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Electives Bring the Cool Factor to the Classroom at LIU Post


Rita Langdon,Associate Provost for Communications, Public Relations & Marketing
Long Island University, LIU Post

Students on boat in Costa RicaBrookville, N.Y. - The classics are essential to a college education, and the core curriculum at LIU Post is second to none, but the campus’s innovative elective courses add another dimension to the educational experience, blurring disciplinary lines and bringing the cool factor to the classroom.

From writing poetry at a horse farm, to interacting with dolphins in the blue waters of Costa Rica, to exploring the mythology of super heroes, to predicting the path of tornados and hurricanes on an iPad, LIU Post students have myriad opportunities to indulge their curiosity.

“Elective courses are at the root of an outstanding liberal arts education,” said Dr. Katherine Hill-Miller, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at LIU Post. “Elective courses not only allow a student to explore new things and dip into a subject simply because it sounds fabulously interesting, they also broaden students’ imagination and create opportunities for integrative thinking as students draw connections across disciplines. Besides, elective courses as just plain fun.”

Each year, the campus offers 1,000 different courses, giving students a plethora of options from which to choose as they customize their program of study. Undergraduate students take an average of 10 electives over the course of their undergraduate careers—and many of the classes are downright cool.

Cool Factor: Horses

“The Horse in Literature” explores how the animal is portrayed in popular literature around the world from “Black Beauty” to “War Horse” to “Equus,” but what sets the course apart is that it puts students in contact with real horses.

Students take a field trip to a horse rescue farm out east in Baiting Hollow, enjoy a day at the races at Belmont Park, and groom and interact with horses at LIU Post’s own North Shore Equestrian Center. “By interacting with these striking animals, students are inspired to write creatively and think differently about the horse’s connection to humanity,” said the creator of the course, Dr. Joan Digby, a professor of English and director of the campus’s Honors Program.

Christina Diovanni with horse“I was on the LIU Post equestrian team, so I gravitated to the class,” said Christina Diovanni, a digital art and design major who graduated in May 2013. “I enjoyed the literature, and all the discussion about current issues involving horses, like proposed horse-slaughter legislation or the loss of riding trail access on Long Island. I also loved the fact that I was able to contribute poems and photography to the two books our class created, ‘Word from the Herd’ and ‘With Quiet Hands.’"

Cool Factor: Swimming with Dolphins in Costa Rica

Psychology classes are common on college campuses, but LIU Post takes the subject beyond the classroom – all the way to the ocean in Costa Rica, with a three-credit travel course that focuses on how different breeds of dolphins interact and how their behaviors relate to human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. Each January for the past 15 years, a group of 15 students has traveled to the tiny village of Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to study social interactions between two species of dolphins – the ubiquitous bottlenose dolphin and the little known tucuxi dolphin.

“For many participants, it’s a life-changing experience,” said Dr. Forestell, the marine mammal expert and psychology professor who teaches the course. “Out in the ocean, students learn navigation, sea-surface conditions, photo-analysis, dolphin biology and behavior, and see the impact of human behavior on marine mammal conservation. The project provides an opportunity for students to develop a greater appreciation for field research in a remote setting.”

“Today was another beautiful day in Costa Rica,” wrote childhood education major Suzana Perez in the Team Daily Journal from this year’s expedition. “My group went on a hike though the rainforest, and then we chartered a boat to watch the behavior of the dolphins out at sea – it was amazing. This has been an incredible experience for all of us – I will never forget all the great memories.”

Cool Factor: Vampires and Super Heroes

This fall, LIU Post students will explore the connections between modern horror sagas like the “Twilight” series and classics like “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” with Professor Sheila Gunther, LIU Post’s chair of foreign languages. Her “Horror in Literature” class provides an analysis of the development of horror in world literature, focusing on horror as a pervasive element that expresses the values and aspirations of many cultures from ancient times to the present. “Horror being a universal literary impulse, this course introduces students to other cultures and languages,” said Professor Gunther. “It examines horror from ancient Greek and Roman literature and the Bible all the way to ‘Twilight’ and a new television adaptation of ‘Sleepy Hollow,’ which will premiere on FOX in September.”

Dr. Gunther also has taught "The Making of a Super Hero” to LIU Post undergraduates for nearly four decades. The liberal arts course provides an analysis of the development of the superhero in world literature and focuses on superheroes from ancient times and futuristic worlds as the embodiment of the values and aspirations of their respective cultures. Within the course, literature and film are emphasized as vehicles for expressing societal ideals.

Cool Factor: Street Art and Graffiti

LIU Post offers what is likely the only credit-bearing course in the nation on graffiti. Taught by Ryan Seslow, a New York City street artist who followed in his mentor’s footsteps to become a professor of art, the one-week summer intensive examines the history and development of street art on technical, stylistic and cultural levels. Open to undergraduate and graduate students of all majors, the course includes a guided walking tour through New York City, as well as guest lectures, live demos and collaboration with street artists on the creation of a class project.

Cool Factor:  James Dean and Marilyn Monroe

“1950s American Literature and Culture” is an honors course that traces the counterculture widely associated with the 1960s back to the previous decade. “If you think about how radical rock ‘n’ roll was, or using drugs to escape oppression, as the Beats described it, or Marilyn Monroe and the Kinsey report about women’s sexuality – that all started in the early ’50s,” said the course instructor, Dr. Thomas Fahy, professor of English and author of nine novels. “There was a lot of investment after World War II in putting things back in place for a ‘normal’ culture, but this countercultural current was so powerful and so strong throughout this period.”

The course will take in everything from “Lolita” and “A Raisin in the Sun” to “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and will consider the rise of automobile culture, the art of Jackson Pollock and the fiction of Flannery O’Connor. “We’ll be reading a lot of sociology and psychology about juvenile delinquency, and comparing that with James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause,’” Dr. Fahy said.

Cool Factor: Tracking Storms: Is the Weather Out to Get Us?

Did you ever wonder why there is weather? Why do hurricanes occur only in the summer and fall? Do they serve any “purpose” for the “greater good” or do they just destroy? What causes lightning?  Is there a difference between “partly sunny” and “partly cloudy”?  What about jet streams?  What is black ice? Taught by Dr. Margaret F. Boorstein, a renowned geographer, the course covers quirky weather-related events on Long Island as well as more serious catastrophes from hurricanes to floods. This course includes a field trip to the National Weather Forecast Office in Upton, N.Y. Students use a free iPad, provided by LIU, to conduct research.

“Every day we are surrounded by natural disasters that are difficult for the average citizen to comprehend,” said Dr. Boorstein. “This course explains the science behind meteorology, the earth’s atmosphere and governmental response in the aftermath of storms.”

Cool Factor: Working Side-by-Side with World-class Artists

LIU Post is home to Long Island’s premier arts venue, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, and the campus leverages this affiliation to offer its students the opportunity to work with the world-class performers who come to Tilles Center. Residencies, workshops, lectures and master classes make it possible for LIU students to learn from visiting artists who are at the top of their fields. 

Past residencies and workshops have included such renowned artists and ensembles as the New York Philharmonic, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Tokyo String Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, the Joffrey Ballet, the Jose Limon Dance Company, the Herbie Hancock Band and the late Lynn Redgrave.

Cool Factor: NYC Connections for High School Students

This summer, LIU launched a new series of intensive programs for highly motivated high school students: The Summer Honors Institute @ LIU. The Institute brings exceptional rising seniors from across Long Island and around the country to LIU Post, giving them the opportunity to immerse themselves in either business leadership or musical theatre and get a taste of college life. Drawing upon the vast professional and cultural resources of New York City, the intensives enable students to work closely with distinguished faculty mentors and gain invaluable experience through hands-on projects and field trips ranging from a visit to Fox Entertainment's New York City office to going backstage at the Broadway musical “Wicked.”

Cool Factor: Talking Shop with CEOs

LIU Post also offers lecture series that are free and open to the public. From September 18-20, LIU will present its inaugural Entrepreneurship Week, featuring on-campus lectures by noted business leaders.

Speakers include Alan Vituli, CPA, the former CEO and chairman of Carrols Restaurant Group, which owned nearly 1,000 fast-food restaurants in the United States and Latin America; Sanford Kane, CEO of Real Sourcing Network and president of Kane Concepts Inc.; and Garth Monroe, vice president & CFO for BioNano Genomics, who also has held high-level positions in the medical technology, aerospace and airline industries.

“The opportunity to meet and learn directly from people like Sandy Kane and Garth Monroe is one of the great advantages of studying at a comprehensive, private university like LIU,” said Dr. Andrew Rosman, dean of the LIU Post College of Management. “The thought leaders of our times, in business and many other fields, come to our campus to share their insights with the next generation. To spend time in their company is a rare and valuable opportunity.”

For more information, visit or or call the Admissions Office at 516-299-2900.

Posted 09/05/2013

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