomous Robotics Laboratory. Read more
4. Question Authority
As part of an ongoing academic program with C-SPAN, Mason Communication students enrolled in Political Journalism have had the opportunity to discuss changes in the media via videoconference with prominent reporters. In recent years, NBC anchor Brian Williams, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, and ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton have participated in the discussions. Read more
5. The Thrill of the Hill
The U.S. Capitol is always impressive. Each semester, the Department of Public and International Affairs takes students majoring in government and politics to Capitol Hill for a tour and to network with the Mason alumni working there.
6. Let Them Eat Cake
Mason event management and tourism professor Maggie Daniels found that so many people in her event planning course wanted to plan weddings for their final projects that she created a special class—and wrote a textbook. In Wedding Planning and Management, students interact with caterers, florists, photographers, and professional planners as they learn the ins and outs of this billion-dollar industry. Read more
7. Big League Profs
Because of our location, we are able to draw on the resources of the region and put entrepreneurs, executives, and consultants in the classroom. Sport management students learn from two of our most notable faculty members—NFL veteran Charley Casserly, who spent 23 years with the Washington Redskins, moving up the ranks from an unpaid intern to general manager, and Craig Esherick, former assistant and head men’s basketball coach at Georgetown University. And sometimes they bring in guest speakers. Imagine the possibilities!
8. The Game Is On
College students can now make a career of all of those hours spent playing Halo. Yes, they can major in computer game design! This hot new program allows students to combine creativity and technical savvy in this evolving medium. There is also a Game Analysis and Design Interest Group (they are too cool to be a “club”) that brings together students developing their own games.
9. Dance with Me
Mason dancers have the opportunity to learn from the hottest choreographers in the field through a long-standing guest artist residency program. Renowned choreographers come to campus each year, cast dancers, and conduct intense rehearsals for a performance of one of their works. In recent years, students have performed the work of Mark Morris, David Parsons, Kate Skarpetowska, and Twyla Tharp. Morris, who has been to campus many times, even has an honorary degree from Mason! Read more
10. Giving Peace a Chance
Students in the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution have the opportunity to see diplomacy in action. Master’s and doctoral students in Professor Marc Gopin’s graduate class, Citizen Diplomacy as Conflict Resolution, have traveled to Syria and Israel to engage in citizen diplomacy, which promotes understanding between different groups.
11. A Few Good Men (and Women)
The Clinic for Legal Assistance to Service Members gives Mason law students trial runs at being lawyers. The first clinic of its kind, it’s the best of both worlds: Mason law students get hands-on experience, and U.S. military families get the legal support they need and deserve. More than 100 clients have been represented since the clinic was founded in 2004.
12. CSI: Mason
From crime scene analysis to computer forensics, Mason has a variety of forensics course work in which students can get their rubber gloves “dirty.” In one of Mason’s newest degree programs, students delve into crime scene investigation, toxicology, and trace evidence. The program has also added an outdoor forensic dig area where students can collect evidence in the great outdoors. Each year, the university even brings in Dr. Henry Lee, who was made famous by the O. J. Simpson trial, to conduct a special two-day “cold case” seminar. Read more
13. Out of This World
What would it take for extraterrestrial life to exist? In the Honors course, Astrobiology: The Origin and Evolution of Habitable Worlds, students learn about biology, chemistry, astronomy, and geology for a multidisciplinary look at how life came to be on Earth and the possibility of finding life elsewhere.
14. Parliamo italiano! (Let’s Speak Italian!)
The Little Italies course is a benissimo (very good) way to knock out the foreign language requirement in one summer. In this intensive program, students develop intermediate-level proficiency in Italian through class meetings, lunch hour conversations eating traditional Italian cuisine, and weekly excursions such as touring the Italian collection at the National Gallery of Art.
15. Pushing Up Daisies
Dead in Virginia is a history course that takes a different approach to learning historical methods—from the ground up. Student are expected to find a small family cemetery in Northern Virginia and use it to learn the ways historians find evidence and turn that data into analysis by visiting archives and libraries and county record offices, as well as using online sources. Read more
16. Beware of the Bunnyman
Students in the Folklore and Folklife course offered through the English Department explore traditional folklore concepts and approaches by researching their own family traditions or local legends and writing about them. Many of the papers make it into the online Northern Virginia Folklife Archive where you can find items on just about anything from fraternity rituals and local ghost stories (see Bunnyman Bridge) to folk remedies and oral histories.
17. From Geeks to Gazillionaires
How about a class that pays off—literally? That’s the case in a course called From Geeks to Gazillionaires: Turning Ideas into Successful Companies. One lucky team earns $5,000 in seed money in a class where students come up with a new business idea, research and test that idea, and then develop a comprehensive written business plan based on it.
18. Fun for Foodies
Since the College of Health and Human Services opened the Nutrition Kitchen Lab in downtown Fairfax, lots of yummy things have been happening academically–from brewing beer to preparing a Thanksgiving dinner with a guest chef. Read more
19. Mind Your Ps and Qs
Pushy Metro riders. Loud, personal phone conversations in public. Trick or treaters who don’t say “thank you.” These are just a few of examples of the lack of manners people encounter in daily life. But Mason’s new class offered in the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism is a godsend for those clueless when it comes to etiquette. Called Professionalism and Civility, the course covers the basics, from making eye contact when speaking with someone to proper table manners. Read more
20. Let the Sun Shine
The number of students interested in sustainability issues has skyrocketed in recent years and led to a new interdisciplinary degree program in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. In the popular Physics of Renewable Energy course, students receive hands-on experience in addition to studying the science behind it. Some of the course’s final projects include a vegetable oil-powered car, a solar water heater, and a mini hydrogenerator.
This article originally appeared in a slightly different form in Mason Spirit magazine.
To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.