As enrollment for Spring 2019 rolls around, students are once again preparing to grab a seat in a major-required class before the green circle turns into a cold, blue box on OPUS. If you’re grimacing at having to take organic chemistry or managerial accounting for your major, consider sprucing up your schedule with one of the following unconventional classes. Enroll in something just for fun, and remember what “liberal arts education” means.

The Musical Brain (NBB 300/MUS 309)

Humans perceive music when the brain processes tonal frequency patterns that align with a rhythm. “The Musical Brain,” co-taught by Director of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) Paul Lennard and Senior Lecturer in NBB Robert Wyttenbach, examines this phenomenon from both a neuroscience and a music theory perspective. Last offered in 2016, the course will return for the Spring 2019 semester.

Wyttenbach said Lennard provides the course’s neuroscience perspective while Wyttenbach elucidates the music theory. Lectures cover topics including changes in the chemical composition of the brain in response to musical training and computer analyses of the sounds produced by various instruments.

Wyttenbach said that, while students should ideally have backgrounds in both music theory and neuroscience, previous knowledge is not required because the course is intended to familiarize students with both disciplines.

“One of the things I like about the students of the class is [that] they’ll bring their own perspectives,” Wyttenbach said. “I know pretty much nothing about pop or rap or rock, so it’s really cool to see the examples that students will bring in from more contemporary styles.”

The class typically has 40 to 50 students, but can accommodate up to 75.

Visual Culture (IDS 216)

In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, the average person consumes a prolific amount of visual content. Postdoctoral Interdisciplinary Teaching Fellow Aubrey Graham believes it is critical that people possess some level of “visual literacy” in order to intelligently consume visual content, including photographs, films, memes and designs. Students practice analyzing this content to critically engage with political and economic implications. Graham said the class is built around three assignments that challenge students to create their own visual content: a photograph, a “visual portrait” consisting of five to 10 images about an object of their choice and a “visual argument,” which forgoes the traditional essay. This spring, two sections that can accommodate 19 students each will be offered.

“It’s just so important to make people understand what you’re saying and [to] be critical,” former class member and teaching assistant Amanda Obando (19C) said. “When I taught, there was a girl who used my lesson to analyze Beyonce, and I found that so great. [After taking the class], students understand [the implications of] what they’re looking at on Instagram instead of just scrolling through.”

Graham expressed excitement in seeing students use the course as an outlet to explore creative possibilities — even those who don’t consider themselves particularly artistic.

“In the beginning, students look at me sideways and say, ‘Really, you want us to do what?’ ” Graham said. “[But] about halfway through the course, everyone is taking risks.”

Podcasting on Health (ENG 380/HLTH 385-6)

Whereas “Visual Culture” may be an ideal class for the visual learner, “Podcasting on Health” may be suited for the auditorily oriented. Taught by Senior Lecturer in English Sheila Tefft, who has more than 20 years of journalism experience, the course was born out of the scientific community’s need to convey information to the public. Cross-listed between the human health and English departments, this course lies at the intersection of multimedia journalism and medical topics, which aims to help students produce an animated videocast, traditional scripted podcast and informal multi-host podcast surrounding their chosen topics.

“People hear about complex science on the TV and in the news and they don’t know what to make of it,” former class member Deanna Altomara (20C) said. “They get scared of science. That’s the worst thing that could happen in a time like this with climate change and so many diseases that are gaining prevalence.”

Through the class, Altomara earned a internship with the CDC supporting the recording and production of health podcasts. Tefft said the course is also an effort to engage the pre-health community at Emory with the field in an interdisciplinary way, and to boost science literacy among the general public.

“Communication is very important,” Tefft said, “[and so is] having the ability to convey and distill complexities to people who aren’t really experts on it.”

Social Enterprise in Latin America (OAM 334)

“Social Enterprise in Latin America” epitomizes experiential learning, and the highlight of the course is a trip to Guatemala over spring break, during which students learn first-hand from coffee farmers and other local social enterprises. Goizueta Business School Professor of Organization and Management Wesley Longhofer, the course instructor, defined social enterprise as organizations whose primary motivations include positively impacting communities while making profit through business acumen.

Though the class has traditionally visited Nicaragua, the country’s increasingly unstable political climate led Longhofer to shift the trip to Guatemala this year. The course will examine a broad range of topics related to international development, including the production and history of fair trade coffee, microcrediting and climate change.

“Students find it really impactful,” Longhofer said. “I get a lot of energy from students who come back and tell me the 10 days they spent in Central America are maybe the 10 best days they had in college.”

Since the 20 enrolled students travel together, Longhofer said he sees camaraderie develop over the semester that doesn’t exist in other classes. Aaina Pahwa (19B), who took the course last spring, said she formed meaningful bonds with her classmates.

“In the beginning, no one really knows each other and you kind of just all sit there,” Pahwa said. “Then you go on this trip, and you come out of it really close friends. I was able to receive a lot of mentorship from seniors [in the class].”

This class is only open to Goizueta Business School students who have taken “Business and Society.” It allows students to travel in an educational context, since many forgo studying abroad for credit completion and company recruiting cycles. However, Longhofer stressed that only students who are genuinely interested in social enterprise should take the class, and that students looking for a fun spring break trip should look elsewhere.


The above are only four of myriad stimulating classes offered next semester. Other honorable mentions include “Nazi Medicine and Biology” (GER 315-1), “The Math of Fairness” (MATH 385-1) and “The Psychology of Political Persuasion” (POLS 385-2). Hopefully, this guide inspires you to find a class to take that pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone.