Some celebrities go back to school after they become famous — and some teach college courses.
More than just “stunt casting,” though, these celebrities take their roles as “professors” very seriously. They hold office hours, design full curriculums and throw themselves head-first into the work they do for the next generation of leaders.
Sometimes, too, the celebrities who teach these college courses are living legends all on their own. For example, AfroTech recently reported about Grandmaster Flash, the Hip-Hop pioneer, teaching courses at the University of Buffalo. He’s also an artist in residency at the school in upstate New York.
“The residency at UB gives me a chance to tell Hip-Hop’s whole story. The sights. The sounds. The places and the moments,” he said, according to the University of Buffalo. “It’s important that we get this history right. For the next generation to take music and art in new directions, they have to know where that music and art came from, who made it and how.”
But it’s not just Hip-Hop pioneers that have gone from one lab to the other. From former presidents to “America’s Next Top Model,” these 12 celebrities are living proof that teaching college courses is part of their greater purpose in life.
1. Barack Obama
Before he became the POTUS and a Hollywood power player, Barack Obama was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago’s school of law. He taught there from 1992 until 2004 (which is when he went into the United States Senate). Professor Obama was noted for his love of basketball while he taught at the University — so much so, in fact, that professional dude-bro Tucker Max talked about playing against him on the court in one of his best-selling books.
2. Dr. Maya Angelou
In 1973, the late Dr. Maya Angelou taught a course at Wake Forest University. She enjoyed it so much that she became a professor there. The award-winning poet and activist remained a professor at the acclaimed North Carolina university until shortly before her passing in 2014.
3. Bun B
In 2011, Bun B began teaching classes at Rice University in Houston, TX. Bun developed a Religion and Hip-Hop Culture course for Rice’s Humanities department. Since that time, the class has become widely popular, with enrollment going from 125 students to more than 250.
“I feel like being able to teach at a college university is a perfect example of showing how hip-hop can influence the minds of the next generation,” Bun told MTV.
4. Spike Lee
In 1991, the Academy Award-winning director began teaching courses at Harvard. From there, he moved to New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, where he became the artistic director in 2002. Spike Lee is also a tenured professor at the acclaimed university, giving a whole new meaning to “School Daze.”
Speaking of NYU, Questlove of The Roots taught a class about Classic Albums there in 2012, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Surely, “Things Fall Apart” was part of the curriculum.
6. Oprah Winfrey
In the 1990s, Oprah — together with her longtime partner, Stedman Graham — taught a Dynamics of Leadership course at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, the Chicago Tribune reports.
7. Keshia Knight Pulliam
As AfroTech previously reported, the former “Cosby Show” actress partnered with Now & Later candies to teach at Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Clark Atlanta University as part of their #RecognizeTheChew series.
“I look forward to partnering with Now and Later on this program and sharing my personal and professional experience with the #RecognizeTheChew Class in Session students,” Pulliam said in a press release. “This next generation of HBCU leaders are resilient, and I am honored to provide any helpful nuggets to help fuel their entrepreneurial passions.”
In 2013, Harvard University honored Nas by establishing the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, according to Rolling Stone.
“I created it for people who love music but who are also critical of it,” he said. “That music represents our youth, the same youth you want to protect. You have to understand them, understand the music they listen to.”
9. Kanye West
Yeezy’s adventures in professorship didn’t start for an auspicious reason, unfortunately. In 2014, he taught fashion classes at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College. But he did so as part of a community service sentence he received, Billboard reports.
10. Tyra Banks
In 2017, Stanford University students began signing up en masse for the former “top model’s” courses. About 25 MBA students at the graduate school of business signed up for the “Project You: Building and Extending your Personal Brand” course.
Rapper IDK (Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge) launched the No Label Academy — a 10-day music business crash course at Harvard University curated for aspiring industry leaders with no prior experience or exposure.
As AfroTech previously reported, the Maryland rapper was said to handpick beginner musicians, managers, publicists, A&Rs and others in starting industry roles from across the U.S. for the Harvard-based program.