College courses of high cultural caliber

Intriguing courses that reflect cultural significance, from graffiti to the moguls of hip-hop
By: | August 22, 2019
University of Central Florida’s C. Keith Harrison (left) stands alongside adjunct professor Reggie Saunders, who is also Jordan Brand’s senior director of entertainment marketing. Harrison had just presented a previous iteration of UCF’s “Business of Hip-Hop Innovation and Entrepreneurship” class, one of the most interesting college classes. The new version of the pop culture course will begin this fall with undergrad and postgrad sections.University of Central Florida’s C. Keith Harrison (left) stands alongside adjunct professor Reggie Saunders, who is also Jordan Brand’s senior director of entertainment marketing, after Harrison presented a previous iteration of UCF’s “Business of Hip-Hop Innovation and Entrepreneurship” class. The new version of the course will begin this fall with undergrad and postgrad sections.

Integrating pop culture into academia is nothing new, and titillating course titles serve as a marketing plug for many higher ed institutions, among other functions. But the importance of including current culture in college studies is undeniable as schools work to stay relevant and forward thinking.

For example, the University of Central Florida’s “Business of Hip-Hop Innovation and Entrepreneurship” course in its College of Business finds inspiration from musical case studies, including Dr. Dre’s Beats business.

“The business of culture is where it is right now,” says C. Keith Harrison, associate professor with UCF. “When we talk about grit, about how to really build a brand, hip-hop has given us a great road map.”

Here’s a few of the most interesting college classes and pop culture courses in higher ed:

Course: ID232: “The Beatles: Voice of a Generation,” Franklin Pierce University (N.H.)
Professor: Paul O. Jenkins, university librarian and adjunct faculty member (also co-editor of the 2018 book Teaching the Beatles and a recognized expert in the field; also taught this pop culture course at Mount St. Joseph University (Ohio)
Debut: Spring 2020
Description: This course is designed to examine how the musical group, the Beatles, influenced the worlds of music, film, fashion, art, business and spirituality in the context of the 1960s. The band’s impact will be studied by use of recordings, primary documents, subsequent scholarly writings and DVDs.

Course: HSA10: “Critical Inquiry: “‘Star Trek” and Social Theory,” Harvey Mudd College (Calif.)
Professor: David Seitz, an urban cultural geographer whose work examines questions of difference, desire, and citizenship
Debut: Spring 2019
Description: The Star Trek franchise has garnered both considerable praise for its at times quite thoughtful social critique, and formidable mainstream cultural and economic success. This course will use Star Trek as point of departure and return for engaging important introductory texts in critical social theory, with a focus on issues including economic exploitation, cultural domination, geopolitical conflict, ecological devastation, and the relationship between history and memory. Familiarity with the Star Trek franchise is not a prerequisite.

Course: SPB 4516 for undergraduates and GEB 6156 for graduates: “Business of Hip Hop Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” University of Central Florida
Professor: C. Keith Harrison, an associate professor and one-time professional party promoter, who says this pop culture course is rapidly generating interest from MBA students and those in disciplines from communications to hospitality
Debut: Fall 2019
Description (GEB 6156): Using Adam Grant’s (Wharton Management scholar) Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (2016), this course will apply Grant’s thesis to the evolution of hip-hop culture, from two turntables and a microphone to the serious business contender that it is today. Second, the course will apply Maguire and Matthews in The Cultural Intermediaries Reader (2014) to show an additional dimension of the anticipated growth of this market. The growth of this market is tied deeply to the cultural issues and the trend of the embracement of these issues by the public in the USA and worldwide. The growth of the hip-hop culture market is also pervasive in higher education curriculum units across the USA in particular but interestingly with this growth has often been overlooked as a business course. Third, the course will examine the linkages separate and combined of hip-hop culture and sport through the textbook Sport Marketing.

Course: FY-101-AR01: “Street Art and Its Impact,” Monmouth University (N.J.)
Professor: Mike Richison, a multimedia artist who utilizes a variety of media and approaches, including graphic design, video, sculpture, printmaking, drawing and installation
Debut: Fall 2010
Description: This course aims to broaden a student’s understanding of non-commissioned artwork. Commonly referred to as “street art” or “graffiti,” murals and installations that are in the public space have the potential to speak to viewers in a way that traditional artwork does not. This class examines the social, political, ethical, economic and environmental issues that surround this kind of art. A deeper examination of this kind exemplifies the transition between high school and college. This course will also aid in the transition between high school and college by highlighting the on-campus resources available to students and by discussing the ethics of academic life.