Strange classes : They’re out there

Going to class has never been this interesting. That is if you’re enrolled in one of Temple’s unique courses such as the one on UFOs, taught by David Jacobs. Just like Jacobs’ class, there are

Going to class has never been this interesting. That is if you’re enrolled in one of Temple’s unique courses such as the one on UFOs, taught by David Jacobs. Just like Jacobs’ class, there are many other electives “out there.”

Human Sexuality

In most cases discussion of sex in the workplace is unprofessional. But not for Chong-Suk Han, professor of human sexuality. For him, it’s actually a requirement.

“[Sex is] a topic that should be discussed, but doesn’t get discussed enough,” he said. Han explores a wide range of stigmatized sexuality topics. These include dominance, transgender, sadomasochism and eroticism.

“It’s funny, because people take this class and they think they know about sex already, and I want to show them that sexuality is not just about sex,” he said.

Han said he hopes to help students redefine sexuality as an important human experience instead of something that is ignored or joked about.

Psychology of Food

Professor Thomas Shipley has a standard warning that he gives students on their first day of his psychology of food course – be prepared to have your stomach growl.

“The feeling of hunger is entirely psychological,” he said, citing this as the reason why discussion of food often creates

Although the study of food may seem simplistic, Shipley considers food to be one of the best ways of identifying a culture. Students will learn about the role of food in holidays and rituals along with the way it is sometimes used to self-medicate illnesses.

Learning about diverse foods helps students understand different cultures. “I hope [the class] will open their minds,” Shipley said.

For Tara Tripp, professor of prisons in America, class discussions often lead to debate.

“When talking about incarceration, it’s always a controversial issue,” she said.

The class focuses on issues such as the rising number of prisons in the U.S., the evolution of prisons, prisoners’ needs and whether or not the system needs an overhaul.

Tripp also peppers her class with trivia about the history of American penitentiaries, such as how the first U.S. prison was the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia.

Pop Culture and Protest

Religion professor John Raines created a course about pop culture and protests of the 1960s after a group of honors students sought to benefit from his extensive knowledge of the Civil-Rights Movement.

Now one of Temple’s most popular courses, it requires students to explore topics such as the anti-Vietnam War movement, counterculture, sexual revolution, music and religion.

“I would think the students wouldn’t be taking this class if it didn’t have some contemporary relevance,” Raines said.

The course is also popular with Senior Scholars, graduates of Temple who enroll on a part-time basis.

UFOs in American Society

Perhaps the most unusual class at Temple is UFOs in American Society, which was created by professor David Jacobs in 1977.
“I tell students at the beginning of class that almost everything they have heard or read about the subject is wrong,” Jacobs said.

In the course, which has been featured in the “New York Times,” Jacobs covers theories on UFOs and abductions and speculates about why the topic is often met with ridicule.

“What you have here is an anomalous phenomenon,” he said.

“The question is, ‘How has society confronted it? What can we tell about society from this?'”

Both skeptics and believers take the class. “I still get calls and e-mails from people who have taken the class years ago,” Jacobs said. “Students will remember this course forever.”

Katie Ionata can be reached at

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