Classes To Take Before You Die I Mean Graduate

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Registration officially lasts until the 28th! That gives you 6 days before classes even start and then 10 more to refresh SSOL every minute to get into Hiking. Bwog has received numerous requests and inquiries for the best classes to take at Columbia, and the obvious people to turn to are you, dearest readers. In the spirit of the Bucket List and Senior Wisdom, please leave nominations for the class you’d most encourage someone not to miss and why in the comments.

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  1. Anonymous

    Anything with Gareth Williams involving some form of literature, whether it's in English or Latin.

  2. Xavier

    Intermediate macro with xavier. AND answer the m&m peanut minute questions, theyre fun

  3. i am in love with

    james shapiro. take his shakespeare class and go to his office hours.

  4. Anonymous  

    anything with rosalind morris

  5. David Rosner  

    Social History of American Public Health. I hate reading with a passion but I legitimately loved this class. This man cares so much about his students. His office hrs are always packed. And he keeps in touch after everything is said and done.

  6. Islam

    with Peter Awn. He is hilarious, brilliant and fair. You will learn a ton of really interesting stuff and probably get a pretty decent grade too.

  7. David Vallancourt  

    For the science type he has Intro to EE which is a good fundamentals/Preprofessional course.

    For the non science type he has a course called the Digital Information Era, which leads to basic electronic literacy.

    Main point being that the man is a great instructor, with a great sense of humor making lecture attendance worthwhile.

    • I second that motion

      I took "The Digital Information Age" with him last semester. great guy, great class. learn some pretty cool techno-nerdy things. also, if you are even slightly mathematically/engineering(ly?) inclined this class will be a breeze if you show up and pay attention.

      • thirded!

        David Vallancourt is the man. Introduction to the Digital Information Age is everything the science requirement should be--an easy class taught by a great professor that teaches you some of the essentials of modern science.

  8. Anonymous

    Any suggestions for Global Core req?

  9. Kenneth Jackson

    Hands down, History of the City of New York is one of the most useful classes. You'll learn so much about city around you and Jackson himself is incredibly entertaining.

  10. Anonymous

    May I make a personal request for EASY but fun and interesting classes that are being offered next semester? I need one more class to fill out my schedule...

    • senior

      Graphic Engineering w/ Jose. Guy is so cool I forgot his last name. Its 1 day a week, 4 hrs, but dont let that scare you. You're only there like 2 usually.

      This is the class: Show up, watch him design some stuff on a computer, you repeat what he did on your own computer, you go home party, you get an A or A+. I got my 1st (and probably only) A+.

      Don't let the name scare you. No engineering background needed. All you need to do is be able to operate a computer as well as a 12 year old.

      One project that does take a few hours. NO FINAL. Boom. His last name is Sanchez. He so awesome I made myself remember.

  11. Anonymous

    Any class with Mark Lilla. If you have a chance to plan and get Lit Hum/CC with him, prepare for the ride of your life. If not, take a seminar.

  12. Anonymous


  13. Does it really matter?

    every class here is a fucking rip-off at around $1280 per credit whereas you read the same damn textbooks and the prof goes over the same damn textbook-company-provided powerpoint slides in class at any cheaper state school and/or community college.

    why am i here then? for the degree, the network, the ego boost, the prestige, and the connections to help me achieve something bigger than just a middle class salary.

    • Anonymous

      Well, considering Columbia tuition costs the university twice what they charge their students, I'm hesitant to call classes "a fucking rip-off."

      • huh?

        Columbia tuition costs the university twice what they charge their students? I don't think Columbia tuition costs Columbia anything; in fact, I think it's dubious whether that statement makes sense at all . Perhaps you meant each student costs the university twice what the university asks for in tuition? And, although we've all heard that, let's get real here--those numbers have been played with. Too bad they're so eagerly swallowed whole.

    • And

      I think you forgot to mention that Columbia also allows you to meet intellectually curious, high achieving, and inspirational peers such as yourself.

    • dude

      if you feel that way, it sucks, but i would try taking some different classes. i have not felt that way about the majority of my professors/classes, and normally i feel just the opposite. take foner's civil war class - it won't disappoint

    • So transfer  

      if you don't like Columbia! It won't be the same experience, obviously, but maybe this isn't the right school for you, if you're attracted to classes that you find to be uninspiring.

      • ehh

        It's not just Columbia...so why transfer out? It's the same problem everywhere else at all elite private colleges. The non-elite private colleges are even worse. And state-schools don't offer me as many opportunities as Columbia does...but ultimately, the academics is the same, just different difficulty levels in midterm exams.

        In my 3.5 years here at CU, I have NEVER EVER EVER had a professor who didn't use a powerpoint slide where he just read off the slide and took some questions here and there. Nothing I couldn't have done myself.

        Some of my classes - the "professor" was even a PhD STUDENT....tell me now, why am I paying $1280/credit (which is the TOTAL amount for one class at any state school) for a PhD STUDENT to teach me an advanced core course in my major (sciences) if it wasn't just for the Columbia prestige?

        • CC '11  

          What classes have you been taking? I don't think I've had any classes that did that?

        • Sounds  

          like you just got a bad draw. I have had only one prof use power points since I have been here.

        • OK, but  

          You just said Columbia offers you certain opportunities you can't get at a state school, so even assuming that the classes here are no different (which is of course not the case, but seems to be your view), there's a reason you're paying for a Columbia experience. If you truly believed that it didn't make a difference, you'd transfer. The fact you haven't kind of answers your own question!

        • Dude, Seriously

          What classes are you taking that involve Powerpoints? Math-y, science-y stuff? Even within that, though, I've only had two professor use textbook-provided slides. And, outside of that, I've never had a professor use Powerpoint. If slides are really that bothersome to you, I'd suggest switching disciplines, or, perhaps, trying Barnard classes.

        • Anonymous

          Woe is me, 3.5 years and all I have to show for it is all this learning I have under my belt BUT I had to do it ALL ON MY OWN! No one helped me. No one cared. I sat in front of one power point after another and withered away. God if you are out there please give me a REAL teacher; you know one that is supposed to know; not some idiot PHD student who is only pretending to know. I won't be happy until I'm convinced I learned something from someone who truly knew what they were talking about. P.S. Send me a sign that this is a real teacher and not some phony, maybe s/he can write something on my papers like "Best Paper EVER."

  14. Really?

    Ken Jackson +1
    Ros Morris -1

  15. Calc 2, 3, & Intro to Stochastic Processes

    really i think 100% of you should enrich your academic Columbia experience with those courses.

    but mainly so all you liberal arts dumbasses can get shitty grades so you bring me closer to an A+ according to the curves.

    • senior

      Im doin a joint CC/SEAS program and I somewhat agree. Calc 2 I disagree. Stochastic Processes on the other hand is frickin sweet - the professor is straight out of TMNT.


      For those liberal artsy farts who don't want to get a C (or probably lower) in a real engineering class see the above reviews of David Vallancourts "Digital Information Age". You'll get the easy grade you're lookin for, but learn some cool stuff too.

      And just to set the record straight, I'm graduating with a B.A. (aka not an engineer) but here's the straight dope: ENGINEERS ARE WAY SMARTER. Don't worry though, we can write poetry and talk about nice things.

      • artsy fartsy liberal arts major

        ENGINEERS ARE WAY SMARTER!!!!!!!!!!!


      • CC '11  

        ...so you're doing 3-2 and getting both a BA and a BS and just talking shit?

        (PS. I've met plenty of people in SEAS who are not "way smarter" than their CC counterparts. Not to say I haven't met some absolutely brilliant people in both. I think the smartest ones I've met are probably the science kids in CC.)

        (also, it's vaguely refreshing to see people badmouthing someone besides GS and Barnard. Just sayin'.)

        (also, one of my recaptcha words is upside down. what?)

    • Dude

      I could've gone that route because I was good at math...but no I did humanities, and I'm glad I did so a liberal arts dumbass like me could avoid being in class with someone like you.

  16. Anonymous

    Beyond the Solar System. If you have any interest at all in astronomy, it's absolutely fascinating.

  17. anon

    took that shit (calc 2, 3) in HIGH SCHOOL succkaaaaaa who's the liberalarts dumbass now?

  18. cc'11  

    samuel k. roberts in the history department. really intelligent and kind person with interesting classes.

  19. Anonymous

    Any class with Erik Gray, Nicholas Dames, or Andrew Delbanco.

    • Anonymous

      Seconding Delbanco, he's really wonderful. Also, Rashid Khalidi's History of the Modern Middle East is a great Major Cultures/Global Core class if you're looking for one.

    • Anonymous

      Prof. Dames FTW!!!

      • Nicholas Dames is brilliant

        seriously brilliant. i sort of accidentally took his victorian novel class last semester and i'm so so happy i did. i can't say i'm really a huge fan of dickens, thackeray, OR eliot, but dames was so amazing and made the material so interesting that i almost didn't mind the massive amounts of reading that the course required. sigh, i love him.

    • Anonymous

      seconding Erik Gray!

    • Anonymous

      After having taken (I think) all the lecture courses Erik Gray teaches, I have to say, he's fantastic. Maybe slightly better with the Victorian poets than with the Romantics, but RoPo and VicPo are both amazing, and I've never seen someone read the fine details of a poem as thoroughly as him. He pulled out some crazy analysis of "sh" sounds in some poem and my mind was blown. Plus he's hilarious. I think he referred to some book by Walter Pater as some variation of "shit" like seven times in one class (which in itself isn't funny, it was how he paused before the word and then over-articulated every sound). The class isn't easy if you're not used to writing English papers in college, though.

      Also, JOHN MCWHORTER. Most entertaining professor I've ever had, hands down. Every class is half-comedy routine, half-lecture, and still by the end of the semester you feel like you've learned a billion things you didn't know before. Great professor.

  20. nerd

    in terms of sciences:
    Immunology with Dr. Mowshowitz (male version); really interesting and the prof is great
    I'm taking Virology this semester - It looks really interesting - hope it'll remain that way for the rest of the semester!

    in terms of English:
    I'd suggest Chaucer with Prof. Strohm, but he retired, I think :( Past that, anything with Shapiro.
    Also really enjoyed Critical Reading, Critical Writing with Prof. Mendelson; he's got very involving lectures (easy grader too, according to a friend who took a seminar with him)

    • Anonymous

      I took Virology last year. It's a tough class, and the professor(s) talked in a monotone, but I definitely learned a lot. The exams are long and encompass a whole lot of memorization, so study hard for that class.

    • Anonymous

      XY mowshowitz for Immuno was def. awesome class, but i think that is only given in the Fall. Gen. Physio with galafiankis is also good and I think that's given in the Spring. Virology was a pain, I agree with the accurate description of racaniello guy.

  21. anything

    at barnard....the 9 ways of knowing professors are all gr8!

  22. Anonymous

    Michael Como's Intro to East Asian Buddhism was a lot of fun. He's an entertaining professor with a lot of enthusiasm for his teaching. Readings are interesting, though not light. He doesn't teach using notes! Great guy.

  23. foner

    take anything with eric foner! the radical tradition in america was fantastic, despite the occasional senile comment (ok they were actually sometimes super interesting) from one of the many lifetime learners who sat in on the lectures.

    or take one of jill shapiro's classes. hidden gem of columbia. and culpa golden nugget.

  24. Anonymous

    Jazz and the Literary Imagination with Brent Edwards. Great music, great readings. And I even got to write my final paper on Louis Armstrong's bowel movements.

    If you're not a senior yet, take a class with Rosalyn Deutsch (art history) or Christia Mercer (philosophy). Neither of them are teaching undergrad courses/at all this semester though.

  25. LoveMeSomeDiodes

    Currently a junior, and Intro to Electrical Engineering is so far the best class I have taken at Columbia.

  26. any class with  

    Lila Abu-Lughod or Beck Young -- both Gender Studies.

    • any class with 2  

      oh yeah, i took "Women and Gender Studies in the Muslim World" with Abu-Lughod and it was amazing. I never thought I'd learn so much. Beck Young is just amazing and everyone should know about here amazingness.

  27. Anonymous

    Cultural History of Japanese Monsters with Pflugfelder and ANYTHING at all with the lovely Farah Griffin!

  28. Spanish Dept.

    Professor Francisco Rosales-Varo. The man is a GOD. Amazing Spaniard - sympathetic, very cute personality, and uses lots of youtube in addition to being extremely knowledgeable overall. He usually teaches a few language courses as well as a content one. Take any/all.

  29. Econ

    No one mentioned Principles of Economics with Gulati yet? Awesome class. A little economics knowledge is good for everyone, and Gulati is an amazing lecturer.

  30. hmm

    Take Dr. Mowshowitz's intro bio (c2005) if you thought columbia classes were way too easy. it's fun and interesting. You will get A if you are smart.

  31. totally

    Foner, Foner, Foner. Anything with him. His Civil War class was the highlight of my week. It goes into the global cotton market at the time and other things that you never heard of influencing the war before. Soooo good. That and Macroecon with Xavier and Nathan's Chinese Foreign Policy. Sadly Bernstein is retired and no longer teaching Chinese Politics. Jervis is pretty great too as a class

  32. Ahhh!

    Roma! Thomas Roma's Photo I - do it; you will not regret it

    • thomas roma  

      is a phenomenal professor. he's also great fun in office hours; he has a (usually unorthodox and radical) opinion about everything!

    • Anonymous

      Roma's class was awesome, but I'd only encourage you to take it if you're really serious about film photography as art. Too many people in that class just took facebook-y photos of their friends.

      As far as visual arts, sculpture with Jon Kessler is also amazing.

      Also, a little secret: any class that Rirkrit Tiravanija teaches (I think he only does fall) will actually be a bunch of field trips around the city. And you'll do no work, meet a bunch of artists, and get an A+ (only A+ I've ever gotten here). And he's just awesome.

  33. Anonymous

    Sociology with Khan. Unbelievably smart. Phenomenal lecturer. Nice guy. His intro class was the best course I've taken.

  34. ehh

    n my 3.5 years here at CU, I have NEVER EVER EVER had a professor who didn’t use a powerpoint slide where he just read off the slide and took some questions here and there. Nothing I couldn’t have done myself.
    Some of my classes – the “professor” was even a PhD STUDENT….tell me now, why am I paying $1280/credit (which is the TOTAL amount for one class at any state school) for a PhD STUDENT to teach me an advanced core course in my major (sciences) if it wasn’t just for the Columbia prestige?

    • k.l.  

      Stop whining. Science professors want to give you the mass information you need to know. Powerpoint presentations will (a) help YOU understand material (b) help the professor understand how to approach teaching it.

      If you want to encounter a professor that doesn't read off powerpoints slides and has discussions, then get out of the rock you're living under, do some looking, and take some other classes.

      • ehh

        I know. So then what is the difference between Columbia professors who read off slides, and a Penn State professor who reads off the same slideshow given by the textbook company?

        Just sayin'. You can't possibly be here for the "superior" education. You're here for the prestige and you know it. The education is the same everywhere.

        • Anonymous

          you're also here for the resources such prestige brings. we get amazing lectures, great connections, and wonderful resources if only you want to look for them. it's true that science can be a different, more democratic ball game, but with liberal arts students, i can say the resources, class selection, and quality of the professors here are well worth it.

          i am only a freshman at CC and i have not had a professor yet who read off of slides. all of my classes were small, the professors knew my name, and i had a great time. it's what you make of it.

        • science  

          What else do you expect for a science class? Everyone's going to sit around in a discussion section and discuss what they think about science? Hell no! You learn a shitload of background info in the lecture portion of the classes that informs the bench work you do in the lab. What do you think "real" science is like? It's not AP Bio, and the Columbia science classes adequately prepare you for it. Columbia's high academic quality matters when you go to office hours, when you help world-renowned professors with their research, and when you need a major adviser. If you want to call that "prestige" because it doesn't take place within the context of a lecture class, go ahead. But that's why you're paying for a Columbia education!

  35. Chad Kia!

    Chad Kia, if he still teachers there! Or am I messing with you??

  36. I guess not

    David Epstein.

    What, too soon?

  37. Anonymous  

    Brian Cole. Period.

  38. Anonymous

    Abstract Algebra with Dave Bayer. He's teaching Linear Algebra this semester, though, and I'm pretty sure it's already full. Look out for him in the future if he's teaching Abstract Algebra again.

  39. 104 comments later...

    A class with Stephen Massimilla if you want an English class. Fan-tas-tic. One of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. It's an absolute pleasure to listen to him talk, and if you're in his seminar he might even bake for you!

    Just don't expect to get too many words in yourself!

  40. Anonymous  

    James Leighton is a god. He has the power to make you love organic chemistry.

  41. CULPA-not?  

    these are all cool and helpful - for real....

    but does anyone have the authoritative word on CULPA? does it exist any more? or should i just give up on even trying to reach it?


  42. Anonymous

    Any suggestions for interesting/memorable history, political science, psychology, or religion classes? Maybe a class that isn't too intensive but redeeming?

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