25 Unique (Possibly Even Crazy) Courses of Study

| TBS Staff

Are you ready to discover your college program?

It seems like you can take a college course in just about anything these days. As universities compete for applications in a crowded marketplace, many are finding that the best way to stand out from the crowd is to create unique, innovative, daring, and sometimes just plain weird learning opportunities.

From classes on R&B mogul Beyoncé (Rutgers) and low-grade teen dramedy The O.C. (Duke) to full courses of study in Bowling Industry Management (Vincennes University) and Arctic Engineering (University of Alaska, Fairbanks…obviously), the world of higher education is a palette of infinite colors.

In our first installment of an ongoing series, we'll seek out some of the most unusual, unique, and off-the-wall courses, majors, and graduate programs on the planet. Consider this a course catalog created merely for your amusement. However, if it does help you to discover your hidden passion for the Poultry Sciences or Nautical Archaeology then, hey, we're happy to help!

With only the further ado of this particular sentence, we are pleased to introduce you to 25 Unique (Possibly Even Crazy) Courses of Study.

Central Michigan University

1. To Hogwarts, Harry: An Intensive Study of Harry Potter Through the British Isles


If you're taking the train to Hogwarts, you'll want to catch your ride at the King's Cross Station Platform 9 3/4. You'll also want to be fairly confident in your ability to phase through brick walls. If, on the other hand, you study at Central Michigan University, any number of Amtrak lines will get you to the East Lansing campus. No phasing should be necessary.

Regardless of which of these fine institutions you choose, you'll have the chance to learn everything you need to know about the most famous prepubescent wizard in the world. This Spring Semester course is more than spells and magic though.

J.K. Rowling is not only the author of the Harry Potter series but also the creator of a rich and broad meta-fictional universe. Drawn as it is from the sights and sounds of Great Britain, the Harry Potter saga readily lends itself to an immersive cultural experience.

Far from just another literature course, "To Hogwarts Harry" offers students the chance to take this immersion to the next level. Participants will jet to England to follow in Harry's footsteps, to behold the Scottish glen where Hagrid's Hut stood, to shop at the Leadenhall Market that gave inspiration to Diagon Alley, to cross the threshold of Oxford's Christ Church, which inspired the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Like Hogwarts itself, this two week course is rather exclusive, reserved as it is for honors English students only. Unlike Hogwarts, students are hardly ever dragged into the woods by giant man-eating spiders or mauled by werewolves. If that isn't motive enough, you should know that this study-abroad program will also net you three credits.

University of Pennsylvania

2. Wasting Time on the Internet


On its surface, “Wasting Time on the Internet” sort of seems like a class where you don't do anything. Upon closer inspection, that's pretty much exactly what it is. This is probably the kind of thing that only Ivy Leaguers could receive credits to do.

For three hours every Wednesday, students will meet together in a room and completely ignore each other while wandering aimlessly about the web, attempting to bring cohesion to the chat room flotsam and social media jetsam bobbing about in the virtual sea. This course asks if there is a way to cull meaningful literary content from the temporal Tweets, fleeting Facebook posts, and casual comments with which we splatter the web.

Supporting its endeavor through consideration of works by thinkers like Betty Friedan, Erving Goffman, and John Cage, the course attempts intellectual interface with the concepts of boredom and time-wasting. In most contexts, the required coursework would be considered a good way to blow a perfectly useful day. In this context, it is an elective seminar for English majors.

And if you're in the Creative Writing Track at UPenn, you're degree program actually requires you to dedicate three hours a week to be wasted on the web.


3. Politicizing Beyoncé


I bet you were wondering if there was a course that proceeded from the core question, “Can Beyoncé's music be seen as a blueprint for progressive social change?”. In fact, there is.

Offered as a “Featured Program” at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, “Politicizing Beyoncé” uses the massively successful pop singer's lyrics and videos as a lens through which to view the dynamics of gender, race, power, and popular culture. Informed by a confluence of black feminism and sociology, the course uses Beyoncé's work as a jumping-off point for consideration of the historical and political constructs impacting the lives and experiences of black women in today's society.

It's pretty serious business for the woman who played Foxxy Cleopatra in 2002's heinously unwatchable Austin Powers in Goldmember.

But with empowering songs like “Grown Woman,” “Run the World,” and “Flawless”—as well as a towering empire of commercial and political influence at her fingertips—Beyoncé's impact is actually quite profound. It is thus that the course offered here proceeds, using its subject's singular celebrity to probe challenging sociological questions.

At last check, there are no existing university level courses based on the work of other former Destiny's Child members.

Duke University

4. California Here We Come: The O.C. & Self-Aware Culture of 21st Century America


If you show up to your "California Here We Come" class looking for a thoughtful reading of John Steinbeck, there will be absolutely nothing we can say to console you for what you are about to experience. If you're keeping track, The O.C. probably ranks somewhere just below Dawson's Creek and maybe a tiny shade above Party of Five on the list of teen dramas that we'd rather gouge our eyes out than watch, but that's just us.

For those enrolled in this Duke University class, The O.C. is existential gold. According to its Fall 2012 syllabus, the course will “explore the ‘hyper self-awareness' unique to the O.C. and analyze California exceptionalism and singularity in history and popular culture.”

Stated more simply, the course examines why really attractive and rich people living near a beach in a place that's warm and sunny all the time think they're awesome.

Of course, there's more to it than that. The course also examines pressing modern matters such as “girl culture, 21st century suburban revivalism, the indie music scene, the meta-series, and more.”

These, of course, are the features by which The O.C. “changed teen television dramedy forever.” Just in case watching episodes of The O.C. in class doesn't seem like the greatest cerebral challenge you'll face in college, this class ups the ante by also including analytical discussion of cultural touchstones like Real Housewives of Orange County and The Hills.

As The O.C. producer Josh Schwartz says (according to the syllabus), “we live in a post-everything universe.”

This sentence, of course, means absolutely nothing. But don't let that stop you from taking an English course in which you dive headlong into bad television in search of post-everything meaning.

Skidmore College

5. The Sociology of Miley Cyrus


There's actually a lot more to this than you might at first think. Did you ever wonder why so many child stars grow into super messed up adults? Well, there are actually a lot of theories about it. Not that we're suggesting Miley Cyrus is messed up, per se.

In fact, she makes a compelling subject for this sociology course because she is so fascinating a former child star. Contrary to those who struggle—and frequently fail—to recreate an image post-puberty, Cyrus is a young celebrity working toward self-actualization with frequently compelling results.

The syllabus for the course first offered in the summer 2014 session calls this an examination of “intersectional identities,” which Wikipedia says is the “study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.” We're reasonably confident that the subjects of twerking and Instagram crop up in class discussion on a weekly basis. And in fact, given what the former implies about the co-opting of black culture and the latter suggests about celebrity voyeurism, both subjects lend themselves to a profound examination of American society today.

Musically, Miley may not be the Mozart of our time and Hannah Montana isn't exactly Marshall McLuhan. But Miley has become a master of media manipulation, a former object of the Disney tween-star empire evolved into a powerful channel for psychic examination of the celebrity zeitgeist.

See how easy it is to intellectualize Miley Cyrus? Well on this picturesque Saratoga Springs, New York campus, you can do that for a whole semester.

Santa Clara University

6. The Physics of Star Trek


Memorizing every word in the Klingon-to-English Dictionary is not required for this course but it probably wouldn't hurt. Outside of that, you'll want a pretty good working knowledge of particle physics, human physiology, and interplanetary travel.

Indeed, this course is listed as part of the science discipline at Santa Clara. Thus, the class will draw a line from Newton and Einstein to Kirk and Janeway.

But like Star Trek itself, there is so much more to this than science. If six television series, 11 films, and countless Trekkie conventions have shown us anything, it is the complex and inextricable relationship between technology, faith, identity, and culture. Star Trek shows us a future in which science has given us both glimpses of Utopia and our own destruction.

This Santa Clara course peers into that future while exploring the empirical science behind the matter transporter, the theoretical basis for time travel, and possibly even the reason that Patrick Stewart lacks the resources to grow a single follicle of hair well into the 24th Century. The Physics of Star Trek is a great starting point for a job at NASA, construction of a super-large hadron collider, or chief-know-it-all status at your neighborhood comic shop.

University of Washington

7. Astrobiology


Ok, so if the course outlined above probes Star Trek for its prescient scientific vision, this course of study explores that other great Trekkian question: Are there Ferengis in the universe and how cautious should we be about conducting interplanetary commerce with them?

Well, maybe that isn't central premise of this course. But if you do ever plan on successfully answering this and other related questions, you should probably start here. Astrobiology is not merely a course at the University of Washington. In fact, it is a graduate program for which one can earn a PhD.

According to its online course catalog, the University of Washington is not the only major institution to offer courses that aim to study life on or from other planets. It is, however, one of the very few to provide “structured interdisciplinary training at the graduate level.” The University points out that, with an offering of 20 required coursework credits, its astrobiology program is one of the nation's most rigorous.

Subjects of study include the origin and evolution of life on earth, the search for planets beyond our solar system, and the sustainability of life in extreme environments such as deep-sea hydrothermal vents, Arctic ice, and Cleveland. (Just kidding Cleveland. We love you).

Ecology, cosmology, geology, and imagination converge in a course that could be your first step toward a space odyssey. Future occupations include microbiology, environmental conservation, and Martian ambassadorship.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

8. Entertainment Engineering & Design


Perhaps you think it's all fun and games in Las Vegas.

Well…you'd be right. It really is.

But making fun is big business. People expect more than just a few white tigers and a Bette Midler impersonator these days. They want flashing lights, optical illusions, and animatronic spectacle…and then, of course, the occasional Bette Midler impersonator.

If you're at all interested in helping to enhance the massive adult playground that is Las Vegas, or to work as a Disney fun-gineer, or perhaps to design the next big-screen innovation used to justify doubling ticket prices, this could be the degree program for you. According to UNLV, you have two basic options. You can earn a bachelor's degree in Design Technology at a total of 133 credits or one in Engineering across 135 credit hours.

Be assured, this course of study is deeply embedded in various overlapping scientific disciplines. In spite of the whimsy that it would be your ultimate ambition to create, the program itself will guide you through the very real and very serious subsets of computer, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering science. All are instructed with an eye toward “the art of entertainment.”

In addition to a core emphasis on mathematics and the development of technical skills, this course of study will require you to consider the social, environmental, political, ethical, and economic implications of each and every decision that goes into creating an entertaining experience for the buying public.

Whether you hope to design a multi-purpose indoor arena or produce the lighting effects for a Lada Gaga tribute act, this may be the degree program for you. Also, if it is your life's greatest ambition to run away with the French circus, you should know that this major provides a clear avenue to an internship with Cirque du Soleil.

Penn State University

9. Turfgrass Science


Football is kind of a big deal in Happy Valley. So too, therefore, is grass.

It makes sense, then, that the university's Department of Plant Science, which itself is contained in the College of Agricultural Sciences, has offered a full undergraduate degree program in Turfgrass Science since as far back as 1929.

Lest you should think this is a path toward becoming a glorified lawn-mower, be thee fairly warned. Your course of study will include biology, chemistry, and meteorology. This bachelor's degree program gives students on the gridiron-crazy Pennsylvania campus a chance to pursue an array of career opportunities in the field (Yeah, it's a pun. Deal with it).

Those career opportunities may include golf course green's keeping, sod design, and athletic facility maintenance. And with everything that you'll learn about cultivation, protection against the elements, and pest management, your front lawn will likely be the envy of your neighbors.

Based on the university's own reporting that 70% of Pennsylvania's turfgrass is residentially-owned, you need not work for a professional sporting organization to apply everything that you'll learn in this program. However, it could also open the door to such a career. To the point, Penn State's Turfgrass degree program could lead to an internship with the NFL's nearest organization, the Philadelphia Eagles.

But prepare yourself for a rigorous course steeped in both natural and industrial sciences. The Philadelphia Eagles may be giving away wide receiver jobs to every stone-handed bumbler that wanders into their training facilities but you actually have to work pretty hard to maintain the grass underneath their feet.

Vincennes University

10. Bowling Industry Management and Technology


Ok. we admit it. We reference The Big Lebowski at least once a week on this forum. But seriously, this one is just begging for it.

Anyway, if Walter Sobchack hadn't spent the ‘70s in Vietnam, this is probably the college major that he would have pursued.

Vincennes is Indiana's oldest university, operational since 1801. And based on the mission statement for its academic bowling program, this is one sport that students and faculty take quite seriously. Indeed, it is told that this program will do nothing less than “enhance the student's intellectual growth and civic responsibilities through interaction with community groups and organizations as it relates to a modern business/recreational environment.”

This, says the mission, “will prepare them for employment in the bowling industry.”

So, too, will classroom subjects such as profit/loss analysis for a given bowling alley, pinsetter preventative maintenance, and fingerhole-drilling. That last one is not as dirty as it sounds. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Depending on your focus within your bowling major, you can complete this two year program in pursuit of either an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science degree. The latter of these will require more technical expertise whereas the former emphasizes the business management dimensions of life on the lanes.

And Walter Sobchack would be pleased to know that most classes are conducted on weekdays, meaning that there should never be a reason to roll on Shabbos.

Plymouth State University

11. Adventure Education


This teaches you half of everything you'll ever need to know to become an action hero. Add to this about 30 foreign language courses and a decade of training in the lethal use of martial arts, and you're practically Jason Bourne.

Learn all the skills that your crazy survivalist uncle has been telling you about for years. From mountaineering and whitewater kayaking to winter camping and wilderness exploration, this course of study requires you to venture into the great outdoors with only your wit and wisdom to protect you.

Surrounded as it is by the natural majesty of New Hampshire, the Plymouth State campus serves as the perfect starting point for any number of exhilarating expeditions out into the Granite State frontier. To get an idea of what you might be in for on an average school day, consider several fairly self-explanatory course names, including Winter Backcountry Travel, Alpine Mountaineering, and Canoe Paddling Fundamentals.

Of course, if you plan on pursuing this course of study—which is offered both at the bachelor's and master's levels—it's probably a good idea to be comfortable with heights, extreme temperatures, and complaining children.

Indeed, Adventure Education falls under the umbrella of Physical Education and its primary purpose is to provide applied training to those who will ultimately lead youth expeditions through forests, rivers, and mountains. A career may await you in any from a number of exciting fields, including national park recreation, environmental education, outdoor adventure leadership, and of course, international secret espionage super-agency.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

12. Arctic Engineering


If you enjoy doing really complicated math while freezing your face off, this is most definitely the major for you.

Civil engineering is a deeply challenging course of study in any context. Throw in a subzero climate and you're looking at a whole other level of logistical challenges relating to heat transfer, frozen ground engineering, and toilet flushing.

Seriously. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a toilet that flushes at absolute zero? Neither do we but we'll bet this is the course of study if you want to know.

Unfortunately, while this program is listed in the course catalog, it is labeled as temporarily suspended at the time of writing. When the master's program is available though, it is administered from within the College of Engineering and Mines' Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The graduate program is aimed at those who have already completed their undergraduate studies in engineering and who wish to apply this education to confronting the peculiarities of extreme cold weather design, construction, and operation. As the course catalog points out, a heightened interest in petroleum production in Arctic regions has increased demand for those with the set of skills honed by the program in question.

This is probably a program that you would also find valuable were you to somehow be a part of a Star Wars-style rebellion forced to establish a secret base on the ice planet of Hoth. The course's focus on hydraulic engineering should give you a leg up for either operating or felling an Imperial AT-AT Walker.

Though the program is not presently available to students on the Fairbanks campus, fear not. It's pretty darn cold in Alaska and people are always building stuff. It stands to reason that the inherent value of this degree program will see it offered again in the not-too-distant future. Certainly if that future brings a new ice age with it, degree-holders in Arctic Engineering will be pretty sought after.

Carnegie Mellon

13. Bagpiping


The Liverpool Hope University offers a degree program called The Beatles, Popular Music and Society. But we suppose this isn't so unique or surprising. Courses on the Beatles, and on popular music, are actually quite commonplace.

But this isn't about popular music. This is about unpopular music. This is about the music best suited for emptying a saloon after last call. Don't get me wrong. We are lovers of all things musical. But we'd shake on a gentleman's bet that 30 minutes of live bagpiping, and you'd be gone like a Hagas on Hogmanay.

This university's bagpiping program's existence owes itself almost entirely to the Scottish-American heritage of the university's namesake, Andrew Carnegie. Its commitment to an instrument that might best be described as the sound of sick cats being tortured makes this Pittsburgh-based university the top destination in the U.S. for aspiring bagpipers.

As the only university to offer a Master's degree in the bags, Carnegie Mellon will draw as many as three piping aspirants every year. Three may not sound like a lot, but put all of them in a room together with their instruments and I guarantee it'll feel like a crowd.

According to an article from 2012, Carnegie's recently hired pipemaster general had also made considerable strides in expanding the membership of the university's competitive pipe band. As the bandleader explained of his program, “I'm hoping to make a significant contribution to both the university and the North American piping scene.”

And what a scene it is.

University of Arizona

14. Race Track Industry


The next time somebody tells you that you spend too much time at the track, tell them that it was your college major. If you're telling the truth, good for you! You are one of the rare specialists in the art and science of competitive equestrian facility maintenance.

If you're lying, then we're concerned you might have a gambling problem.

Assuming the former, there's a good chance you studied at the University of Arizona. Indeed, the Tucson campus is home to one of the oldest and largest Race Track Industry degree programs in circulation. In fact, the program was initially chartered in response to a rising need within the industry for college educated professionals.

The increasingly complex and sophisticated business of horse racing prompted several industry leaders to partner with the University in 1973 to create what is now a thriving bachelor's degree program. Falling under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture, this major gives students a choice between either the Business or Animal Management aspects of a career in horse racing. The former is for those who will manage, market, or regulate horse racing operations and the latter is for those who will seek an occupation in training, breeding, or farm management.

Far from being an obscure major, this one is actually a pretty safe bet for undergraduates. According to the University of Arizona, roughly 80% of degree-holders from this program find employment immediately upon graduation.

California State University Long Beach

15. Theme Park Engineering


For a guy working at a sandwich shop, a bad day is when you accidentally run out of mayonnaise before the lunch rush. A bad day for a guy who designs amusement park rides is when the ferris wheel come loose from its bearings and rolls through downtown rush hour traffic.

Point is, if you're going to design roller coasters and log flumes, it's a great idea to know exactly what you're doing. And that's not just because this is serious life and death stuff. It's also because nobody likes a boring ride. There's a fine line between feeling like you might die and actually running the risk.

Theme Park Engineering majors are those special individuals who know the exact mathematical equation for riding that line. At California State University in Long Beach, you can become one of these individuals by successfully earning your Bachelor of Science in Engineering with an Option in Theme Park Engineering.

First entering the course catalog in 1999, Theme Park Engineering requires foci in electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering as well as hydraulic and pneumatic control. These are pretty much all the things you'll need to know if you ever wish to design a Gravitron, repair a Tilt-a-Whirl, or reduce the vomit-factor of a Teacups ride gone haywire.

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

16.Comic Art


No fewer than four of the top ten box office hits in the last decade are drawn directly from the pages of comic books. If Bill Gates' rise to power signaled a new era of cultural cachet for the American nerd, the popular emergence of the comic book hero is perhaps the ultimate realization of geek supremacy.

If you happen to be a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the highly regarded Minneapolis College of Art and Design, you have a chance to be at the center of that supremacy. Once marginalized as juvenilia, comic art has today achieved a place of importance in both popular and artistic culture. No longer are comics a fringe form reserved for children and adult men who live in their parents' basement.

Today, the comic book is fodder for mainstream success in film, television, and action figure sales. Minneapolis offers one of the nation's only fully-realized degree courses in the subject. Within, you'll learn the finer points of inking, illustration, storyboarding, and composition. This class should give you all the skills you need to author the next Howard the Duck retcon or illegally borrow Batman's likeness for your own bootleg merch scheme.

Who knows? You could dream up the next Aquaman, or perhaps even a useful superhero. Beyond just comic book design, your skills could allow you step into the worlds of apparel printing, greeting card design, or even serious graphic novel authorship.

Of course, every superhero needs a great origin story. As a comic book artist, yours could begin at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

University of Connecticut

17. Puppetry


If you're anything like me, you'd like to believe that the Muppets are real people, that you could grab a drink with Kermit, lend Fozzie five bucks, or throw an all-night jam session with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

Well apparently, there are more people like me than I would have guessed because the University of Connecticut's Puppetry degree program is so popular that enrollment must be capped on a first-come, first-serve basis every year.

This unique program began in 1964 under the guidance of set designer and theatre professor Frank Ballard. Today, the school of puppetry bears its founder's name. The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is part of the university's School of Fine Arts and from within, students have the opportunity to earn either a Master of Arts or a Master of Fine Arts degree.

You'll take courses called Trends in Contemporary American Puppet Theatre, Advanced Rod Puppet Theatre, and Advanced Shadow Theatre. Within, you will have the chance to design, construct, control, and cast puppets in real university productions, of which more than 500 have been staged since the program's founding.

The syllabus points out that there is a whole lot more to puppeteering than simply untangling the strings on a marionette. We are told that “The Puppet Arts are a crossroads of many disciplines. Virtually all of the arts and many of the humanities and sciences feed directly into the form that is referred to as Puppetry.”

I think those of us who grew up watching Fraggle Rock would agree.

Mesalands Community College

18. Farrier Science


Working at a shoe-store for human beings requires no formal university training. And if we're being honest, the job is pretty low risk from a safety training standpoint. As long as you don't throw your back out getting up from that weird slanty shoe-fitting stool, you'll probably be fine.

Obviously, the same is not true for putting a shoe on a horse. There's a lot that could go wrong if you don't know what you're doing. If you anticipate that shoeing horses will be a significant part of your future, consider attending this uniquely focused Community College.

Based in Tucumcari, New Mexico, Mesalands offers an array of two-year programs molded directly by a region where agriculture and agri-business are a way of life. The Associate of Applied Science degree in Farrier Science is a perfect case in point. Farrier is the technical term for one who specializes in equine hoof care. (Not sure if there's a specific word for bovine or porcine hoof care. We welcome feedback from the livestock-savvy demographic of our readership for this one).

History tells us that at one time, the farrier also served as a town's blacksmith. The Mesalands course of study suggests that these skills still remain deeply entwined. The pursuit of your Farrier's degree will run the gamut of horse-pertinent subjects from forging and welding to hoof trimming and equine business management.

You'll be required to learn the anatomical and physiological implications of horseshoe application. And you will be trained in “pathological shoeing” (which could probably have been called something that doesn't sound so foot fetishy). Pathological shoeing is actually the theory that nearly every ailment relating to the foot or hoof of a horse can be treated through the proper process and practice of shoeing.

In addition to its Associate program, Mesalands offers an Occupational Certificate program in which these theoretical dimensions of horse care can be put into hands-on practice. This means that a career could await you in your field immediately upon graduation. And if you're looking for relevant extra-curriculars, Mesalands is on the short-list of Community Colleges with its own rodeo team.

Applachian State University

19. Fermentation Sciences


Typically, when you tell somebody that you majored in beer, it's an invitation for an intervention. But not so for students in this Boone, North Carolina university who opt for a Bachelor's Degree in Fermentation Sciences. Adopted by the university in 2012, this undergraduate program actually combines the various dimensions of both brewing and winemaking to produce an interdisciplinary course of study.

Instruction will focus equally on the agricultural, industrial, and commercial processes which allow the rest of us to enjoy spirituous beverages without thought to where they came from. Of course, making a good glass of wine is a lot harder than drinking one. The students in this academic focus will engage every part of the process from farm to market, from barrel to bottle.

In addition to a love for the finished product, students must have a passion for chemistry, a feel for biology, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Indeed, these are the very qualities which have helped to spawn the craft-brewing boom in the U.S. and make way for the independent cottage vintner. Both of these entities have helped to dramatically expand and diversify the domestic beverage business.

Such is to say that your first step outside of the university could be directly into a position in your area of expertise. This School of Arts and Sciences program is fueled by partnerships with local vineyards, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and biotech plants, all of which provide both the chance to work with state of the art technology and to interface with professionals in the field.

Courses contained within the program include Viticulture, the Social Implications of Fermented Beverages and what we can only assume is everybody's favorite, Sensory Analysis of Wine and Beer.


20. Nautical Archaeology


Among the most wicked cool jobs that you could list on your resume or dating profile, Shipwreck Diving has to be pretty darn high. Come to think of it, I sincerely doubt anybody who does this for a living has ever said in mixed company, “I really don't want to talk about work right now.”

Naturally, there's a lot more to Nautical Archaeology than impressing friends and telling people that you're like some sort of underwater Indiana Jones (because who wouldn't?). The real imperative behind this field is the endeavor to better understand historical cultures through the lens (porthole?) of their seafaring practices. It is thus that the students of this Brazos County campus have the unique opportunity to ultimately don scuba gear and plunder for buried treasure.

By treasure, of course, I mean knowledge. What differentiates this Texas A&M course of study—aside, once again, from being ridiculously cool—is that it seeks to teach archaeologists to be divers rather than the reverse. It is this program's mission to study lost civilizations—particularly those of Medieval and Mediterranean days long passed—by way of sunken artifacts. The techniques of diving and underwater excavation are a means to this end.

So, too, is a fair amount of travel. Through partnerships with various nautical centers around the world, students will trek to far off places in search of clues to anthropology's greatest questions. As articulated in the degree program's statement of Graduate Requirements, “Archaeological investigations have shed light on the history of wooden ship construction and related technology, shipboard life, the development of maritime trade and economic systems, naval warfare, and the role of seafaring in exploration and contact between cultures.”

From courses in shipbuilding and old world seafaring to lessons in naval history and archaeological methodology, this Department of Anthropology discipline will open you up to a vast sea of maritime career opportunities.

University of New Hampshire

21. EcoGastronomy


If your dining hall's defrosted chicken patties and mystery stews aren't doing it for you, you might consider eating in class. If you are an EcoGastronomy major at the University of New Hampshire, this is a fairly basic requirement. Combining studies in nutrition, sustainability, and deliciousness, students in this degree program will come to understand the dynamic relationship between farming and food, between culture and consumption, between hunger and health.

EcoGastronomy draws a clear line from the science and industry of food to the distribution and dining thereupon. When it was initiated in 2009, New Hampshire's new interdisciplinary major was the only one of its kind.

EcoGastronomy is regarded as one strand of a dual major at the university, which means that participants are expected to pursue this in parallel to any other major housed within the university's Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics or its College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Courses like Organic and Sustainable Food Production and Nutrition Health and Well Being underscore the critical correlation between food production, accessibility, and human health. As a degree-holder in EcoGastronomy, you would be in a unique position to help lead the fight against hunger, to find innovative new ways of farming responsibly, or to set off a new health craze. (Can you imagine if you'd been the first person to suggest kale? You'd be a living legend in the leafy green community).

If that isn't enough for you, how about a trip to Europe? All EcoGas majors will get the chance to experience local farm-to-table practices firsthand by traveling either to Italy (fall semester) or France (spring semester). Prerequisites for this course of study include an interest in agriculture, a mind for hospitality, and an extremely hearty appetite.

Cornwall College

22. Surf Science and Technology


If you love the thrill of studying surfing without the tedium of actually doing it, this is the major for you. This one is actually based in the United Kingdom but stands as one of the more thorough and well-rounded surfing-based degree programs in circulation today. So if you wish to learn about the event management, marine conservation, culture, marketing, or coaching that contextualize the sport of surfing, Cornwall College offers you one of the best opportunities around.

Though surfing majors will attend classes near the fabulous beaches of Newquay, the course description is quite specific about the level of hands-on training you'll receive, which is none. Cornwall's website warns that “You will not be taught how to surf and it is important to realise that this is an academic course.”

So like most standard degree programs, this one will require you to hit the waves on your own time. Unlike many other degree programs, this one will give you all the tools and credentials you need to make your own waves in the surf industry. Whether you plan to coordinate surfing events, judge competitions, train competitors, or pursue a career with a notable apparel company, this Science major will guide you through the shallow waters.

What this course of study lacks in hands-on wave-riding it more than makes up for in accessibility. The course description notes that while it helps to have a healthy interest in any surf discipline (which can include body-boarding or knee-boarding, apparently), one need not be a good surfer to succeed here. Presuming you never develop the skills to stand atop a surf board, this major would at least teach you how to design, enhance, or market one.

University of Houston

23. Master of Science in Foresight


Predicting the future is kind of a useful skill no matter what you're studying. It may, however, be considered a prerequisite if you decide to become a Master of Science in Foresight at the University of Houston. Falling under the umbrella of the Human Development and Consumer Sciences discipline, this degree program is designed to produce professionals with the ability to inform intelligent long-term corporate practices.

Simply stated, “The Foresight Program at UH addresses these concerns by focusing on forecasting and planning discontinuous and transformational change by analyzing rapid alterations in external environments and by using systems thinking to increase the chances of achieving preferred futures.”

Actually, that wasn't very simply stated at all, was it? Basically, you'll learn how to predict the future by looking at the past.

Program participants will learn how to incorporate quantitative and qualitative findings to produce a set of forecasts in the face of otherwise dramatic and unpredictable events.

Not only would this degree make you a potentially valuable asset to a company looking to improve strategic planning or transformational leadership, but it probably wouldn't hurt your ability to wager on sporting events.

Humber College of Canada

24. Comedy: Writing and Performance


It's usually not a good sign when people laugh at your major. Well this is the one case where you're doing something wrong when people aren't laughing.

If Toronto doesn't immediately strike you as a world capital for comedy, consider that this is the birthplace of legendary oddball troupes like Second City and The Kids in the Hall. So if you have any interest in being the next Rick Moranis (and who doesn't?), Humber College could be a great first stop.

Encompassed by the School of Creative & Performing arts, the Comedy degree program merges the composition and performance of humor with a focus on the business of selling laughs. In addition to practical training in stand-up, improv, sketch comedy, and material development, Humber's Comedy program will provide students with regular exposure to prominent area showcases including the still-vibrant Second City.

In fact, all students will participate in a weekly showcase at the nearby Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club. By the time you complete this program, you should be a seasoned veteran of the stage. This early practice also gives you the chance to bomb, an experience that every young comedian must have at some point.

Of course, if you bomb constantly, you may be better suited to management, promotion, or booking. Fortunately, Humber's Comedy program will provide training in all of these areas and more.

North Carolina State University

25. Poultry Science


Americans eat a boatload of chickens but if you want to study them, there are only six poultry science departments in the U.S. where you can do so. One of these is located within NC State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Indeed, as one of only a small clutch of chicken-centric programs, NC State's draws students from all over the world.

If poultry is your passion, you can study its finer points either as an undergraduate or in pursuit of your PhD.

Units include Chicken Education, Turkey Education and (quite importantly, we would imagine) Animal & Poultry Waste Management. Your studies would probably also benefit from involvement in NC State's active Poultry Science Club, where you'll take part in county fairs and hone your feed mill skills.

In addition to the program's academic excellence and the access it provides to hands-on experience, the Poultry Sciences program at NC State was recently recognized for its outstanding record on safety. So if you're concerned about being assaulted by a wild turkey, don't let it stop you from enrolling. The odds are low, at least on this campus.

By contrast, your odds of scoring a solid job in your field are pretty darn good. As NC State points out, poultry is a booming business in the upper Carolina, with nearly 800 million broilers, 36 million turkeys, and 3 billion eggs bringing the state nearly $4 billion annually.

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