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CNY Professor Launches Star Trek Class (Syracuse Post-Standard)

The following story was originally published in the print edition of The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) on August 18, 2015.

Syracuse University professor to launch free ‘Star Trek’ class this fall

by Katrina Tulloch | The Post-Standard

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Trekkies across the galaxy, rejoice! Syracuse University professor Anthony Rotolo plans to boldly go where no professor has gone before.

For the first time, Rotolo will offer a free and open “Star Trek” class to the public, independent from the university.

Fans across the globe can register for the online course which runs from September to December 2015. Live class sessions will also take place in Syracuse, with dates and locations to be announced at a later time.

Rotolo first launched #TrekClass at Syracuse University in 2010 for enrolled students, with special sessions of the class at the NASA Johnson Space Center, South by Southwest and on stage at the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas.

“This is a combination of everything the class has covered in its five-year history,” said Rotolo. “We will focus on media history and the real-world implications of technologies ‘Star Trek’ started or inspired.”

Rotolo remembers the 1988 “Next Generation” episode “The Arsenal of Freedom,” in which an automated weapons system conducts war for a civilization. In 2015, that’s not science fiction anymore.

“Today, we are in fact waging war by technology,” he said. “It’s commonplace in the world now. We use computer software as weapons. Folks can go out and buy a drone. It’s a new frontier. I think ‘Star Trek’ still has a lot to say. It’s as relevant as it ever was.”

Culturally, though, there’s still a long way to go.

“We live in a world that is not very tolerant, where there’s a lot of hunger and war,” Rotolo said. “‘Star Trek’ depicts a future where those things have been solved. I think that has been an inspiration.”

According to Rotolo’s syllabus, the class will explore the impact of “Star Trek” on popular culture, space exploration, scientific discovery and technology innovation.

Students will:

  • Discover the history and evolution of “Star Trek” from its origins on television to the present day film franchise.

  • Learn about Gene Roddenberry, creator and auteur of “Star Trek,” and his philosophical vision that remains central to the franchise and its fandom.

  • Discuss concepts of science facts and fiction seen in “Star Trek,” including its record of imagining and inspiring modern technologies from the mobile phone to the iPad.

  • Examine the “Star Trek” tradition of using sci-fi storytelling to explore challenging issues of society and culture, from race and gender to global politics and warfare.

  • Explore the global fandom which supported and contributed to the franchise since its earliest days, from conventions to fan-made films.

Just don’t wear a red shirt to class.

Rotolo made international news for his “Doctor Who in the Digital Age” class last spring. He opened it to Whovians in Syracuse and beyond, who could follow along on Twitter and Google+.

The classroom setting evolved into a weekly “Doctor Who” screening party for the community at the Westcott Theater.

It was the first time Rotolo hosted his pop culture and sci-fi classes for the public, instead of targeting SU students. Parents brought their children, and hundreds of students tuned in online from every continent (except Antarctica).

“That was very eye-opening,” Rotolo said. Certainly, “Star Trek” also enjoys a broad, global appeal, so he hopes for a similar, if not better, turnout.

Beam us up, Scotty.


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