From Thrillers to Klingon: Spring Courses Gives Students Unconventional Options

Posted: November 21, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

College is more than the basic electives of composition or biology these days. Browsing through George Mason’s Spring Schedule of Classes for next semester, students will find a wide variety of options to delve into all kinds of areas – from learning social dance to building robots.

Following are some highlights of particularly interesting courses offered next semester for undergraduate and graduate students.

ENG 497 Thrilling Tales

English Department

Laura Scott

In this fiction workshop, students explore the craft of storytelling that foregrounds peril and extraordinary events – stories often identified by category or genre, as in “crime,” “horror,” “adventure” and “science fiction.”

“Most of the writing courses we offer are skewed toward the development of realistic, domestic stories, but I encounter many students who feel frustrated that the pop writing they’re doing is not really taken seriously in our standard workshops,” says Scott. “I make it clear that such a course will not aid them in graduate school application, but they don’t seem to care. Many of these students are not aiming for MFA programs, but are trying to write for ‘commercial’ publication.”

Students will write their own thrilling tales for class review and discussion, as well as read professional fiction from anthologies and web-based ‘zines.

COMM 399 Business Journalism

Communication Department

Christopher Wilson

A new course offered for the first time this spring, Business Journalism will bring journalism students into the world of finance, studying everything from the breaking of the Enron scandal to how to read a company’s income statement. Students are required to read the Wall Street Journal and CBS MarketWatch online each day, and read articles from the Financial Times, The Economist and Business Week. Students will also write at least eight news stories during the term.

“Nearly every news story with a dollar sign in it has a business dimension, and nearly every job in the business world benefits from an understanding of the news media. This course aims to straddle those needs,” says Wilson.

SYST 469 Human-Computer Interaction

Information Technology

Leonard Adelman

This course focuses on learning how to design interactive products that are easy to learn, effective to use and provide an enjoyable user experience. It covers the principles of human-computer interaction, including information processing design, cognitive models, ergonomics and design metaphors. Students learn to evaluate interface design in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and cost.

AVT 399 Krappy Kamera

Art and Visual Technology

Peggy Feerick

Since photography’s inception in 1839, film has been the preferred means of image capture. Today, as digital photography encroaches on the film market, cheap toy film cameras are on the rise. Krappy Kamera will introduce students to the wild and wonderful world of plastic cameras. These unique film devices often lack sharpness, leak light and create odd and compelling images, unlike higher-end cameras. This class addresses exploring photography not for technical expertise, but for its inherent magic to present the world in new ways.

NCLC 375 Youth Advocacy and Empowerment

New Century College

Janette Muir and Kim Eby

In this learning community, students will explore the various dynamics around youth empowerment and strategies that youth have used to mobilize change on behalf of themselves and their communities.

Students will work with young people in the community and examine the ways that they can get involved in social action in areas such as schools, communities, universities and political activities. Assignments include writing a story about a key moment in your life and a group service-learning project with a local organization.

Guest speakers include a political music duo, Emma’s Revolution, who will talk to the class about music and advocacy and perform a concert for the university.

LING 692 Exceptional Speech Sounds

Linguistics Program

Steven Weinberger

One of the advanced phonology classes in the Master of Linguistics Program, Exceptional Speech Sounds deals with weird language. Students analyze speech sounds from a variety of sources, including alien language from science fiction texts and movies; glossolalia, or speaking in tongues; slips of the tongue; language games and secret languages, such as Pig Latin; nonsense poetry; and aphasic speech, which is the speech sounds from speakers with brain injuries.

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