“If everyone would please take their seats, the sorting ceremony will begin shortly.”
This is a sentence that anyone with a love for the Harry Potter series would expect to read in the books or hear in the movies. Colorado State University undergraduates who enroll in Jaime Ascencio’s summer course, Psychology in the World of Harry Potter, will hear those words as they begin their first day of class.
In the ever-popular course, students complete traditional coursework such as reading essays that integrate psychological concepts with the series, participating in discussions, and composing papers. Some concepts that are discussed in the course include educational practices, personality, career counseling, mental illness, resilience, evil, social groups, therapy, and the societal impact of the Harry Potter books.
However, that’s only the beginning. Students can also look forward to being sorted into their houses, dressing in house colors, trivia games, and even a House Cup and Triwizard Tournament. All of this takes place in a classroom lovingly decorated by Ascencio to transport students directly into the magical setting of Hogwarts.
Combining passions for learning and fun
Ascencio, a graduate student studying counseling psychology, wanted to combine her love for the Harry Potter series with her passion for psychology.
“I have loved the series since the first book came out and knew the possibilities were endless on how to use psychology to examine it,” Ascencio said. “I put it on my bucket list, and when requests came out to fill a psychology summer course slot, I asked how hard it would be to create a new one. Now I’m thrilled to be teaching it for a third time.”
The entire course takes place over two weekends in June, with the classes lasting from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. For prerequisites, students must have taken General Psychology and read all seven books within the Harry Potter series.
“Weekend classes are a lot of hours, so we will alternate between traditional lectures about how psychological concepts give us a deeper understanding of the Harry Potter universe, classwide and house discussions, and competitions,” Ascencio said. “We end our time together with a feast of Harry Potter recipes.”
Keeping the magic alive
The class leaves a lasting impression on students.
“It was the perfect mix of fandom fun and learning,” said Cody Carson, a previous student of the course. “Even well after the class ended, you would see classmates and say, ‘Oh, she was in Gryffindor!’ which is not something you get from other classes and makes this one so special.”
Carson is currently participating in an independent study course with Ascencio to improve the sorting quiz for the class this summer.
“Being sorted into our houses at the beginning of the course was a magical experience (no pun intended),” Carson said. “The lasting impression this course made on me inspired me to help improve the sorting process so that future students in the class will love and be impacted by the course just as much as I was.”
Taking summer courses can have a lasting impact on students’ academic success as well. Data from the university’s Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness show that students who participate in a summer semester after their sophomore year are 71 percent more likely to graduate in six years than those who do not. Thirty percent of all undergraduates participated in summer 2018, and three out of five CSU students participate in a summer session at some point. Financial Aid, including federal Pell Grants, is available for summer session courses, depending on student eligibility.
The Harry Potter psychology course also has left a powerful impression on the instructor.
“I love keeping the magic alive,” Ascencio said. “Every student has a unique take on the series, interesting ideas, and a passion for all things Harry Potter. The excitement of this series is rekindled for me every year. I learn so much from each class, and I’m grateful for that. It’s rewarding to see students learn how to apply psychological concepts and tackle difficult issues within a fun context.”
Summer registration opened March 26 on RamWeb; this course number is PSY 492F-002.