Posts tagged ‘Harry Potter’
Twice a year, I find myself staring at my computer screen feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.
When it comes time to schedule classes, I’m always intimidated by eLion’s lists and lists of courses. That’s what happens when you go to a school with 40,000 students and more than 160 majors. I’m usually fine with classes in my areas of study (journalism and English), but general education courses are a different story. There simply are too many. Some seem intriguing; some, not so much.
Gen-ed requirements have changed a lot over the years: Now, all baccalaureate degree programs include a 45-credit gen-ed component, including three credits in health and physical activity, nine credits in natural science, six credits in art, six credits in humanities, and six credits in social and behavioral sciences.
So as students begin to schedule for fall 2012, I took a look at some of Penn State’s more interesting gen-ed courses. I begin with a class I took last year—a class where SpongeBob appears on the syllabus.
Course: Geosci 040: The Sea Around Us
Requirement satisfied: GN (Natural Science)
Why I took it: I’m not a science person at all. I had to late drop meteorology my freshman year (who knew predicting weather included calculus?) and needed an easier science class to take.
Interesting assignment: Once, we reported to the HUB-Robeson Center for class. Our lab that day consisted of analyzing the aquarium on the bottom floor. I had no idea there was such an intricate ecosystem living just 100 feet away from Sbarro’s. The most interesting aspect, to me, was that the 500-gallon tank has a self-regulated lighting system, which gets dark at night to mimic the real ocean.
What I got out of it: A new appreciation for beaches and environmentalism. When I visited Cape Cod last summer, I had a hard time looking at the dunes without thinking about how big they once were, and how they got there.
Course: CMLIT 120: The Literature of the Occult
Requirement satisfied: GH (Humanities)
Interesting assignment: Read the third installment of the Harry Potter series.
What you can get out of it: “In all honesty, an appreciation for the Harry Potter series,” says Alexa Agugliaro, who says she wasn’t on the J.K. Rowling bandwagon before enrolling in the course. “There are a lot of major drabby classes that people have to take while they’re here, so why not, if you have the room, take a cool class about like vampires and monsters.” It’s not all Harry Potter and Twilight, though. Agugliaro wrote her final term paper on the witches in Macbeth.
Side note: Agugliaro says the teacher wore a wizard hat and a robe every day and had a magic wand.
Course: KINES 028: Fencing
Requirement satisfied: GHA (Health and Physical Activity)
Interesting assignment: Just fence. Senior Matt Giacometti said there’s not much variety to the course, but he doesn’t mind. Students participate in basic drills, then fence each other. “It’s fun,” Giacometti says. “Exactly what you want from the class.”
What you can get out of it: “A ton,” Giacometti says. “I’m learning from coaches that have succeeded at the highest level. These guys have coached Olympians.” Giacometti’s professors for the course? Assistant coaches with the Penn State varsity fencing team—a program with 12 national championships and more than 170 All-Americans in the last 28 years. Did you know that Suzie Paxton ’93, a former Nittany Lion fencer and 1996 Olympian, started fencing in this gym class?
Course: Applied Linguistics 100
Requirement satisfied: GS (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Interesting assignment: During one class, the students were asked to think of as many examples of semantic word as they could. As junior Jackie Giraldo recalls, “That was the first time I ever heard the word yinz,” Giraldo says.
What you can get out of it: Says Giraldo: “I learned how language has evolved over time, but also got a deeper look at how words have evolved, how syntax has evolved, and why things are said different ways in different places. I definitely have a new appreciation of communication of different cultures.”
Course: INART 115: Popular Music in America
Requirement satisfied: GA (Arts)
Interesting assignment: Students were required to participate in online discussions. One debate revolved around who is the most influential musician today, with one student making a good case that the answer was definitively Lady Gaga.
What you can get out of it: “I now understand the hardships that a lot of musicians had to endure in the past in great music from that, era like the jazz and blues,” junior Jared Cruz says. “And it also influenced the development of music nowadays.”
Emily Kaplan, intern
Seventh in a series: For the past week we’ve been sharing lists of books we’re reading this winter. Today senior editor Lori Shontz offers her recommendations.
Favorite book of past year: It’s a tie. Half the Sky, in which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, explain why empowering women worldwide is the great human rights cause of our time. And Strength in What Remains, by one of my all-time favorite authors, Tracy Kidder. He elegantly tells the story of Deo, who barely escaped genocides in Burundi and Rwanda, arrived in the U.S. all but penniless, lived for a while in Central Park … and eventually graduated from Columbia and opened a health clinic in his native village. It made me cry.
Favorite book ever: Couldn’t possibly answer this. Too many.
Book you can’t wait to read: Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro. It’s trendy now to rank her among the world’s great short story writers, but I’ve loved her since I read The Beggar Maid in ENGL 212 (fiction writing) as a sophomore.
Book you should get around to but haven’t: Ulysses, by James Joyce. To inspire myself, I bought a copy at Shakespeare and Company—the venerable Left Bank bookstore famed for publishing the book in 1922—the last time I was in Paris. Which was in 2004.
Favorite guilty pleasure: Cheesy romance novels: Nora Roberts, Judith McNaught, LaVyrle Spencer, anything with a vampire, etc.
Book you’ve read the most (and how often): I re-read a lot. Among the old friends I repeatedly return to: Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the Harry Potter series. At least once a year, I give myself a booster shot with my two favorite books on writing: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. And for some reason, every time I move, I re-read the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Click here for a fascinating take from The New Yorker on “The Wilder Women,” about the influence Laura’s daughter Rose had on the books.)
Allegedly “great” book you read that did nothing for you: Moby Dick. I still have nightmares about my ENGL 231 (American literature to 1865) prof, who doodled pictures of a whale on the blackboard during our final exam.
Obscure book or author you’d recommend: Embers, by Sándor Márai, a well-known Hungarian author in the 1930s whose book was rediscovered decades later. Whenever I’m browsing in independent bookstores, I always buy one of their recommendations. I chose this because a staffer at the sadly defunct Olsson’s in Washington, D.C., told me this book—about two former best friends who meet after a 40-some year break—was a masterpiece. He was right.
What I’m reading now: Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden (another all-time favorite author), Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, and the first Gourmet cookbook. Yes, I read multiple books at once. Each is in a different room.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Coming tomorrow: Picks from our publisher, Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams
Fifth in a series: All this week we’re sharing lists of books we’re reading this winter. We were inspired by the faculty reading list in our Jan/Feb issue. Make sure to check back next week for some more picks from The Penn Stater staff, and don’t be shy—let us know what you’re reading this winter.
What I’m Reading Now: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan. For some reason, I’ve been on a kick of reading books about food and our relationships with it. Eric-Michael MacCionnaith, an integrative arts instructor at Penn State Hazleton, recommended this book in our Jan/Feb reading list, and I thought I’d see what it was all about. I’m just about halfway done, and I can’t wait to finish it. Next up for me will be one of Pollan’s other books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Favorite Books of the Past Year: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson. Larsson pretty much packed in everything you could ask for in the first two books of his detective trilogy. He also created one of my new favorite characters, a 24-year-old computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, who has zero social skills or tact, and always comes across as a badass.
This brings me to The Book I Can’t Wait to Read: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson, which is the third and final book in the series. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until it comes out in May.
Guilty Pleasure: The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. I had to read each book from beginning to end without interruption. I was a bit obsessed with the series. Rowling is such a great storyteller. I could read those books over and over.
Obscure Book I’d Recommend: A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols. The author does a great job recounting the story of nine men who set out to be the first to finish a solo, nonstop, round-the-world yacht race that took place in 1968-69.
Other Recommendations: Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman. This book details Gelman’s journey to the alternative lifestyle she lives now. She has not had a permanent address since 1986 and has been traveling around the world experiencing and participating in many different cultures. This is one of my favorite travelogues, my apologies Eat, Pray, Love.
Jessie Knuth, graphic designer
Coming Monday: Associate Editor Amy Guyer’s picks.