Here are a few standouts from the host of January-term courses offered this year:
*At State University of New York, Potsdam, there is "Teaching Vietnam: Travel program." Students visit remote villages, interviewing Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army veterans as well as Army of the Republic of Vietnam veterans and civilians affected by the war.
*Another choice at the same school is "Walk Tall: Political Themes in the Lyrics of Bruce Springsteen" taught by John Massaro, professor of politics. The class examines the lyrics of Springsteen - "the poet of the turnpike" - for its strains of populism, republicanism, patriotism, religion, manhood, love, and human relationships.
*For opera lovers there's "Wagner's Ring" at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
*Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., offers "From Grendel to Mel Gibson: The status of the Middle Ages" - an introduction to medieval literature including "Beowulf," Arthurian romances, Chaucer, and Dante. The class compares this literature to contemporary views of the period - as depicted in works such as the movie "Braveheart."
*For those students who just can't get enough of politics, even after the prolonged presidential-campaign battle, American University in Washington offers "Learn Campaign Skills," featuring talks by political consultants and training for participation in local, state, and federal political campaigns. A highlight: Students learn lobbying skills from representatives of the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association.
*Along similar lines, but with a creative twist, Elon College teaches "Media, Rhetoric, and the Presidency." It examines the communication styles of past presidents to see how they handled crises.
Students will also study President-elect George W. Bush's past speeches and write an inaugural address for him.
*If all this serious stuff is too much, there's always ice cream.
Indeed, Penn State University's "Ice Cream Short Course" - now in its 109th year - may be the most enduring of January term courses, predating the whole phenomenon of January terms. The program instructs professionals "in all aspects of commercial ice cream manufacture."
The school proudly bills it as the oldest and largest educational program "dedicated to the science and technology of ice cream."
"I'm amazed by how much people like to work with ice cream," says Bob Roberts, an associate professor of food science who is conducting this year's seminar.
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