Surprising Studies


Weird OU classes get students interested in backpacking and the paranormal

Meghan Morris / For The Post

Ohio University offers some weird classes that cover topics students wouldn’t normally associate with the traditional college experience.

The traditional college experience usually includes subjects like science and literature, but most students are unaware of other weird classes that are offered.

WOL 1110 Elementary Wolof I
CAS 1410 Food Matters! Explanations in Food Across the Liberal Arts
CFS 3601 Human Sexualities
CFS 3800 Death, Dying and Bereavement
FIN 2010 Basic Personal Finances
HIST 2905 Technology in World History
PAW 1401 Fundamentals of Horseback Western Seat
RFPD 1100 Fashion and Culture

Karl Schmidt, a graduate student studying recreation and sport sciences, teaches a two-week course called Wilderness Living Skills. The class covers basic backpacking skills that help students enjoy nature more.

“The students get a taste of living out of a backpack and carrying everything that they own,” Schmidt said.

Some students may not read the syllabus before coming to class, Schmidt said. The students believe the course teaches them how to survive with no supplies like televised British adventurer Bear Grylls. Most of Schmidt’s students don’t have previous experience with outdoor recreation.

Schmidt said they’ll learn common knowledge, such as how to ration supplies, manage a group and read terrain. His students will have some mastery of the backpacking skills and be able to perform a few blindfolded by the end of the course, he said.

Weird Classes


Dr. Brian Collins, the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawanda Chair in Indian Religion, poses for a picture in his office. Collins also teaches a class on Paranormal studies.

“The goal is that the skills become second-nature,” Schmidt said. “They’re able to perform skills at a much faster rate.”

Schmidt also hopes that students not in applicable majors can take away valuable skills such as how to keep a group under control.

OU also has other classes that have a normal class structure but cover unique topics.

Brian Collins, the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy, teaches a summer class called The Global Occult: Ghosts, Demonology, and the Paranormal in World Religions.

Collins said he wanted a course that students couldn’t take online. He wants them to enjoy the class readings and participate in discussions. Collins said he looks forward to any stories that might be shared including experiences playing with a Ouija board.

Some topics covered in The Global Occult include Satanism, demonology and exorcism.

A part of Collins’ class will include guest speakers. He has an Ouija board expert and an exorcism practitioner, among others, visit as guest speakers.

“Some of them I know personally,” Collins said. “They (will) do (a Skype Q&A) as a favor to me. I’ve contacted some people and asked them to call in. Most of them have been happy to do it.”

Collins said other classes he has taught covered some of those paranormal topics, but he wants to explore them in more detail. When someone studies a religion, they can’t ignore those topics without causing a blind spot, he said.

“These are practices that are not associated with a small minority of people, but with huge numbers of people … (who) count these beliefs and traditions among their religious life,” Collins said.

In both Wilderness Living Skills and The Global Occult classes, there’s a focus on keeping some aspects local or discussing local history.

Schmidt said he usually takes his Wilderness Living Skills students on a weekend trip to Zaleski State Forest at the end of the course. They will complete a well-maintained 23-mile backpacking loop.

He enjoys taking students to this location since it’s a 30-minute drive from Athens, and they can take their friends there.

“It’s really important that … we highlight outdoor resources that are in Ohio,” Schmidt said. “When you talk about outdoor recreation, every single time, students will want to go to Kentucky or … Pennsylvania or West Virginia.”

One topic Collins’ Global Occult class will discuss is the ghosts in Athens.

“It would be crazy to ignore the fact that (Athens) is one of the hubs of spiritualism in the 19th century,” Collins said.

Some classes at OU may cover odd material. However, the instructors don’t want students to put less importance on those classes, Collins said.

“It is an odd class, admittedly,” he said. “But I don’t think odd means pointless.”

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