Fiat Unique College Courses for $200, Alex

Alfred University is Outside of Ordinary for many reasons, not the least of which are our diverse, distinctive, and sometimes quirky course offerings. We were reminded of this Wednesday night, when our University was included in a question on the popular national game show, “Jeopardy!”

Under the category “Unique College Courses” was the question: SWEET! ALFRED UNIVERSITY IN NEW YORK OFFERED A COURSE IN THIS PANCAKE TOPPER. The answer, of course, was “What is maple syrup?” the sticky sweet breakfast condiment that is the topic of the Alfred University Honors Program course taught by Laurie Lounsberry Meehan ’91, University archivist and member of our Libraries staff.

Laurie has taught the two-credit course “Maple Syrup: The Real Thing” six times (including this semester) since she introduced it in 2003. Laurie, who grew up on a farm in nearby Greenwood helping her grandfather and father make maple syrup, uses maple and its products as the centerpiece to explore a number of disciplines like botany, environmental science, glass science, business, art, American history, storytelling, culinary arts, and food systems.

She teaches it every four years or so and works with the on-campus Sugar Shack, which is run by the students in our outdoor club, Forest People. Assignments range from readings, in-class activities, work at the Sugar Shack, cooking with maple syrup, and reflective essays. Each student does a final project that has something to do with maple and what they have learned throughout the semester.

“Maple Syrup: The Real Thing” is far from the only unique course available to our students. Some of the others that have been offered over the years are, “Blood, Guts, and Alphabets: The Gory Truth about Children’s Literature,” “Science in Science Fiction,” and “Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets: Southern Storytellers.” Our other distinctive Honors Program courses include, “Science in Baking,” “Muggles, Magic, and Mischief: The Science and Psychology of Harry Potter,” and “Wonder Woman: Window into Pop Culture, Women’s Issues, and Child Psychology” (also taught by Laurie).

Alfred University is indeed Outside of Ordinary. We see it in the opportunity students have to mix and match our highly-ranked programs, which gives them exciting, well-rounded educational experiences and prepares them for a wide variety of career paths. It is evident as well in our offering of uncommon courses like Laurie’s, which takes a seemingly simple subject like maple syrup and applies it across an entire academic spectrum, giving students a learning experience like no other.

Fiat unique college course for $200, Alex!

P.S. Alfred University’s connection with “Jeopardy!”—which first aired in 1964—goes beyond being included in the question in Wednesday night’s episode. At least four people associated with our University—three alumni and a former faculty member—have been on the show. Lambros Touris ’70 (elementary education) appeared in 1968, losing in the final round of competition; Andrea Pinyan ’98 (theater) competed in the “Jeopardy! College Championships” in 1997, just missing advancing past the first round; and Paige (Junker) Ormiston ’99 (biology) won more than $32,000 on a June 17, 2014 episode. Michael Breen, who taught mathematics here in the late 1980s and is now public awareness officer for the American Mathematical Society (AMS), has appeared on both “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Mike co-founded and hosts an annual game show sponsored by the AMS, “Who Wants to be a Mathematician,” in which high school students compete for cash and prizes by answering math questions.