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UMN offers variety of niche classes for fall semester

With registration beginning, these classes could make the fall semester a little more interesting.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Ford Hall on Monday. Liora Elias’ Reality TV class meets at Ford Hall twice a week and focuses on how reality TV affects people and society.

As registration for the University of Minnesota’s fall semester begins, students have next year’s schedules at the forefront of their minds.

Although it can be difficult to juggle major-specific courses, the University offers plenty of classes that may be interesting to students who want to take a break from their required courses. 

From classes on Reality TV to Brewing, there is something for almost any interest students might have. 

BIOL 2101: Brewing: The Biology, History, and Practice 

James Cotner, the professor of Brewing: The Biology, History and Practice, started teaching the class in 2009. He said the class was a seminar at first but over time it turned into a course with a lab.

Cotner said the class goes on field trips to malting facilities and local breweries. He added that as a homebrewer for many years, the class enabled him to become a better brewer by teaching students. 

“The course is set up so that the students learn about all the ingredients that go into beer,” Cotner said. “They learn about the process of making the beer and they actually do make beer.” 

During the course, students make four different one-gallon batches of beer. According to Cotner, they experiment with the different ingredients in beer by changing the hops and water levels to see how these ingredients affect the batches. 

ENGL 3025: The End of the World in Literature and History

To some students, a class on the end of the world might not be enjoyable. However, to professor John Watkins and others, the course is fascinating. 

Watkins said those taking the course can expect a deep dive into the history of apocalyptic literature, starting with religious texts before moving into modern-day apocalyptic media. During the class, students give a presentation on an apocalyptic issue of their choice, according to Watkins. 

Watkins added that he first taught the course in 1999 during the Y2K panic.

“Everyone thought there was gonna be a massive computer glitch,” Watkins said. “As it turns out, there was an easy fix, and everyone fixed their computer, but I decided to do it then.” 

COMM 3231: Reality TV: History, Culture, and Economics

As a professor of Reality TV: History, Culture, and Economics, Liora Elias said they decided to teach courses related to media and reality television because it is in their expertise. 

Elias said teaching the class opened up new opportunities for students excited to watch reality TV with other students and study it in a University setting.

“It’s a little bit playful because it’s a television subject, but there’s also a seriousness to it because television tells us a lot about how people see other people,” Elias said.

A highlight of this semester was the class interviewing Sam Mark, a cast member of the reality television program “The Ultimatum: Queer Love,” according to Elias.

“It’s a really cool educational tool,” Elias said. “I haven't seen anything from a cast member's perspective that really talks about what it's like to be on a reality program.” 

CFAN 3523: Greek Agriculture and Gastronomy: A Taste of the Mediterranean

For students who want to learn more about agriculture, but also want to study abroad, the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences offers a course called Greek Agriculture and Gastronomy: A Taste of the Mediterranean. 

Although this is only a May term course offered by  by professor Tommy Van Norman, he said it is a great opportunity for students who want to study abroad for a short period, as the class only stays in Greece for 16 days. 

Van Norman added that while in Greece, the class goes on several industry and historical visits to places like the Parthenon. The class can learn about the historical side of Greece as well as the agricultural side. 

“At its core, the program is also really about food, and being intentional about learning the Mediterranean diet,” Van Norman said. “Why Greek people eat what they do, the significance behind it, and trying a lot of different food as we go throughout the experience.” 

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