One-Unit Weekend Courses Allow Students to Earn One Unit in Two Days

Forensic science. Crime and film. Wrongful convictions. Restorative justice. These are just some of the fascinating topics covered in SDSU’s One-Unit Weekend courses, which allow students to quickly and affordably earn the extra unit they may need to graduate. Each course is only $221 and meets two times — typically a Friday and the following Saturday — for a total of 15 classroom hours.

Emily August

Emily August

Graduate student Emily August didn’t even need the credit, but signed up for Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigations out of sheer interest.

“I was not disappointed,” says August. “Professor DeMaria’s class was immensely fascinating.”

Instructor Anthony DeMaria is the assistant crime laboratory director of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and shares his personal experiences as a local crime scene investigator and forensic scientist. Students get a rare inside look at the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide of 1997, and the Santana High School shooting in 2001.

“Students also get a feel for the physical, mental and emotional challenges of a career in forensics,” says DeMaria.

“Professor DeMaria is clearly invested in the success of his students,” says August. “After the course ended, we emailed because I was interviewing in his field and he provided me with resources and advice. I would highly recommend this class to anyone.”

Anthony DeMaria

Anthony DeMaria

Graduate Kylee Helmke also speaks highly of one-unit offerings. “These were some of my favorite courses at SDSU,” she says. “I was able to make connections and learn a ton in a short and convenient weekend course. They were well structured and the perfect balance of lecture and discussion.”

Helmke took Foundations of Restorative Principles and Trauma-Informed Care, and says, “These courses provided me with knowledge, resources, and connections that I still utilize today. The professors were incredibly knowledgeable and personable, and I enjoyed learning in this setting. I would absolutely recommend these courses to anyone — whether you’re fulfilling units or simply taking them for your own benefit.”

“I wanted to learn about restorative conferences and restorative circles as a strategy for helping resolve conflict in a peaceful way,” says Deborah Sadler, who took The Cultural Life of Crime: Popular Culture and Criminal Justice. “The instructor was excellent. He gave us examples and showed us films that provided models. Then we had the opportunity to role-play in a mock restorative circle.” The course is taught by Dr. Paul Kaplan, associate professor of criminal justice in SDSU’s School of Public Affairs.

Professor James Murren’s course, What is International Development?, addresses the theories and practices that are used every day to address poverty, hunger, lack of water, and other challenges experienced by billions of people.

“Professor Murren has real-world experience that he applied to this course to make it very interesting!” says Kaitlin Mayfield. “I definitely feel more informed now about best practices in regard to international development, and I loved how it was a quick and easy way to get my one credit I needed to graduate.”

This semester, Professor Murren’s course is Friday, March 1, 3–9 pm and Saturday, March 9, 9 am–6 pm.

Justin Brooks and Brian Banks

Attorney Justin Brooks and client Brian Banks, who was wrongfully convicted of rape at age 17.

Another popular and socially relevant course is Wrongful Convictions taught by Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law.

“There are few things in life that are worse than being in prison for something you didn’t do,” says Brooks, who co-founded the CIP with Professor Jan Stiglitz of the CWSL as the result of a 21-year-old woman on death row in Illinois.

“I was shocked to find out that she had been convicted and sentenced to death on a plea bargain in a case with compelling evidence of innocence,” says Brooks. “I investigated the case with law students and we were able to get her death sentence reversed. That case made me realize there were innocent people in prison who needed help and that the best way to train students to be great lawyers was to work with them on real cases.”

“It was by far the best class I have taken at San Diego State,” says student Jade Settoon. “Professor Brooks offered refreshing viewpoints regarding our criminal justice system while ensuring that his students were informed and entertained. I HIGHLY recommend his class to any and all majors. He is profound and the class is a 10.”

Brooks answers some questions about his course and his career, in this blog story about wrongful convictions.

Jeffrey McIllwain in Baja

Dr. Jeffrey McIllwain (below ground, left) and his graduate students assessing damage on a road outside Mexicali caused by the July 2010 Baja, California earthquake.

Another fascinating and relevant course is Jeffrey McIllwain’s Introduction to Emergency Management. A professor in SDSU’s Criminal Justice department, he is the co-founder and former co-director of the graduate program in Homeland Security. McIllwain notes that two aspects of his course consistently surprise students. “One, when they take a personal inventory of their home, car, and work emergency preparedness kits and realize they would be chum within a couple of days if the zombie apocalypse hit. And two, when they do a formal assessment of hazards inherent to the physical areas in which they live, go to school, and work. They also freak out a bit when we discuss the volcanoes active in North America that they did not know existed, such as the Yellowstone Caldera and supervolcano. Yes, Yellowstone National Park sits squarely over a giant, active volcano.”

Learn more about McIllwain and his course, Introduction to Emergency Management, in this blog story.

Particularly relevant to current events is Professor John Joseph Cleary’s one-unit course, Impeachment, Removal, and Special Counsel. Students gain a firm understanding of how the processes of impeachment and removal (25th Amendment) work. Topics include the powers of the president, divine right versus rule of law leadership, presidential immunity from indictment, and an historical overview of previous impeachments.

In addition to Professor James Murren’s What is International Development?, current upcoming one-unit courses are Called to Serve: Bridging the Gap from Graduation to Careers in Public Service taught by Patricia Frosio (Friday, March 8, 3–9 pm and Saturday, March 16, 8 am–5 pm), and Gender Violence in the United States taught by Desire Anastasia (Friday, April 12, 3–9 pm and Saturday, April 20, 8 am–5 pm).

For the most current schedule of One-Unit Weekend courses, which are offered through the College of Extended Studies, visit