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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Popular professors engage students

Talking about sex, celebrities and getting exclusive entrance into private parties with some of Washington’s elite are not things most students expect to find in their classes. GW, though, offers several courses and activities that go beyond the traditional.

One class that tends to spice things up is professor Chad Heap’s course on sexuality in U.S. cultural history. Many students do not have experience talking sex with professors but this class offers them a chance to see how intimate practices and cultural symbols are interwoven in American life.

“Whether they think we’re overly prudish or overindulgent, much of the rest of the world believes Americans are obsessed with sex,” Heap said. “This course examines the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires in the U.S.”

Heap also teaches a dean’s seminar for freshmen titled “Washington Sex Scandals,” and will be taking on a class called “Nighttime in America,” which will focus on the ways that the concept of darkness has shaped American cultural attitudes.

Another frequently sought-after professor is Frank Sesno, who was recently appointed director of GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs. An Emmy award-winning journalist and former CNN bureau chief, Sesno’s connections in Washington have produced many attention-grabbing events. Just last year, he co-hosted a high-profile panel discussion among five former Secretaries of State with Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent.

His students are frequently invited to private parties held for the guests he brings to the University, he said.

“That’s the one perk I engage in at GW. I figure that is a sin that will be excused,” Sesno said.

This year, Sesno will teach a documentary course and a new class called “Planet Forward: Advanced Online & TV Production.” Students will research, write and produce original material about reducing carbon footprints for The content is then eligible to be featured on the PBS television special of the same name, which Sesno hosts.

The class grew out of its namesake project, Planet Forward, which Sesno started this year to bring together new and traditional media to promote environmentally sustainable practices.

Sesno said he is glad to be teaching because it affords him the chance to be with an intellectually gifted faculty and student body, all while pursuing his career in journalism.

“I’m very lucky. I have the best of all worlds,” Sesno said. “I get to be around really smart faculty, I get to be around students who are brilliant and going to redefine the world and I get to teach and still do my journalism.”

And if trifling through the cultural patterns of sexuality in the U.S. or being part of an innovative and environmentally focused initiative is not appealing, students can also try professor Patricia Phalen’s dean’s seminar, “Hollywood and Politics.”

The course, which has been offered for the past three years, charts the connections between the celebrity culture of Hollywood and the political scene of Washington. Besides being exposed to nontraditional subject matter, Phalen said there are other important academic benefits to taking a course like her own.

“This is my own research interest,” Phalen said. “I also like to teach a challenging course for freshmen because it helps them later on in their college career,” Phalen said.

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