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Quirky Course Offerings

June 17, 2011

Quirky Course Offerings

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever been sitting through a lecture and been on the verge of falling asleep? Do you find yourself wishing your classes were more interesting? If your answer is yes to either of these questions, grab your course catalog and discover your school’s quirky class offerings.

The Science of Harry Potter” is an honors course offered by Frostburg State University in Maryland. As the name suggests, it involves analyzing topics from J.K. Rowling's best-selling novels from a scientific perspective. For instance, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans help students understand how our taste buds function and flying broomsticks are viewed through the lens of anti-gravity research.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is offered at Occidental College in California. Its main topic of study is the concept of race and how Barbie has inadvertently encouraged societal racism; it also offers surprisingly deep insights on gender roles, capitalism and more.

Some people are skeptical about the usefulness of these classes, with the more extreme critics denouncing them as a waste of money. While they are unorthodox, keep in mind these classes still require a significant amount of work. Students taking “The Science of Harry Potter,” for example, must take daily quizzes, complete scientific projects and read textbooks. Speaking of books, “The Science of Harry Potter” only requires two textbooks but the reading list for “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” is surprisingly extensive and includes works by social class analysts Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin.

So, if you're tired of more traditional course offerings like physics or sociology, consider finding out if your college offers any unique classes like the ones mentioned above. Just don't expect to do less homework!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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The Benefits of Digital Textbooks

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Does your back ache from carrying heavy textbooks from class to class? Do you hate paying extra money for priority shipping to ensure you get your textbooks in time for the new semester? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, you may be interested to know many websites now offer textbooks digitally.

Sites like Chegg.com, Textbooks.com and Cengagebrain.com offer dozens of e-books to accommodate your e-reading needs. You don't need to go out and buy an e-reading device such as Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Reader (you can read e-books right on your computer screen) and you never have to worry about losing your e-books because if your computer or e-reader is misplaced or stolen, all you need to do is download the e-text again.

Even with all these benefits, I know some of you may still be reluctant to go digital because you think you won't be able to highlight pages or navigate a digital text easily. Well, put those fears to rest: Many e-books allow you to highlight specific words or phrases, make notes in the margins and even search the entire e-book for a specific word or phrase.

Finally, you can rent e-books just like you can rent traditional books. Normally when you rent textbooks, you have to worry about water damage, torn pages and shipping your books back on time but not so with e-books! When your rental period is up, the e-text simply expires with no fines for damages or shipping incurred. If after using all these features, you decide you still prefer having your text on paper after all, you can print out whichever pages you specify.

So consider going digital, if only just for one class. I guarantee you (and your back and your wallet) won't regret it!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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How to Get Your Dream Job

by Lisa Lowdermilk

What is your dream job? Do you want to win the war against cancer as an oncologist? Or would you rather spend your time in the classroom teaching students who will eventually become the backbone of our society?

Regardless of what your answer is, it's crucial that you ask yourself a couple of questions. Where do you want to work? Would you rather work in an office setting or out in the field? Do you want to work with people or would you rather work alone? The answers to these questions not only will help make your dream job more real to you, they can also help you if you are undecided about what field you'd like to major in. The key here is to be as specific as possible: You can't make your dreams a reality if you don't know what your dreams are yet!

Let's say you've completed a few semesters and have decided you want to become a radiologist. You can tell by the coursework that you will enjoy the field but you don't really know what the actual job will be like. Visit your local hospital and talk with some of the people who work in the radiology department. Ask if you can shadow them to see what they do on a daily basis. Not only will you gain valuable learning experience, you will also feel like your college experience is actually preparing you for a job.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Non-Traditional College Majors

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Do you feel restricted by more traditional college majors such as business, education and nursing? If so, a non-traditional major may be for you! Many colleges offer majors you may not even have known about including decision making, Egyptology and marine biology.

You may be wondering how there could possibly be a major devoted to decision making but the coursework is surprisingly difficult! There's actually a real science to making decisions, meaning you'll have to apply your mathematical reasoning skills to everything from information technology to artificial intelligence. The end result, though, is highly rewarding: You'll be able to use your decision making skills to produce soaring business profits.

The University of Pennsylvania offers a major in Egyptology, which is exactly what it sounds like: the study of ancient Egyptian culture. If you choose this major, you'll learn how the ancient Egyptians measured time without clocks, studied astronomy without telescopes and much more. Should you decide you want to pursue a Ph.D. in Egyptology, you'll even learn to read and write in Demotic and Coptic, two of the phases of the ancient Egyptian script. If you've grown up fascinated by pharaohs and mummies, consider turning your passion into a career. You might even discover an artifact that becomes as famous as the Rosetta Stone!

Marine biology, though not unheard of, is still not a very common major. UCLA even gives its students the opportunity to go snorkeling as part of the major! Past diving sites include Hawaii, Tahiti and Catalina Island (a friend of mine will be studying coral reefs in Hawaii next year). Just think: while your classmates are busy studying for finals, you could be out swimming with dolphins! Keep in mind, though, that physics, chemistry, biology, calculus and statistics are all subjects you should be proficient or above average in if you're even considering this major.

If you decide to major in any of these fields, one thing's for sure: You'll have a college experience like no other.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Your Passion Has a Place in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever started an essay or research project and found you absolutely hate the topic you chose? I know I have so that’s why when I started college, I vowed I would choose personally relevant topics whenever possible to make my college assignments more enjoyable.

In my logic and rhetoric class, for example, I had to choose an issue I could argue about from multiple perspectives. Because I'm a passionate video gamer, I ended up choosing to debate the pros and cons of gameplay. We've all heard about the effects of gameplay on violent behavior, weight gain and myriad other social problems; while it's true some of these concerns aren't entirely unwarranted, I wanted to show how the media and other sources play a large role in exaggerating the negative effects.

My point here is that because I am passionate about video games, I can argue much more persuasively than I would if I was writing about a topic which I have no interest in. While my topic may not be meaningful to everyone in my class, I am confident my classmates will at least appreciate the combination of factual information and personal insight I bring to the table on the subject. After all, a persuasive essay isn’t really a persuasive essay if the author doesn’t believe his or her own words.

Of course, choosing a topic you like isn't always possible – if you hate learning about history in general, odds are you won't find many topics to your liking – so in these situations, just be thankful you don't have to marry the topic you settle for. You're sure to find plenty of topics personally relevant to you later on in your college career.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Movie Making Isn’t Just for Film Students

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Making videos is something just about everyone I know has tried. And it's no wonder: Programs available today make it so easy...just look at YouTube's content! Whether you have aspirations of becoming a professional filmmaker, receive an unconventional class assignment or just want to film your college graduation, expressing yourself and preserving your most treasured memories can be done without much effort while having lots of fun.

If you're a PC user like me, you can use Windows Movie Maker for all your video editing needs. Of course, you can't have a video without some footage (or at least some pictures). Click "Import Media" to find your clips and drag them to where you want them to appear on your timeline. Next, peruse the effects and transitions you can use by clicking on "Tools." Effects such as blur, speed up, slow down and even watercolor all can give your video a more stylized look and transitions let your video flow instead of looking like it was just cut and pasted together. If you're having issues with sound quality, consider downloading the free audio editor Audacity. It lets you alter the pitch, speed and volume of your recording and easily import it into WMM the same way you would your video clips.

Of course, WMM isn't the only movie-making option available. Sony Vegas and Apple iMovie are two other types of movie-making software you can choose from. I know some people who bought a Mac specifically for iMovie's advanced movie-making abilities and others who use Sony Vegas on their PCs for its advanced audio capabilities. While some people say iMovie and Sony Vegas are more advanced than WMM, keep in mind WMM is free while iMovie and Sony Vegas are not.

If you realize you have a real passion for film, consider checking out film-making programs offered by Full Sail University, the New York Film Academy and the Los Angeles Film School, among others. Maybe someday we'll even see your name in lights!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Lisa Lowdermilk

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Hi everyone! My name is Lisa Lowdermilk and I live in Colorado. I just completed my Associate of Arts degree and I am transferring to the University of Colorado Denver this summer. I have completed my degree entirely online and I am transferring to UC Denver because of its online writing program. I prefer online schooling to traditional schooling because I feel it’s easier to stay organized and is more flexible. And hey, who doesn’t want to attend class in their pajamas?

I am majoring in English, specifically professional writing. I love being able to express myself through words – it is such a great way of connecting with other people – so much so that I have written a book, which I am getting published next year. It has always been my dream to be a published author and, though it’s been a lot of work, the end result will be worth it. If I had to describe my book, I would say it’s a young adult murder mystery set in the future and I’m so excited that other people will be able to read it! In addition to writing, I love to play video games, especially those for Nintendo and PlayStation. My favorite TV show is “Castle” (how many other TV shows have both murder and humor?); I also loved “Ugly Betty” and was pretty upset when it was taken off the air.

I was interested in becoming a virtual intern for Scholarships.com because I know that in today’s competitive job market, employers want workers with experience. I also like the idea of being able to help other students overcome the many obstacles of attending college...sometimes I think all the forms colleges require are more tedious than college classes!

Anyway, it’s great to “e-meet” everyone. Here’s to a great semester!


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A Minor Decision

How to Select a Minor Field of Study

June 3, 2011

A Minor Decision

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've finally chosen your major and are wondering if you should choose a minor as well. Generally, most minors require between 12 and 30 credits to complete (that’s about four to 10 extra classes). Obviously your major is much more important than your minor, as declaring a minor is not a necessary step to graduation, but pairing your major with a related minor may just give you the edge you need in today's competitive job market.

For example, if you're majoring in English like I am, getting your minor in journalism is a great way to show future employers you're serious about writing. Since many students take whichever electives they feel like, declaring a minor proves to your prospective employer that you are a focused and disciplined individual, two of the most important qualities an employee can possess.

On the other hand, your minor doesn't have to be related to your major at all. Maybe you've always had an interest in graphic design but you've decided to major in something completely unrelated, like biochemical engineering. While your employer may not need someone with graphic design skills, at least you are able to further your study in two subjects you are interested in.

If you can't figure out what to minor in, or have already used up all your elective credits, don't worry! While a minor can be a nice addition to your resume, it doesn't provide a clear overview of your skills like a major does.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Why Liberal Arts Degrees ARE Useful

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With majors like engineering, computer science and nursing, there may not seem to be a whole lot of room for generalized majors like liberal arts. All of the aforementioned majors train you for a very specific field, whereas liberal arts degrees (which include philosophy, literature and history) don’t, making “What are you going to do with your degree?” one of the most common questions liberal arts majors are asked.

While it's true that the broadness of liberal arts degrees can make finding a job difficult, this broadness also presents more opportunities than many other degrees. According to the University of California at Davis, the skill most valued by employers is the ability to communicate effectively. This is to a liberal arts major's advantage, as their classes require a lot of writing, critical thinking and listening – all of which are crucial to effective communication. Along this same line, technologically-driven communication like texting and IMing has made our society increasingly reliant on “chat speak” and its disregard for grammar, punctuation, etc. Some people worry decent writers are becoming scarce but liberal arts degree holders lay these fears to rest.

Additionally, liberal arts majors are creative individuals. They’ve been forced to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and translate abstract information into concrete, easily understandable ideas. In today's ever-changing business world, problem solvers and innovators – two traits often held by liberal arts majors – are extremely valuable.

In sum, if you decide to major in a liberal arts field and worry you’ll lack the training for more specialized jobs, you can make up for it in your ability to think outside the box.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Jobs That Didn't Exist Until Recently

by Lisa Lowdermilk

In today's technologically-evolving society, nothing is set in stone. Jobs that weren't even imaginable until the latter half of the 20th century (think: bloggers, computer programmers and web designers) have sprung up in droves. The rise of such fields has created many more degrees, leaving college students with more majors than ever to choose from.

One of these degrees is nursing informatics, which requires knowledge of – surprise! – nursing, information science and computer science. Another example is web programming, which teaches students how to program websites that are informative, unique and don't give their users the dreaded 404 error message. A third example is human computer interaction (HCI), which focuses on how technology affects both societies and individuals.

In all three of these fields, the added technological component means today's college students must devote more time learning than their predecessors. But don't be discouraged: Technology has made it easier than ever for nurses to diagnose patients, provide them with the treatment they need, access information relating to the patients’ medical histories and monitor their conditions. Additionally, web programming enables information to be distributed much more widely than print-restricted media, such as books, brochures and magazines. And HCI specialists analyze the interaction between humans and computers, so that every user's virtual experience is as painless and rewarding as possible.

Since our society continues to evolve by leaps and bounds technologically, there may be many more degrees available in the next few years that we haven’t even thought of yet. While some people may lament the loss of jobs to technology, just remember that many more have cropped up to take their places – a fact job seekers are more than happy to hear!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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