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Unusual Courses for the Last-Minute Registrant

These Quidditch-playing students from SUNY Potsdam might want to take a course through Suffolk County Community College this spring. SCCC will be offering PHL 149: Philosophy and Harry Potter. (Photo courtesy of Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times)

Finals are just around the corner and many of you are running on coffee and potato chips.  It may be too soon for you to start thinking about next semester; but if you haven’t registered for next semester’s classes yet, it’s not too late.

For those of you who need to fulfill a core requirement but don’t want to take a traditional class, SUNY’s campuses have some unusual course offerings for those undecided about what to take.

We at GenerationSUNY have taken the time to highlight some of the most unusual and fun classes we could find in a variety of fields of study.  The course descriptions are included below.  This list is not wholly inclusive of all programs or schools, but these are some of the most unique classes we have encountered.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Albany – AGEO 110: The Search for Life Beyond Earth, Geology Department
The search for life beyond the Earth is a topic that has engaged many scholars for all of recorded human history. Is life common in the Universe? With NASA’s decision to define one of its strategic goals as the search for the origin and distribution of life in the Universe, scientific progress has been rapid. These investigations involve collaborations among geochemists, astrophysicists, and biochemists. This course will explore how scientists are successfully detecting planets orbiting other stars, determining the environments that led to the origin of life on Earth, and chemical processes and pathways that may have led to the origin of life on Earth and beyond.

Broome Community College – CHM 127: Kitchen Chemistry, Chemistry Department
You are what you eat. Cooking and recipes may be the oldest and most widespread application of chemistry and chemical research. This course will cover the basic chemistry of the main components of food carbohydrates, lipids, and protein, as well as water, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, food additives, flavors, and colors. It will also cover the processing of food and the use of fermentation in the production of yogurt, cheese, wine, and beer. The laboratory component will give the students a chance to perform the reactions presented in lecture.

SUNY ESF – EFB 217: People, Plagues, and Pests, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
Impacts of selected diseases and pests on the development and course of human civilizations. Emphasis is on the impacts of plagues and pests on non-western civilizations.

Fredonia – MATH 108: Prize-Winning Mathematics
The course surveys some mathematical tools that have proved useful to the social sciences, especially in business, economics, and political science. Work on one topic in particular, game theory, has led to several Nobel prizes, and may have helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls. Other topics will be selected from linear models, matrices, linear programming, and nonlinear and probabilistic models.

History, Political Science, and Justice

Binghamton – MDVL 270B: Golden Arts of Kings, Medieval Studies Department
A broad range of art and architecture was produced under diverse conditions in Europe between the sixth and ninth centuries, from the grave jewels of Germanic and Saxon chieftains to the imperial architecture of Justinian in Ravenna and Constantinople, of Caliphs Abd al-Malik in Jerusalem and Al-Walid in Damascus, and of Charlemagne in Aachen. In the urban south and eastern Mediterranean, monumental, technologically advanced art was sponsored by rulers with ambitions to continue the economy, and the political structure and prestige visible in the impressive sites of the Roman Empire. In rural northwest Europe, a similar ambition and political rhetoric was entirely discrepant within a subsistence agrarian economy. Under these conditions, we find an art of personal luxury slowly, painstakingly, built up until its large public buildings matched ambitions and rhetoric in a few places, for a short time.

Cortland – POL 338: Media and Politics, Political Science Department
Focus on political interactions of electronic and print media with political system in America and elsewhere. How “Fourth Estate” shapes political images and how government manipulates the media examined. Analysis of contemporary news coverage included.

Herkimer County Community College – SS 227: Gangs: Theory, Practice & Suppression, Social Sciences Department
This course examines the socio-demographic correlates of gang formation throughout history with a concentrated emphasis on the social impact of contemporary gang membership in the United States. Topics to be covered include gang history, gang organization, a review of existing theoretical and applied gang research, the contribution of gangs to social problems and effective interventions to gang-related problems.

Westchester Community College – HIS 220: Great Trials in History, History Department
This is a survey course of famous trials in legal, historical, political, social and literary context starting with a foundation in how societies define law.  The class will study twelve trials in-depth using both specific and comparative analysis.  Critical thinking and analysis of the cases are integral to the course which will span over 2000 years of legal judgment.

Visual and Performing Arts

Canton – JUST 300: Forensic Photography, Criminal Justice Department
Introduction to basic techniques, equipment, material and other aspects of crime scene photographs. This course will provide theory and practice of photographic image formation and recordings. Laboratory exercises will be conducted with hands-on instruction with emphasis on homicide, sex offenses, arson and accident photograph techniques.

Corning Community College – ARTS 1505: Contemporary Craft History, Art Department
A survey of the important themes, artists, and objects (including glass, ceramics, metalworking, fibers, woodworking, and textiles) of 20th century American craft. Social issues and historical factors affecting the evolution of contemporary craft production will also be examined.

Purchase – ARH4250.20: The Russian Avant-Garde, Art History Department
Despite a growing interest in the work of the Russian avant-garde, there is still relatively little known about the artists of the late Russian Empire and the early Soviet Union. This course addresses the broad scope and multidisciplinary practice of Russian modernism, from the shocking primitivism of The Rite of Spring to the cold pragmatism of constructivism.

Foreign and Cultural Studies

Brockport – FCE333: French Rap and Rock, Foreign Cultures in English Department
Traces the development of popular music in France and the manner in which it reflects societal change. Contextualizes cultural transformation from the youth revolt of the 60’s to the modern day issues of racial/religious integration. Studies the effect of globalization and increasing influence of America on French mainstream culture. Students will listen to a wide variety of songs, analyze their lyrics in translation and view video selections from television and cinema.

University at Buffalo – AS 383: India in the Traveler’s Eye, Asian Studies Department
Introduction to the motivations and experiences of travelers to India, and the forms of knowledge that are produced in the wake of such travels. Students will develop a broad familiarity with the history, literatures, religions, and geography of South Asia from reading and discussing a wide range of primary and secondary source material. The diversity of perspective in these works challenge readers to consider what it means to be an outsider looking in on a culture, and compels us to consider arguments for and against treating certain geographic and political regions and temporal periods as coherent cultural zones.

Stony Brook: ANT 210: Sunken Cities and Pirates: The World of Underwater Archaeology – Anthropology Department
Explores the variety of underwater archaeological sites found around the world, including submerged Stone Age sites in the Old and New Worlds and sunken cities such as Alexandria, Egypt and Port Royal, Jamaica. The class also treats the development of global seafaring through the study of sunken ships, starting with the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean Sea through Viking age ships in northern Europe and the later Age of Exploration. Methods of underwater excavation and site interpretation based on anthropological theory will also be discussed.

Communications and Media Studies

Canton – ENG 217: Comic Books as Literature, English Department
Comic Books as Literature? Understandably, skeptics may scoff at the idea, viewing comics as merely kids stuff. However, in recent years, comic books have become accepted as a respected form of art and literature by scholars, critics, and faculty alike. This course will examine the academic value of comics and graphic novels through study of their history, specialized artistic and literary techniques, and development as narratives. Students will be required to learn and apply elements of literature and sequential art as used by noted comic writers and illustrators such as Will Eisner, William Gaines, Scott McCloud, Paul Chadwick, Alan Moore, Art Speigelman, and Alex Ross.

Fashion Institute of Technology – AC 341: Magazine Journalism, Advertising and Marketing Communications Department   
Students develop the editorial and marketing skills needed to succeed in today’s fast-paced magazine publishing world by creating a magazine prototype directed at a specialized target audience.

Business Administration

Finger Lakes Community College – VIT 200: Vineyard Management, Viticulture and Enology Department
This course is designed for students already familiar with the basics of viticulture. The student will complete a project using geological survey data, evaluating a real site for its potential as a vineyard, plan a fertility program and develop irrigation management based on soil water properties. The student will design the vineyard, planning rows, and calculating the numbers of posts and plants needed. Lecture topics covered will include canopy management, foliar sampling, Best Management Practices, and how cropping systems affect fertility needs. The student will develop a task management plan for a year. Viticulture safety issues will be addressed, as well as specific strategies for management of weeds, vertebrate pests, insects, and diseases. Labor management and vineyard marketing will be discussed.

Hudson Valley Community College – ARTS 150: Introduction to Gallery Management, Department of Fine Arts
This course provides an overview of how fine arts exhibition venues work. Through lectures, discussions, field trips, written assignments and visiting speakers, students will be given an introduction to the basics of managing galleries and museums. Topics to be discussed include: types of galleries, museums and exhibition spaces, exhibition development and budgeting, exhibit curation and design, marketing and funding, audience education and building, and proper handling, preservation and presentation of artworks. Students are expected to attend all college visiting artist lectures and exhibit openings. Students may be responsible for the purchase of some necessary course supplies.


Alfred State – ARCH 1433: Furniture and Finishes, Architecture Department
This survey course examines the selection, specification, composition, manufacture, and application of finishes and materials in interior design and presents an overview of furniture construction, types, planning and selection.

Suffolk County Community College – PHL 149: Philosophy and Harry Potter, Philosophy Department
This course is a philosophical examination of a phenomenom of popular culture, Harry Potter. As such, we will examine the books, with emphasis on three areas: 1. Magical Knowledge & Metaphysics v. “Muggle,” i.e., non-Magical Knowledge & Metaphysics; 2. Ehical Dilemmas in Harry Potter’s World; and 3. De-coding Rowlings use of Myth. In order to examine these issues, students will read selections from both supporters and critics of the series, including, but not limited to, the following: “The Wisdom of Harry Potter”, by Kern and “The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter,” by Colbert.

Tompkins Cortland Community College – WINE 202: Beverage Studies, Wine Marketing Department
This course is a study of a range of both alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages that explores coffees, teas, beers, and spirits from production to final usage. Students learn about beverages and their use in a variety of establishments including, bars, clubs, casinos, tasting rooms, coffee/tea house, breweries, and restaurants. Students gain the knowledge needed to work or manage a variety of industry establishments.

Emily Schwartz

Written by Emily Schwartz

Emily Schwartz is the Coordinator of Open SUNY Communication and Projects.



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