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Saturday, January 28, 2023

In the next few days, most of us will be poring over course schedules, desperately trying to find classes that aren't too difficult but still can convince our parents that we are learning things. If you have and interest in alcohol and find yourself with a few free credit hours, look into GEO3803, The Geography of Alcohol.

Dr. Nigel Smith, who created the course in 2008, is quick to dispel doubts regarding the seriousness of such a class.

"This is not a course promoting drinking. It is a rigorous, scholarly investigation into a cultural phenomenon," Smith said. "Alcohol is a part of cultural identity, just like music or food."

Even though alcohol is so culturally important around the globe and in our own lives, GEO3803 is one of a kind in its subject matter.

"It absolutely blew me away when I looked into creating this course," Smith said. "Alcohol can be approached academically from so many disciplines - chemistry, sociology, business - but there are no other courses about alcohol on this campus."

The general outline of the course takes you through history and around the world learning about the places and ways that people use alcohol. Much of what makes a society invent and drink a certain beverage has to do with local flora.

"The geography of alcohol has a lot to do with plant geography," Smith said.

Essentially, if God gives us lemons, we turn them into booze. Besides a handful of lectures, however, the class is entirely in the hands of its students. All students make two presentations - graded only for completion - on topics of their choice that range from home brewing to popular drinking games.

"This is a student-driven course. They do 80 percent of the talking," Smith said.

By letting students control so much of the course content, Smith can make sure the topics covered are relevant and interesting to those taking his class. It also takes a lot of pressure off of Smith, and keeps him as interested in the topic as anyone.

"It's a great environment where we're all learning. Every year the course completely reinvents itself, which is what makes it fun," he said.

Advance registration started this Monday, so secure your place in Geography of Alcohol as soon as you can. No General Education credit is offered for the course, but-not surprisingly-it always fills up fast.

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