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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU should offer more niche, interesting electives regularly

Ivy Rose Ball
Creating niche classes would inspire creativity within students.

In recent years, news about interesting courses that some universities are bringing to the table is not hard to find. Growing industries such as video games, movies, music production and more are beginning to be taught in higher education, slowly but surely.

Universities should invest in electives that are fun for students to pursue. There is a market for classes that focus on niche topics to explore deeper meanings and purposes.

For example, Berklee College of Music debuted a course in the fall of 2023 on the songwriting of Taylor Swift. The instructor, Scarlet Keyes, told WBUR “I think in the beginning of Taylor Swift’s career, part of what made her a global artist is her simple rhythmic architecture.”

Keyes continued to speak on how Swift’s music is relatable to many audiences, which in a way explains the reasoning behind the class. Music one can relate to is music one will listen to.

Electives are very often the classes we live for. When going into my final semester, I ran into an interesting issue. I only had one class left for my major, my capstone course for business administration. Aside from that, my advisor said simply to take any three electives I wanted.

Bella Brownlee works on an assignment in Jacob Crook’s class. (Ivy Rose Ball)

The search was tough. At first, a buddy of mine reached out about a class in which the students are taught and shown different post-apocalyptic movies and their concepts. I was ecstatic. Until, of course, I found out that it only had 20 seats and without an override, I could not take it.

I like to look into the deeper meanings of things that I love. I could teach a course and a half on Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” if I was able. I could talk about everything from how the movie is much better than it got credit for, to how the phrase “pissing in the wind” can explain how someone gets hypothermia from a gasoline explosion.

Nolan’s films are easy to discuss in this way, as the science in them oftentimes offer something to be learned. The mentioned Taylor Swift class is not a class about Taylor Swift, but rather a class using Taylor Swift’s ability to connect with her audience in a way to teach others about how they can do the same.

This theme of interesting classes continues, as according to the Huffington Post, multiple institutions of higher learning have classes of niche subjects, such as The University of Victoria in Canada and Rice University. Both of these colleges have classes using Batman as a vessel for a niche subject.

According to Huffington Post UK, “The University of Victoria says the course will examine how the human body can be adapted and improvised based on the metaphor of the caped crusader himself.”

Written back in 2013, the article continues, stating “The Cape and the Cowl: The Literary, Televised and Film History of Batman’ Offered at Rice University attempted to tutor students in the story of a strong but nuanced hero, whose sociopathy often blends into the territory of a villain.”

There are dozens of topics professors could teach. ‘Interstellar” had an extreme task in creating a scientifically accurate black hole in CGI. “Bioshock Infinite,” according to IGN, has themes of all things from American Exceptionalism to racism, manifest destiny and more.

There are lessons within these that not only would make fun and interesting electives, but enhance the creativity of students who simply need a push to get there. This will lead students to not only be happier with their experiences with electives, but it will also keep them in classes that they are truly interested in.

Printmaking involves making tiny scratches which will hold ink. (Ivy Rose Ball)

Ultimately, a niche class is never there to teach the subject material exactly. It is there to use the niche to send a message that is only recognized when diving deep, rather than simply looking at the bigger picture.

Often times, I find that the result of peeking behind the curtain of these niche topics leads to, at the very least, an interesting conversation, and at its peak, a view of a subject that gives us insight on ourselves, others and the world around us.

About the Contributor
John Baladi
John Baladi, Life & Entertainment Editor
John Baladi is a senior business administration major. He currently serves as the Life & Entertainment Editor. [email protected]
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