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Off the Beaten Track

A look at some unconventional majors at U.S. universities.

Many Indian students come to the United States to study engineering, computer science and other popular topics. But the country also offers opportunities to study courses that are off the beaten track.

From auctioneering and poultry science to nautical archaeology and ethnomusicology, there’s something for everyone.

Here are four unique specialities that you can choose from.

Turfgrass science

Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, aspiring landscape designer or environmentalist, the turfgrass science major at Penn State University might be ideal for you. Students take an integrated program of study, which includes basic and applied sciences, business management courses and an internship. They learn to create and maintain recreational spaces and develop quality landscapes that are environmentally sound. Students also come to understand the science behind sod growth and the impact of turfgrass-related land use decisions.

Graduates can work for stadiums and professional sports teams. They also have opportunities in golf course management, lawn curating and maintenance, turfgrass research, teaching and more.



At the University of New Hampshire, students have the opportunity to explore the full lifecycle of food. The ecogastronomy dual major involves the study of sustainable agriculture, clean and fair food production, hospitality management and healthy eating. Students also travel to other countries to experience world food practices.

“Without a doubt, the international experience is most beloved by the students. They compare their own domestic experiences with the food culture, sustainably-focused agriculture, and policies and issues impacting the food system of other countries and they…connect with chefs, producers and farmers around the world,” says Colleen Schriefer, program assistant for the major.

The university offers ecogastronomy as a dual major, which means that students declare a primary major within the university and then attach ecogastronomy to it.



For theater lovers, aspiring early childhood and elementary educators and those who just love make-believe, there’s the Bachelor of Fine Arts in puppetry and creative dramatics at West Virginia University. Classwork includes puppet construction and manipulation, the history of puppetry, performance techniques and drama as a learning and development tool for children. Students can tour with the university’s Puppet Mobile and enjoy other performance opportunities.

According to the university, graduates have landed jobs with companies like Disney and Nashville Sesame Street Live Touring, children’s museums, and regional and national theater companies.

University of Connecticut, too, offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in puppet arts.


Social media

Social media has now become a mainstream means of communication. In keeping with this trend, Newberry College in South Carolina has made it a mainstream academic course.

“I developed the major because there was a need,” says Tania Sosiak, associate professor of graphic design and social media at Newberry College. “During my classes that encompass branding, social media was a constant common thread that was recurring in the curriculum.”
Sosiak designed the social media major to be interdisciplinary. Students learn many skills that relate to social media, including marketing, design and execution of media, psychology, analytics, e-commerce, search engine optimization and web content development. The college also offers a minor in social media.

Sosiak and Patrick Gagliano, chair of Newberry’s Department of Arts and Communication, have built upon the early success of the social media major to create a digital marketing major, which will be launched in fall 2015.

“With the interdisciplinary approach, our digital marketing degree offers the creative student an opportunity to achieve a business degree while simultaneously developing and applying artistic skills,” says Gagliano. “This combines artistic passions with real opportunities for employment in the business field after graduation.”


Carrie Loewenthal Massey is a New York City-based freelance writer.