“Learning to fly:” A class on Tom Petty offered

BY MADISON HINDO

Starting March 29, during Honors early registration, students will get the option to take a one-credit class on Gainesville native and rock legend Tom Petty.

The University of Florida Honors Program will offer a one-credit course on Petty in the Fall as part of the (Un)common Reads program. The class is called “Petty: The Biography,” which is the title of the book by Warren Zanes that the class is based on. Clay Calvert, a UF professor in the College of Journalism and Communications, will teach the seminar-style course. The course will deal with Petty and his career, but it will also tackle more general topics such as the music industry and what it takes to be a success in any field.

“Tom Petty had hard work, drive and passion. He was able to overcome obstacles and low points in his career,” Calvert said. “Those are characteristics and qualities that translate over into any profession or occupation that a student might want to go into.”

Calvert said students will read between one and three chapters of the book and write a short reaction to a prompt to help spark the class discussion each week. “Petty: The Biography” is the focus of the course, but students will also analyze Petty’s lyrics.

Students do not need to know anything about the musician to take the class, Calvert said.

Calvert said the Petty course will be interesting for him because he lectures to an audience of more than 270 students in his Fall Law of Mass Communications class. In contrast, the Petty course will be capped at a maximum of 15 students and focused on discussion.

“(Students will hopefully learn) a little bit of history about Gainesville and its music scene, a little bit about Tom Petty, but a lot about what it takes to become a success and to maintain the status of success over many decades,” Calvert said.

The “(un)common reads” courses are one-credit seminar classes that are focused on a singular book. They give students an opportunity to discuss a book in-depth in a small classroom setting.

When Mark Law, director of the Honors Program, got his job four years ago there were only eight “(un)common reads” courses offered, but the program has grown significantly to 50 classes offered this upcoming Fall. Law said these courses are often topical.

“Given that (Petty) just passed and we’re now singing his songs at football games, I figured students would want to learn more about the real Tom Petty,” Law said.

While registration for the class opens on March 29, some of the 15 seats will be reserved for incoming freshmen who register for classes over the summer.

“Based on enrollment standards, I think it’ll be really popular,” Law said.

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