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The New Academia Arcade

Years ago, the hot majors were business or political science. Not any more. Universities are finding they have to offer "cool" subjects in order to attract today's students.

The Early Show examines some of the hip new majors being offered on campuses across the country. National Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports from Los Angeles.


"I always wanted to be, you know, near Hollywood, to be where the entertainment is," confides Katherine Chi, who came from Singapore to attend the University of Southern California (USC).

Starting this fall, USC will offer a degree in just that: entertainment. The new major reflects the fact that pop culture has invaded academia, says Marty Kaplan, director of USC's soon-to-open Norman Lear Center for Entertainment Studies.

"I was teaching a seminar on media and politics, and the seminar turned out to be about Princess Diana. I was teaching a course in campaign communication, and it turned out to be about Monica Lewinsky," he says.

The ultimate in cool may be to major in video games. At DigiPen Institute of Technology, just outside Seattle, 80 percent of the students will earn degrees in video game programming.

"It took a little bit of negotiating," says one student about convincing his parents that DigiPen is a real school.

It's not just fun and games at the school, though. There are still long lectures; eyes can glaze over there as on any campus. But for 19-year-old Rob Shuster from Cincinnati, this is the only place to be.

"It's research," Shuster explains about the video game in front of him during a class break.

In a Digipen lab, students work on developing new video games; no glazed-over eyes here.

"Actually seeing this come up and come on the screen after encoding on it for hours on end" makes it fun, Shuster says. His game is called Stealth Arrow.

"It's set in the future in Seattle where, basically, the big corporations rule, and you're charged with the task of basically taking back Seattle from all these big, evil corporations," he explains. The name of the corporation: Macrosoft.

Indeed Shuster and his peers are just the kind of graduates that software giant Microsoft would love to hire.

Morgan Cole, director of campus recruiting for Microsoft, says college students who know how to build software have it made. Jobs are constantly open, he says. "There's a tremendous demand out there, both at Microsoft and across the industry, for people who have the skills set or this desire and this interest," he explains.

So for these students, a cool major could turn out to be a profitable one as well. As for the entertainment major, well, that's less of a guarantee of a job. "The entertainment industry is really competitive, and for people to just major in it and think it's cool, but if they're not capable, they're not going to be able to make it," Chi pines.

For colleges to make it, they have to stay in tune with the times, Kaplan says. "The world is more exciting and more enticing, so they're right to want a piece of it," he says of today's students.

Not only is this trend prevalent on the West Coast but academia nationally is adapting. Even Ivy League schools are offering new majors. Yale University, for instance, now has a Center for Internet Studies. Towson University in Maryland has a major in cultural studies.

Both USC and DigiPen require some traditional studies, however. With the entertainment degree, you would have to know something about history, literature, how to write. To obtain a video game degree, you have to know math and physics, as well as have some artistic ability to create those characters.