Five Classes You Would Only Find at UNC Asheville

a group photo of students in yellow honeybee shirtsLA 187: Honeybees and Humans
December 5, 2019

By Tris Lashea ‘22

As a nationally ranked liberal arts and sciences university, UNC Asheville offers classes that connect curiosity and critical thinking, and aren’t often found on the standard course list. Every student has the opportunity to expand their interests, whether it’s part of their major, fulfills a “intensive” requirement, or is perhaps just an elective for having some fun and learning something new. And each class has teachers that are experts in the subject and want to see their students succeed. Here are just a few examples of the classes you would only find at UNC Asheville.


SOC 178: Man up! Man Down? Men All-Around

Have you wondered why we have this idea of what “being a man” in our society? Then this course that dives into masculinity and gender is for you. This course is taught by Susan Ortiz, a lecturer in the sociology department, who has taught at UNC Asheville for six years.

“This class is unique because we critically examine things that at first glance may seem like common sense. It’s also a first-year seminar that uses an interdisciplinary approach to analyze culture, relationships, and institutions through the lens of people who identify as men,” said Ortiz. “As with most sociology courses, we explore topics that are intimately connected to students’ lives and will continue to impact them throughout their life course from personal relationships and interactions to jobs and workplace culture to issue of inequality related to the sexual orientation and gender identity.  All of this is done through the lens of men and masculinities.”

According to Ortiz, this course is useful to explore and expand on students’ preconceived notions of their gendered lives critically, specifically regarding aspects of masculinity.

“I work with students to develop their ‘sociological imagination’ and hope that they will use it to make the world a better place.  Much of our time is focused on developing critical thinking skills, but also personal and communication skills,” said Ortiz.

This seminar is one of Ortiz’s favorite classes to teach, and she’s planning on teaching it for as long as she can, every year.


LANG 374: Oral History for Social Change

This course is taught by Amanda Wray, an associate professor in the English department, is dedicated to creating the Western North Carolina LGBTQ+ archive. Students will interview people in the WNC community involved with LGBTQ and African American History on their personal experiences and knowledge about the topics.

Students will be documenting marginalized histories through interviews and archive histories for the public and for academic research.

“Oral history is a transcendent methodology for many reasons; anyone can listen while someone else narrates their stories, and the process of narrating your life history brings positive benefits to the narrator,” said Wray.

This course is open to all students, regardless of major, who have an interest in social justice work. Students will be able to get involved and do real hands-on work in the community and with artifacts of history such as pictures, newspapers, journals, etc.

“I think oral history can contribute to social change and greater community inclusion, and UNC Asheville students have so much to offer to this important work. Through the interview process, we are building meaningful relationships and intergenerational dialogue between students and community partners,” said Wray. “I’m teaching this class because Asheville needs to do a better job representing and documenting African American history and Asheville LGBTQ+ history.”

According to Wray, students will learn social science methodology that can be used in research projects for undergrad and grad school, and will be able to take these skills back home with them to conduct their own family history.

This is a special topics course that still has 12 seats available for the Spring 2019 semester.


CLAS 260: Greek & Latin Roots of Medical Terminology

What’s the point of studying a dead language, anyway? Well, if you’re trying to keep someone alive, it’s actually quite useful. That’s the idea behind Jacob Butera’s class. Butera is an associate professor in the Classics Department, which is the only full Classics Department in WNC. This is the second time this course has been offered.

“The point of this class is to help students working towards professions in medical fields (e.g. occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, doctors, etc.) to better understand the terminology and vocabulary they will need by introducing them to the Greek and Latin roots that permeate that vocabulary,” said Butera.

According to Butera, in his experience in his undergraduate education, he saw how much overlap existed between language, history and medicine which he thought would fit in nicely with the interdisciplinary liberal arts.

The class is aimed to help those in the medical field but can be useful for students in health and wellness, chemistry, biology and other science courses.

“This course is more than simply a roots and vocabulary course.  We will be learning anatomy, discussing ethics in medicine, reading ancient medical texts, and learning a little about the history of medicine as well,” said Butera.


LA 178: Honeybees and Humans

Ever wondered why Asheville is so obsessed with bees and their importance? This course for first-year students, taught by Cathy Whitlock, a lecturer of mathematics, dives into the value of honeybees (spoiler alert: it’s about more than honey).

Whitlock decided to teach the class because there are many aspects of bees that are fascinating, such as the impact they make on the environment, current threats to their health (and therefore the health of the planet) and more. The more you understand and learn about these little creatures, the more you realize this a big issue.

This course is an interesting one that looks at species of bees, bee anatomy, and their importance, all while being able to get hand-on experience the campus hives. Students learn how to treat our campus bees for mites, collect honey and collect wax to make candles or lip balm.

“The goal with the class is not to make students become beekeepers, even though some do, it’s actually about educating them to become bee advocates that educate their peers and start doing things to make a change, such as planting flowers and being more careful with spray on the yard,” said Whitlock.


LAC 272: Leadership UNC Asheville 

There is, of course, much more to being a leader than bossing people around. Students in UNC Asheville’s first “Leadership UNC Asheville” course spent the semester learning the value of self-leadership and ethical civic engagement–and they got to do a little shopping, as well.

The course, which was funded by a grant from the Walnut Cove Members Association, was a collaboration between Leadership Asheville, the Career Center, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

“The students are really phenomenal and really excited and interested and engaged,” said Cate O’Connor, the student engagement coordinator at the Career Center and instructor of the class. Along with guest speakers including Ed Manning, executive director of Leadership Asheville, and Kate Johnson, director of the Key Center for Community Engaged Learning, the students also took trips off campus to learn about social justice and civic engagement projects happening within the Asheville community. The grant also funded $200 per student for professional dress.

“The most rewarding thing is probably understanding how I fit in with the world and my place as a leader,” said Lauren Callaghan, a history and mass communication major. “Especially because I’m a sophomore, so in the next couple of years I’m going to be looking for a full-time job, and I need to understand my personality as a leader.”