Where do Marvel superheroes go to college? Why, they go to Empire State University, of course! Or, well, most of the time. Located in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, this fictional university is probably best known to Spider-Man comic book fans as the alma mater of Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, and Flash Thompson, among others.
For the most part, we haven’t yet explored the grounds of ESU on the big screen, but the prestigious, fictional Ivy League research institute has been woven into Spider-Man movies in small moments.
Tobey Maguire’s Peter attends Columbia University in Spider-Man 2 (2004), but ESU gets a namedrop in the third installment in the series as the university’s photography department proves one of Eddie Brock’s Spider-Man photographs to be doctored.
We again get several peeks at Empire State University’s existence in Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man series. Dr. Curt Connors (a.k.a. The Lizard) states he has “a doctorate from Empire State University” in a deleted scene, presumably a callback to his time spent there as a biochemistry professor in the comics.
In the sequel, while Gwen Stacy plans to go to the University of Oxford all the way across the pond in England, fans with an eagle eye are led to believe that Peter goes on to attend the local New York university thanks to a hidden ESU mousepad on the boy’s messy desk. A nice nod from the prop department!
Finally, Marvel One-Shot Item 47 on The Avengers Blu-ray gives us a quick peek at some Empire State University swag as the school’s logo can be spotted on a character’s shirt. Perhaps we will see Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker attend the university in a future movie.
With Empire State University being one of the more prominent fictional universities of the Marvel Universe, it leaves us to wonder what this research university is actually like. What kind of classes does Peter Parker enroll in? What about the average New York student? Let’s take a look at some of the classes ESU should have on its curriculum, classes that would entice any student – spider-like abilities or not.
1. Cross-Species Genetics
Instructor: Dr. Curt Connors
Course synopsis: Taught by Dr. Curt Connors himself, this exclusive course is open only to fifteen graduate students, and students must interview prior to acceptance. Explore the ethics of genetically modified organisms, and theorize about what might happen if we crossed a regenerative starfish with a venomous snake. Just don’t get on this professor’s bad side.
2. Thermonuclear Astrophysics
Instructor(s): Tony Stark (T-Th.); Dr. Erik Selvig (M-W-F)
Course synopsis: Students don’t become an expert in this course overnight, and you’ll find many of them huddled in the library over a stack of textbooks, surrounded by no less than ten cups of coffee while cramming for final exams. Just how do you stabilize a wormhole with iridium? And can we prevent these catastrophic events in the first place?
3. History of Mutant Civil Rights
Instructor: Professor Charles Xavier
Course synopsis: When he’s not at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Professor Charles Xavier teaches this once a week course open to all students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In collaboration with the human/mutant student exchange program, this course satisfies the university’s diversity requirement course and reflects on both mutant setbacks and progress – everything from the Mutant Registration Act to the possibilities that the future holds. Make sure you sign up quickly because this class always fills up.
4. Self-Defense for the Non-Powered Individual
Instructor: Daisy Johnson
Course synopsis: Though it may seem that way at times, not everyone in New York has superpowers. Spider-Man might not always be there to catch you. This program, taught by veteran S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson, teaches normal, non-powered students to recognize dangerous scenarios, evade capture, and provides hands-on physical defense training. Participants receive a completion certificate upon finishing the course.
5. Photography II
Instructor: Phil Sheldon
(Prerequisite course: Photography I)
Course synopsis: This is the perfect course to take before an internship with The Daily Bugle! Students build upon previously learned skills and dive into indoor studio and outdoor on-location lighting setups, drone and underwater photography, as well as editing techniques to take their photographs to the next level. All students must submit a final portfolio.
6. Law and Policy for Enhanced Individuals
Instructor: Jennifer Walters, J.D.
Course synopsis: Law students of Empire State University can take this class taught by criminal defense attorney Jennifer Walters – that is, when she isn’t serving as legal counsel or Hulking out with the Avengers. Learn all about the Sokovia Accords and the proper defenses in vigilante court cases. And how do our policies stack up against intergalactic law?
(Note: Attorney Matt Murdock will occasionally substitute in for Professor Walters.)
7. Capes and Stretchy Tights: Fashion Design for the Modern Hero
Instructor: Melvin Potter
Course synopsis: Superheroes can’t simply wear jeans and a t-shirt to fight crime in – unless you’re Jessica Jones. The spandex and leather suits aren’t available off the rack, and students of this course will learn fabric properties, color theory, construction, and suit repair before bringing their original designs to life.
8. Meditation and Mindfulness
Instructor: Dr. Stephen Strange
Course synopsis: Does your roommate disappear during alien invasions? Are you stressed out at the mere mention of the Green Goblin? Then this is the course for you! Practice guided meditations in a peaceful environment, and learn how to introduce mindful activities into your daily life to cultivate a healthier and happier body, mind, and heart. Open to all students, faculty, and staff.
9. Ethical Recycling of Alien Debris
Instructor: Anne Marie Hoag
When the city crumbles after a rogue Asgardian crashes through a skyscraper, all of that rubble has to go somewhere. This course is sponsored by the Department of Damage Control and taught by its founder. This course explores the aftermath of battles – from the proper handling and salvaging of hazardous materials, how to administer emergency medical care, and building reconstruction.
10. Remedial Groot
Instructor(s): Groot; Thor, God of Thunder
This elective course is always a crowd-pleaser during semesters in which it is offered. Learn the introductory sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar behind basic conversation. Students that excel in their work may move on to exciting phrases like “I am Groot,” and the controversial “I am Groot.” Features special guest lecturers Thor and Groot.
Which class are you signing up for first?