The traditional model of higher education and its pursuit of knowledge were founded on the concept of immersing students in the scholarly works of knowledgeable and cultured predecessors. Many universities today, however, are choosing to forge new educational models with coursework that feeds and cultivates the exploratory minds of Millennials.
Within the last few years, there has been a wave of universities adopting pop culture influencers into their curriculums in hopes of being seen as practical and relevant in the eyes of their students. Jumping onto the pop-culture bandwagon early on, Rutgers University took notice of singer and celebrity icon Beyoncé’s popularity with the Millennial generation and offered a course centered on the exploration of Beyoncé’s influence on subjects ranging from feminism to race and gender. Following a similar path, Tufts University attempted to examine the well-known hipster subculture by offering a course that focused on hipster culture and the non-mainstream identities behind it.
Enthusiasm and support for these unique courses have rapidly grown, leading to the involvement of large food corporations sponsoring programs and curriculums that incorporate their brands. Pizza Hut recently entered the higher education dominion with the creation of its own apprenticeship program. The program was created in tandem with Manchester Metropolitan University; it includes both academic and practical programs that cover a range of skills, from food production to financial literacy. Though not supported financially yet by a mass taco distributor, students at the University of Kentucky now have the ability to enroll and receive credit for eating tacos, with an undergraduate course called Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the U.S. South.
Universities are grasping the concept of offering students unusual courses that foster student engagement and creativity in unique ways. The adoption of pop-culture references by higher education institutions is proving a true game changer and unique revitalizer of classic subjects that Millennials once categorized as mundane.