Students monkey around in class

By Diana Norwood U-WIRE

COLUMBUS – As a child, Ohio State University associate professor Scott McGraw was fascinated by monkeys.

“I remember looking at National Geographic with my dad and thinking ‘this is great’,” he said of the photographs of monkeys. “Then I found out you can major in it.”

Not only did McGraw major in monkeys, he is now teaching Ohio State students about lemurs, lorises, galagos and tarsiers in anthropology 640.01, primate behavior.

“If you are or are not an anthropology major, this is a great class that will get you familiar with our closest living relatives,” said Monica Scholl, a senior in anthropology. “It is fast paced, very interesting and fun seeing and learning about primates.”

Although this year is not the first time the class has been offered, McGraw said, he revamped the syllabus and the class is basically new.

“A lot of the people in the class have not had a primate class before, so I spend the beginning of the class getting them up to speed,” McGraw said. “We first cover history and then spend the core of the class dealing with a main topic.”

Throughout the quarter students learn about new and old world monkeys, apes, sexual patterns, language and other aspects of primate life.

“In order to understand what it means to be a human, you have to study non humans to get a broader perspective,” McGraw said.

He said the structure of the class is lecture based with time for discussion.

McGraw recently lectured on the different types of new world monkeys and what characteristics comprise each individual group such as color, size, habitat, movement and breeding.

In his lecture, he told the class that monkeys are popular in Hollywood. Capuchins, which are new world monkeys, can be seen in the films “Outbreak” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.”

“With Dr. McGraw’s presentation and lecture style, you are able to ask questions whenever you like and really get involved in class,” Scholl said.

According to the syllabus, a student’s final grade is based on three exams and a paper to be presented orally.

“Students essentially write the final,” McGraw said. “After presentations, students turn in questions that comprise the final.”

McGraw makes the class fun by telling jokes about animals and personal stories. He said he hopes students will come away from his class with a appreciation for the diversity of primates.

“I have never had a class with Dr. McGraw before, but I have loved his lectures so far and his animation and enthusiasm with the material,” Scholl said. ” He really engages the class and brings a wealth of knowledge. If I was not graduating I would definitely take another class with him.”

Courtney Donnelly-Boyce, a senior in anthropology, said her favorite thing about the class is McGraw’s physical imitation of the primates. She said he is very knowledgeable and succinct without being dry.

She also said students probably should take an introductory course on primates before taking this class.