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Popular Culture 101?

TV + Trends + College = Fun and Unusual New Classes

December 1, 2010

Popular Culture 101?

by Alexis Mattera

No, there are still no classes entitled “The Anatomy of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” or “The Hanukkah Snuggie’s Effect on Modern Judaism” but classes with roots in popular culture are popping up on college campuses everywhere. If you’ve yet to select your classes for next semester or have found a few empty blocks in your schedule, consider enrolling in one of these fun, weird and surprisingly informative courses. (Bonus: They could help you earn an equally unusual scholarship!)

  • Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1963: Northwestern University history professor Michael Allen teaches this freshman course, which examines the relationship between consumerism and the social and political changes of the 1950s and 1960s. Students attend lectures and read historical texts but are also required to watch several “Mad Men” episodes each week. We’d assume cigarette smoking, scotch swilling and infidelity do not earn extra credit points.
  • South Park and Contemporary Issues: This course at McDaniel College mixes sociology and philosophy while exploring the controversial contemporary social issues featured on the long-running Comedy Central cartoon. The official course description states, “Ultimately, students will gain…new knowledge of the benefits of applying an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary social issues.” No Kennys will be harmed but bring your own Cheesy Poofs.
  • Music, Video Games, and the Nature of Human Cognition: This NYU psychology class already has a waiting list and there’s a good reason for it: Professor Gary Marcus believes video games – specifically “Guitar Hero” – can be used to enhance human cognition. Some parents are upset that this is the type of class their tuition is going toward but Marcus stresses that delving into this understudied area will yield positive results. Rock on, Professor!
  • Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame: The University of South Carolina’s Mathieu Deflem has gone gaga for Gaga and he hopes his students will too with his sociological analysis of selected social issues related to the pop star’s work. Though the course is within the sociology department, the subjects of music, fashion, art, business, marketing, new media, religion and politics will be integrated to dissect Gaga’s rise to fame and impact on society. Unlike the infamous meat dress, this approach is well done.
  • Zombies in Popular Media: Vampires are so last year, people, and Columbia College Chicago has the latest undead trend – zombies – ready to take over your brain, not eat it. Literature, comics and film will “foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie,” states the course description and the history, significance and representation of zombies will be discussed and implemented on a daily basis. Hopefully, this class doesn’t take place after dark.

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Sorority Members Targeted on Facebook

by Suada Kolovic

Following Facebook’s launch of their new profile page, sorority members from Florida State University, Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University have all confirmed reports of harassment by cyberstalkers posing as potential Facebook friends. According to Florida State assistant police chief, Major Jim Russell, the sorority members on his campus received a friend request from an individual claiming to be affiliated with a particular sorority. Once accepted, the new “friend” requested video interviews with the sorority members asking questions pertaining to the members’ interests – ranging from members seeking initiation to active members looking for leadership roles; however, in an effort to conceal their identity, the friend would claim their camera was broken and insisted on conducting a one-way video chat.

That’s when the Facebook conversation escalated into harassment, Mr. Russell said, with Florida State students reporting that in some instances, the “friend” asked them to reveal undergarments or undress entirely. One student, who tried to cease contact with the friend, was told that there were girls outside her door who could “handle her” if she refused to comply with orders.

Officials at Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University did not release details regarding the nature of the harassment on Facebook. However, all four institutions have informed members of their campuses about the incidents and officials at three of the universities have confirmed ongoing investigations. Mr. Russell suggested that all students adjust their privacy settings and deny friend requests from individuals they don’t know. He also warned that any information released on the Internet can stay there forever. “Students now have to understand that the Internet cloaks the bad guys and that basic prevention concepts are key into preventing future incidents,” he said.


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Rose Bowl Tickets Scalpers Beware

Wisconsin’s Badger-Herald is Taking (and Publishing) Names

December 7, 2010

Rose Bowl Tickets Scalpers Beware

by Suada Kolovic

On Sunday night, diehard Badger fans – as well as those looking to make a quick buck – lined up to purchase coveted Rose Bowl tickets. Unfortunately, within minutes the 5,800 tickets allotted to the university were completely sold out but to the surprise of many, dozens of tickets were listed shortly after the sale concluded on web sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Great…only the price had suddenly skyrocketed to as much as $400 apiece – a stark increase from the face value of $150. The Badger-Herald, the Wisconsin independent student newspaper, decided to take action and published the names of the Wisconsin students selling their tickets under the headline, “The Worst People on Campus.”

The opinion piece calls out those students looking to profit from their Rose Bowl tickets and below the list of names they wrote: “Truly, there is a special place in Hell for people who buy Rose Bowl tickets with the sole intention of profiting from them. It is entirely unfair to those who actually love this football team and were counting on a cheap face value ticket in order to make the trip to Pasadena an economic reality. We'll keep printing names of those we catch on Facebook marketplace. And feel free to send an e-mail to editor@badgerherald.com if you know of anybody whose name should be added to the list — particularly the 100 people who have already made a listing on Craigslist.”

Since being published, an Editor’s Note was added to the article asking those commenting on the story to be more respectful. It seems like this is a growing trend among college students – shaming one another publicly – but do you think public humiliation the only way to teach these students a lesson? My worry is that shaming is only the tip of the iceberg here: What if students seek out those selling tickets and things turn violent?


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CBS Announces Top 25 Colleges with the Best Professors

Money Watch Ranks the Collegiate Cream of the Crop

December 8, 2010

CBS Announces Top 25 Colleges with the Best Professors

by Suada Kolovic

There are myriad reasons to attend a particular university – from prestige and academics to athletics and diversity. But if you’re in search for the universities with the top rated professors, CBS Money Watch has created the ultimate list for you. To compile the list, CBS relied on data from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which referenced information from RateMyProfessor.com. If you’re unfamiliar with the website – which I doubt you are – it allows students to anonymously rate their university professors as well as view the ratings college teachers have received. And with over one million professors and 10 million opinions, it’s the most comprehensive online source of student feedback on instructors.

After perusing the list, it’s clear there’s a common denominator: For the most part, a majority of the schools are liberal arts colleges with student bodies under 4,000 students. That’s not surprising considering smaller student bodies translate into smaller classes, greater hands-on learning opportunities and, most importantly, more individual attention. For additional information on any of these school – or thousands of others – check out our college search.

  1. Oklahoma Wesleyan University
  2. United States Military Academy (NY)
  3. Clarke College (IA)
  4. Wellesley College (MA)
  5. North Greenville University (SC)
  6. Master’s College and Seminary (CA)
  7. Wabash College (IN)
  8. Carleton College (MN)
  9. Sewanee-The University of the South (TN)
  10. Marlboro College (VT)
  11. Corban College (OR)
  12. Randolph College (VA)
  13. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
  14. Wesleyan College (GA)
  15. Pacific University (OR)
  16. Whitworth University (WA)
  17. Doane College (NE)
  18. College of the Ozarks (MO)
  19. Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  20. Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
  21. Emory & Henry College (VA)
  22. Wisconsin Lutheran College
  23. Hollins University (VA)
  24. Trinity International University (IL)
  25. Cornell College (IA)

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Finals Week Goes to the Dogs

Furry Friends and Other Quirky Events Ease Exam Stress

December 16, 2010

Finals Week Goes to the Dogs

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, finals week. It’s been almost six years since my last one but all the hairy details – the tensing of muscles, the firing of brain synapses and the pain of paper cuts as I shuffled through my notes the night before a huge exam to absorb one last piece of information needed to fill a blue book – still come rushing back to me like clockwork every December and May. It’s far from fun but some college students are actually enjoying this time of year thanks to some furry friends. No, not Joakim Noah...puppies, you guys!

First featured on the Jumbo Shorts blog last month (by my good friend, University of Connecticut alum and web content specialist Kaitlin Provencher, no less!) and now making headlines in a variety of news outlets, Tufts University has foregone the traditional finals week perks like extended library hours and wider availability of counseling services and is instead giving its students a much-needed reprieve from exams by bringing therapy dogs to campus for them to play with. Resident director Michael Bliss fashioned the idea after a similar program he participated in as an undergrad at NYU and the results were just as positive then as they are now. "Every college student has stress around finals," said Bliss. "And taking a break out from that with something as easy and simple and loving as petting dogs is really helpful."

Tufts isn’t alone in its quest to bust stress (though its program is by far the cuddliest): Over the last decade, community, state and private schools have been employing untraditional finals week events to keep students less frazzled and more focused including late-night yoga, massages, oxygen bars, impromptu dance parties, pizza fairies and rubber ball deluges. "These events help students acknowledge the fact that you have to put these more stressful times in perspective," said Lori Morgan Flood, director of wellness and health promotion at Oberlin College. "You'll get through it."

College may be about learning the information and skills to prepare students for jobs, graduate school and life after college in general but throwing a little something unexpected or unusual into the mix is just what many students need to perform at their absolute best. My advice: Step away from the books if only just for a moment and have some F-U-N!


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Top 10 Universities with the Highest Graduation Rates

by Suada Kolovic

Drum roll please: According to a report released by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard University nabbed the top spot with the highest undergrad completion rate of all research universities...shocking, I know.

The report, “Graduation Rates Over Time: Private Research Institutions,” compared graduation rates at public and private research universities from 2002 to 2008 analyzing changes in graduation rates of more than 1,000 four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. The rates were calculated as the percentage of all first-time, full-time students entering in the fall seeking bachelor’s degrees who completed their bachelor’s degrees within six years. The Chronicle found that 33 percent of universities showed a lower graduation rate in 2008 than in 2002 and suggested that the decrease may be due to the fact that students are taking longer than six years to earn a degree.

Check out the top 10 universities below with the highest graduation rates in 2008 and for a complete list, visit the Chronicle’s website. For more information on any of these schools – or thousands of others –check out our college search.

  1. Harvard
  2. Yale
  3. University of Notre Dame
  4. Princeton University
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  6. Duke University
  7. Dartmouth College
  8. Washington University in St. Louis
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  10. Northwestern University

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Belmont Coach Allegedly Fired for Sexual Orientation

by Suada Kolovic

After six seasons, Belmont University women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe resigned from her position. Why, you ask? According to the university, Howe decided to resign on her own without offering further explanation. They later retracted that statement saying that the school and Howe had reached a “mutual agreement.” The reason for the backpedaling: Members of the soccer team became weary of the timing of her firing because several athletes say Howe told them she was pressured to resign after telling school administrators and the team she and her same-sex partner, Wendy Holleman, were having a baby.

One student said that the school administrator told Howe that her “morals and values conflicted with Belmont’s mission statement” and that “she could no longer be an employee at the university.” Belmont President Bob Fisher refuted those claims and said “sexual orientation has not been considered in making hiring promotion salary of dismissal decisions” during his decade at the school, though he did not specifically comment on Howe’s case. In response to the backlash – campus protests and national headlines – the Belmont faculty senate unanimously adopted an official policy that would protect gay students, teachers and staff from discrimination.


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What Are They Reading?

Best-Selling Books on Campus

December 23, 2010

What Are They Reading?

by Suada Kolovic

>Curious as to what college students are reading this winter? Well, wonder no more! The Chronicle has compiled a list of the best-selling books from information supplied by stores serving the following campuses: American U., Beloit College, Case Western Reserve U., College of William & Mary, Drew U., Florida State U., George Washington U., Georgetown U., Georgia State U., Harvard U., James Madison U., Johns Hopkins U., Kent State U., Pennsylvania State U. at University Park, San Francisco State U., Stanford U., State U. of New York at Buffalo, Tulane U., U. of California at Berkeley, U. of Chicago, U. of Florida, U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U. of Miami, U. of Nebraska at Lincoln, U. of New Hampshire, U. of North Dakota, U. of North Texas, U. of Northern Colorado, U. of Oklahoma at Norman, Vanderbilt U., Washington State U., Washington U. in St. Louis, Wayne State U., Williams College, Winthrop College, Xavier U. (Ohio). For more information on any of these schools, check out our college search.

  • Decision Points

    by George W. Bush
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race

    by Jon Stewart
  • Towers of Midnight

    by Robert Jordan
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

    by David Sedaris
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

    by Stieg Larsson
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

    by Jeff Kinney
  • Sh*t My Dad Says

    by Justin Halpern
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire

    by Stieg Larsson
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang

    by Chelsea Handler
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

    by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

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Stephens College Staff Exceeds Weight-Loss Challenge

Women’s College Staff Gets Healthy, Earns $1 Million in the Process

January 3, 2011

Stephens College Staff Exceeds Weight-Loss Challenge

by Suada Kolovic

Last year, the staff at Stephens College accepted the unorthodox challenge from an alum – a woman in her 80s who is committed to fitness and eating well – to lose a collective 250 pounds by January 1st with the promise to pledge $1 million to the women’s college. And with a payout like that, of course they did it! According to Chris Smith, director of marketing and public relations at the college, of the 107 employees who signed up for the challenge, those who weighed in right before Christmas had lost a total of 302 pounds, exceeding the donor’s requirement ahead of schedule.

How’d they do it? The school played a major role in helping employees meet the goal, Stephens offered free yoga, Pilates and other exercise classes during lunchtime and after work, and started a blog with low-fat, nutritious recipes and health tips. According to the Chronicle, Brenda K. McSherry, director of health services, said the employees were also permitted to take up to an hour of paid time to exercise…after all, the school did have $1 million on the line. In addition to the $1 million donation, the anonymous donor will add another $100,000 if Dianne M. Lynch, Stephens’s president, loses 25 pounds herself. Ms. Lynch, who was not given a specific deadline, told the Columbia Daily Tribune, that she was more than halfway to the goal, with about 10 pounds to go. But what do you think, is it wrong to award money based on numbers on a scale or is cold hard cash the right incentive to get people to lose weight?


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Annie Get Your Gun…And Bring it to Class

Arkansas Group Lobbies for Guns on Campus

January 4, 2011

Annie Get Your Gun…And Bring it to Class

by Suada Kolovic

Across the country, gun rights activists are seeking to make it possible for students to carry guns on campus. And Arkansas very own pro-gun group Arkansas Carry is the latest to do just that. They are seeking legislative support for a bill to override a 2003 attorney general’s opinion that colleges and universities can legally ban concealed weapons from their campuses – even weapons held by permit holders – if signs are posted to that effect, Arkansas News reported.

Arkansas Carry sent a letter Monday to the state Department of Higher Education arguing that schools are improperly banning students with permits from legally carrying guns on campus. They argue that licensed students who carry their guns in campus parking lots – but not into buildings – risk expulsion. Currently under state law, permit holders are allowed to carry weapons on campus but are forbidden from bringing them into school buildings and events on campuses. Arkansas Carry wants students to be able to carry weapons on every part of a college campus, not just university grounds.

We’ve witnessed the tragic outcomes guns can have on campus, so how do you feel about gun rights activists pushing for legislation in the other direction? What do you think, should students with permits be allowed to bring their weapons in campus buildings?


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