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Back to School: Seven Stars Hit the Books

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What do you do when you have everything you could possibly want in life—including fame and fortune? Why, go back to school of course!


Some celebrities view school the way most parents wish their children would—a new and challenging outlet to tackle a subject matter outside of their comfort zones. This fall welcomes a slew of celebs hankering to tackle their subjects of choice.


1. Jerry O’Connell, Southwestern Law School
O’Connell just couldn’t be content with his hot wife, Rebecca Romijn, and beautiful little twin girls. Rather than play Mr. Mom while Romijn tackles her latest role in ABC’s upcoming Eastwick, the thirty-five-year-old plans to give law school a whirl. He’s currently enrolled at Los Angeles’ Southwestern Law School. 


“I had always planned on continuing my education at some point … and I’m home all day with the girls, I figured I would take a couple of classes at night,” O’Connell told US Weekly. “It was either that or play video games until 2 a.m.” 


Seeing as O’Connell didn’t really mention any upcoming acting jobs for himself, law school is probably the next best bet over that video game console. 


2. Emma Watson, Brown University
Ah, little Hermione is officially off to college!


More bookworm than potions master, Watson managed to land herself among the Ivy League elite in between all those Harry Potter movies. The actress is enrolled this fall at Brown University in Rhode Island to study literature.


“It sounds so geeky, but I really do like studying and reading, and if I’m not working on Harry Potter, then my greatest relaxation is to sit with a book. That’s how I escape stress—in literature,” Watson told Paste Magazine back in July. “I always have several books on the go at any one moment. I think that reading is just about the only similarity I have with Hermione, if you ask me.”


Rumor had it the nineteen-year-old freshman arrived in a helicopter for orientation this month, but the actress has said she hopes her stardom doesn’t put a damper on the kind of college experience any average student would expect. And fear not, Watson fans, the student says she’s not giving up acting, but will instead consider roles in between class breaks.


3. Ashley Judd, Harvard University
She’s the Judd who didn’t get into the family business and could give Bono a run for his money.


While her mom and sister—Naomi and Wynonna—are big country singing stars, the forty-one-year-old actress is best known for roles in films like Kiss the Girls and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. But in the last few years, this Judd has also gained attention for the humanitarian work that led to her enrollment at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.


Judd is registered for Harvard University’s Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA) program which is designed to “increase the knowledge and skills of well established, high-performing professionals, who seek to enhance their public service careers or to move from the private sector to a leadership position in either the public or non-profit sectors,” according to the program’s Web site.


Judd’s previous education included a stint at the University of Kentucky where she was a Phi Beta Kappa and Honors Program student majoring in French with four minors. And while Judd continues to act, she’s also served on the board of directors for healthcare nonprofit Population Services International since 2004 and was Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS, the organization’s HIV education and prevention program.


4. James Franco, Columbia University
Continued success hasn’t kept James Franco away from the schoolbooks.


The Pineapple Express star and UCLA graduate (he majored in English, focusing on creative writing) has continued his studies at Columbia University’s School of Arts where he’s pursuing his MFA degree in writing.


“About three years ago, I was pretty unhappy,” the thirty-year-old told Extra last December. “I had done some movies that I wasn’t pleased with. I wasn’t satisfied with acting … I got to a point where I needed something more … Finally, I came to think that going to school would be the answer … and it was great.”

Even with his schoolwork load, Franco has no less than four films in post-production for 2010, including Howl, where he portrays famed beat poet Allen Ginsberg. He’s also sold a collection of short stories to the Scribner imprint of Simon & Schuster. A great actor with brains and unrelenting good looks, Franco is the ultimate star student.


5. Christy Turlington, Columbia University
Franco isn’t the only actor roaming the halls of this prominent New York City university. Former model and NYU grad Christy Turlington is currently earning her master’s degree at Columbia in public health.


In between her studies, the forty-year-old, who graced the “Age Issue” cover of Vogue this past August, is making the documentary No Woman, No Cry following mothers and the people who treat them in Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Guatemala.


Turlington hopes to use her degree to help these types of women get the proper medical care they need.


“Now that I’m forty and getting this degree, I might be on the cusp of the career that I always wanted,” Turlington told Vogue. “Maternal deaths mean there are very serious things going on under the radar about women’s status. International health care reform is moving toward the American model, but it’s broken.”


Continuing her schooling will allow Turlington, who’s married to actor/director Ed Burns, to use her fame and education to conquer her goals.


6. Tony Danza, English teacher at Northeast High School
Danza, who’s built an acting career playing loveable tough guys in shows like Taxi and Who’s the Boss? is taking his act to the classroom—as an incoming tenth-grade English teacher.


Danza was given the all clear by proper officials, allowing him to film an A&E reality show entitled, Teach, at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School. The fifty-eight-year-old has his own bachelor’s degree in history education from Iowa’s University of Dubuque. Utilizing his boxing background, Danza is also expected to help with extracurricular activities like sports, as well as school plays and the prom. 


Danza recently said he was “humbled, honored, and so grateful that the city of Philadelphia has decided to let us try this. I have always wanted to teach, so this is a gift for me. I will work hard to make sure I don’t let anyone down, especially the kids.” Sounds exactly like something Boss’s Tony Micelli would say. 


7. Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, United Theological Seminary
Simply known as Omarosa, the former Apprentice contestant has made a name for herself through reality television as a villain on shows like Donald Trump’s reality competition and VH1’s The Surreal Life.


But a funny thing happened between reality TV turns—Omarosa found religion. The one-time political consultant begins her studies this fall at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where she will begin pursuing her doctorate of ministry.


Classes here focus on the Old Testament, New Testament, and History of Christianity. The thirty-five-year-old will also tackle a master’s equivalency workload that includes forty hours ministering to the sick and dying at hospitals.


Omarosa told the Dayton Daily News that she wants to continue missionary work in Haiti. She’s already worked on getting school supplies for Haitian girls and helping women turn their artwork skills into jobs. She plans to return to Haiti in the fall, this time using her skills and expertise for good instead of evil.


There’s something refreshing about news of celebrities trying to better themselves instead of the usual tabloid gossip that comes with their career choice. So let this be a lesson to those kids who want to emulate stars like Spider-Man’s best friend or Hermione Granger—school really is cool!

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