Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba in a scene from Wicked, looking into the camera with a slight smile

‘Wicked’ Will Explore Oz’s Most Prestigious University

When the trailer for Wicked dropped, sharp-eyed fans found another bit of Wicked media floating around the internet: a website inviting people to apply to Shiz University. But what exactly is Shiz?

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First off, what is Wicked? The new musical from Universal Pictures is based on a hit Broadway show, which in turn is based on a novel by author Gregory Maguire. Wicked reimagines the world of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. In Wicked, the witch gains a name—Elphaba Thropp—and a backstory that turns her into a sympathetic and misunderstood heroine.

In Wicked, a young Elphaba (Cynthia Erivo) travels to the prestigious Shiz University to study sorcery and other subjects. Once there, Elphaba meets the beautiful and popular Galinda Upland (Ariana Grande), destined to become Glinda, the Good Witch. As Elphaba and Galinda form an uneasy friendship at Shiz, they both begin to take on the identities that will define them in The Wizard of Oz. Wicked also stars Jeff Goldblum as Oz, and Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible.

Who is Madame Morrible? She’s the dean of Shiz University, and as she explains in a video on the promo website that invites moviegoers to “apply” to the university, Shiz offers courses in subjects like literature, linguification, and sorcery.

Shiz University has a long history in Wicked lore

The Wicked film adaptation didn’t come up with Shiz. The Broadway musical didn’t make it up, either. Instead, Shiz dates all the way back to Gregory Maguire’s 1995 fantasy novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

In Wicked, Shiz is a revered and cosmopolitan university, welcoming students from all corners of Oz. Once there, Elphaba meets talking animals, munchkins, and other members of Oz’s many peoples.

However, Shiz is also the site of classism and cliquishness. Wealthy students enjoy an elevated status with private living quarters and personal chaperones called Amas, while poorer students are relegated to group dorms. Plus, the different colleges at Shiz employ sexism and rivalries to keep students in rigid hierarchies.

How will the Wicked film portray Shiz University? Judging from the trailer, Elphaba is in for a magical adventure—and enough drama to fill a textbook.

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>