Helen Dragas was not gaga for Gaga.
Dragas, the rector of the University of Virginia's governing board, was at the center of a controversy in June over the ouster -- and eventual reinstatement -- of the school's president, Teresa Sullivan. Several media outlets filed open records requests for copies of emails between Dragas and other UVA officials.
Included in those emails reveal an exchange where Dragas raised concern over a course, ENWR 1510, "GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender and Identity." It was one of a set of courses offered at UVA that address timely seminar-style topics.
Dragas heard about it from a blog post from The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. According to the Washington Post, she fired off an email (PDF) to Sullivan and Provost John Simon with the subject line: “tough headline.”
The Heritage blog post, "The Lady Gaga-fication of Higher Ed," discussed UVA, the University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University, and Arizona State University offering courses on Lady Gaga's influence on pop culture. The Cavalier Daily reported in 2010 their UVA version was an introductory course to argumentative essay writing, "where students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work," and is taught by a graduate student.
Heritage's Leslie Grimard wrote about how many universities required students to study western civilization, history, U.S. government or economics. "[S]tudying the foundations of our society no longer seems to be a priority for American universities," Grimard said.
The post was written in Dec. 2011, in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "[V]illains don't always wear designer suits; sometimes, they wear tweed jackets," Grimard concluded in her post. "Maybe it's time to occupy the universities."
Dragas said in a Dec. 2011 email exchange she appreciated the core of the course could be identified, "but the title of the course and the headline of the article probably aren't helping us justify funding requests from parents, taxpayers and legislators."
She added that the University should be mindful of what others may find appropriate for course topics.
With the aid of late puppeteer Frank W. Ballard, the University of Connecticut has become a proud leader in the art of puppeteering, offering a B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A. The <a href="http://www.drama.uconn.edu/Puppetry/Puppet_home.htm" target="_hplink">school reports</a> that since the program's beginning in 1964, there have been nearly 500 student puppet productions. In an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/arts/14ballard.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> article published after Ballard's death, the program was lauded as "a Mecca for puppeteers in training."
Schools such as <a href="http://www.reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/ProgramDetail.asp?Program=0405" target="_hplink">Michigan State University</a> provides this program in order to maximize a student's career in the manufactured products industries. Required classes include a range of serious science and math classes, along with courses titled "Packaging with Glass and Metal" and "Packaging with Paper and Paperboard."
Viticulture & Enology: Grape Growing and Winemaking
UC Davis and Cornell University take advantage of their ripe location in providing this major. As <a href="http://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/cals/grapesandwine/undergraduate/index.cfm" target="_hplink">Cornell's website </a>explains, "Due to rapid growth in the region's wine industry, there simply aren't enough people qualified to manage vineyards and run wineries," while <a href="http://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/" target="_hplink">UC Davis</a> states that the University of California has had this sort of program for over 100 years.
Acknowledging the significance of comic books in modern society, <a href="http://mcad.edu/academic-programs/comic-art" target="_hplink">Minneapolis College of Art and Design </a>offers a B.F.A in Comic Art. Students in the program study "line, color, and composition, as well as character development, storyboarding, and plot." Future careers include: Cartoonist, Comic Editor, Comic Illustrator, Comic Writer, Penciler, Colorist, Letterer, Inker
Bowling Industry Management and Technology
At Vincennes University in Indiana, the laboratory is substituted for a bowling center. According to the school's <a href="http://www.vinu.edu/content/bowling-industry-management-and-technology" target="_hplink">website</a>, the major is intended to prepare students for "management of a bowling center, sales and marketing, pro shop operations, and pinsetter mechanics."
<a href="http://www.cmu.edu/about/history/index.shtml" target="_hplink">Andrew Carnegie</a> did not neglect to honor his Scottish roots when he established Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 1900. Since the early 1990s, the school has offered a degree in bagpipes. In an interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/15/style/campus-life-carnegie-mellon-a-different-beat-when-bagpiping-becomes-a-major.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> in 1990, Marilyn Taft Thomas, head of Carnegie Mellon's music department stated, "The entire tradition of campus has been to have celebratory bagpiping. It just makes sense for us to acknowledge bagpipes as a legitimate musical instrument."
Bakery Science and Management
In this major, available at <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=876" target="_hplink">Kansas State University</a>, students not only take classes in baking and cereal science, milling, flour and dough testing, but also in math, science, and microbiology. The program falls under the larger College of Agriculture, and is listed among other unique majors offered within the College, such as <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=995" target="_hplink">Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management</a> or <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=882" target="_hplink">Park Management and Conservation</a>.
Video Game Design
Video game fanatics can live out their dream at certain colleges by majoring in video game design. The major can be found at a plethora of different universities, with schools as prestigious as such<a href="http://cinema.usc.edu/degrees/minor/videogame.cfm" target="_hplink"> University of Southern California </a>providing a minor in Video Game Design & Management.