SF State’s Experimental College allows students to teach a subject of their choice
From lucid dreaming to ‘Star Wars’ philosophy, EXCO encourages students to provide peer-to-peer teaching.
October 14, 2022
One of three courses offered at SF State’s Summer 1967 Experimental College was Grass, Acid and Zen, discussions on the use of Psychedelic drugs to gain enlightenment.
The college was born two years prior, when students rallied against the traditional education system to reclaim their education and choose their curriculum.
EXCO allows SF State students to switch roles and teach non-traditional course subjects of their choosing. This year, students are offering courses from Writing on Muni to a guide on lucid dreaming.
Adrian Fernandez, a junior and Creative Writing major, teaches the Writing on Muni class every other week. In this field-trip based course, students write about the world around them while exploring different parts of San Francisco.
“Every time we meet, we try to pull out some poetry from the world around us,” Fernandez said. “San Francisco is such an inspiring and artistic place. There’s poetry in the architecture, in the people, the weather, the history and the community.”
Fernandez comes from a lineage of teachers and aspires to be one himself. His course allows him to combine his passion with his dream profession.
After adding the experience on his resume, Fernandez scored a job with the Pacifica Tribune.
“I think they were very interested in the experimental college and the fact that I was teaching a class,” Fernandez said. “It’s already shown to be greatly beneficial in getting a job.”
Fourth-year Philosophy major and avid “Star Wars” fan Anthony Saman, teaches Philosophy and Star Wars.
“Philosophy deals with issues happening in our daily lives but, there are times when this isn’t so obvious to us.” Saman said. “So, I wanted to experiment with relating philosophy to ‘Star Wars’ for that reason.”
Through the course Saman uses his favorite movie series to touch on topics such as feminism, postcolonialism and Daoism.
“’Star Wars’ invokes philosophical questions about ethical issues, our relationships to ourselves and to other people, about the divine, and much more,” Saman said. “I like that EXCO allows student-teachers the freedom to try out new ideas and formats.”
To teach a course, students must pitch their idea with a class plan. Once approved by EXCO, students have the freedom to create their own curriculum.
Julia McEvily, a Psychology major and transfer student, teaches a class of 20 how to lucid dream.
McEvily did not know lucid dreaming was a learnable skill but with guidance from a psychology professor, she began preparing and building her course knowledge.
“Not only did I learn more about lucid dreaming, but it also helped me narrow down my psychology focus,” McEvily said. “Lucid dreaming is very applicable to therapy.”
Some EXCO instructors are inspired by courses they took throughout their college careers.
Damarcus Johnson, a fourth-year History major, teaches Examining Selected African American Short Stories and Poems. After taking an Africana Studies course with professor Dorothy Tsuruta, Johnson was inspired to teach his own.
“I have a love for African American literature,” Johnson said. “It was one of those things where I would love to teach a class on that. I try to bring the love that I have for literature, some of the historical context to and be as informative as I can.”
Applications to teach an EXCO course are now open through Oct. 31.