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Classes To Take Before You Die: Spring 2020 Edition

You’re in lecture, you look around…to your right, Johnson Jayson is trying to fit four back to back classes in one day; to your left, Barney Ard is trying to take 21 credits at once. Yes. It’s that time of year again. 

You might not know this, but there are a lot of Bwoggers. Out of these Bwoggers, some of them like their classes. Out of those Bwoggers, some of them love their classes enough to say that it would be their greatest regret if they had not taken these classes before they died.

Are you currently trying to build your class schedule? Are you an upperclassman but you still haven’t taken a class that changed your life? Are you a freshman and you already don’t know what to take? Are you wondering if all college classes are just monotonous and all professors just read off of a textbook? The answer to that question is probably yes, but here are a few classes that we recommend.

Race and Ethnicity Studies: Visionary Medicine: Race, Health, and Speculative Fiction, Sayantani Dasgupta

“You mostly watch movies, but there are some novels/comic books/drama and you read a lot of really interesting theory. The class had one of the best dynamics I’ve experienced in my time at Columbia and Professor Dasgupta is one of the kindest, most caring and most knowledgeable professors I’ve had. She’ll make you work but she’s so good at what she does and the syllabus absolutely slaps so it really doesn’t feel like work at all.”

History: U.S. Era of Civil War and Reconstruction, Stephanie Mccurry

“Subject matter is exactly what the class name delineates, but Professor Mccurry really and truly infuses the class with such an intellectual life and abundance. She does an incredibly fantastic job approaching the class as an integration between recounting political/war developments and also examining the very real, very human experiences on the ground during the civil war. She also knows her stuff and is not afraid to call out the factual inaccuracy of civil war revisionists. The primary texts assigned are often profoundly moving and insightful, and as a bonus, the TAs are fantastic and making the class less intimidating if you’re not a history major/concentrator.”

Women’s Studies: Women and Health, Rebecca Jordan-Young

“The content is so interesting and she is so passionate about teaching—the class uses scientific studies and gender theory to unpack women’s health. The class takes an intersectional approach and the lectures are based on weekly readings. She is a great lecturer and does a good job explaining the importance and significance of unbiased scientific studies. She also talks about her own experiences and uses film to further explain readings and topics. Not to mention she brings in a lot of amazing guest lecturers! ”

Education: Educational Foundations, Erika Kitzmiller (or really anything with Erika Kitzmiller)

“She is an icon and a fantastic professor and person! She gives a lot of reading (at least in Ed foundations) but they are all really interesting. The class has totally changed the way I think about education and schooling. Erika is brilliant and has helped everyone grow so much as a student/thinker. I would recommend this class especially if you are interested in education, but also if you are just generally interested in thinking/learning about systems of inequality and maybe fixing them… take this class!”

EnglishShakespeare I, Lauren Robertson

“This class teaches the first half of Shakespeare’s works while incorporating the tensions of Early Modern England and reflecting on how these tensions influenced the central themes of the plays. Professor Robertson’s lectures always offer a fresh perspective, and she’s happy to answer questions over email and at office hours. We read one play per week, so the class has a fast but enjoyable pace. Professor Robertson also allows us to partake in a weekly discussion section, which will replace the grade of a final exam. The discussion sections are led by the TAs, both of which operate in a relaxed and intellectual manner. The grades for this course stem from a short essay, a midterm, a slightly longer essay, and a participation grade from the discussion section (or the final exam if you choose to take it).”

History: History of US-East Asia Relations, Lien-Hang Nguyen

“This class covers the history of the United States’ relationships with East Asian countries. The class mostly focuses on China and Japan, but it also integrates the conflicts involving the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Dr. Nguyen is an incredible lecturer; She’s ecstatic about each topic in class and laces fun details into the main storyline (like how FDR had a C average, or how LBJ used his height to intimidate people). US-East Asia Relations is a 4 credit course, so there are two lectures a week and a mandatory discussion section. The workload consists of assigned chapters from three secondary sources for the lectures and several primary sources for the discussion. The primary sources are interesting to read because they are usually diary entries from East Asian students, that were about the same age as us at the time of their writing. The grades for this course stem from a participation grade from the discussion section, 2 essays, Exam I (first half of the course), and an Exam II (second half of the course). There’s no final exam.”

French: French Language, Society, and Culture through Paris, Alexandra Borer

“This class makes you feel so cultured. Alexandra has a great anecdotal style of teaching, where the class converses its way through the history of Paris from ancient times to modern-day. (She is also Parisian herself, so it’s authentique.) The assignments are really interesting and leave a lot of room for creativity: in one essay, I got to assume the voice of a 17th-century peasant girl, lost along the banks of the Seine, and last week I got to make a protest sign FOR A GRADE.  You study everything from the literary classics, like Baudelaire and Rabelais, to songs by Josephine Baker and Grands Corps Malade, to ad campaigns for Perrier, to maps of the Parisian Metro. She doesn’t shy away from the grittier parts of Paris’s past and present, which is really refreshing. I feel like I should be smoking a cigarette at a sidewalk café when I’m in this class but in the best way possible. Also, Alexandra ends our classes by saying, “Be happy, speak French; be French, speak happy” which I would like to get as a tattoo. ”

Middle East: Cannabis and Culture, Ibrahim El Houdaiby

“It’s a class about weed. Enough said! JK, it’s actually a super interesting class that has taught me so much about the history of Egypt, the Middle East, and narcotics legislation. Did you know that tea used to be classified as a drug? I didn’t, but then I took this class! ”

Physics: Intro to Mechanics & Thermo, Abhay Pasupathy

“Fulfill your requirement with a legend. The prof commences class with “friends, romans” and swings one-ton wrecking balls near students’ faces — the two to three demonstration per class make the trek to Pupin tolerable. Your typical physics intro class, but more sarcastic, interactive, and manageable without too much textbook scouring.”

Neuroscience: Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience Lab, Kara Pham

“Technically you have to take this class with the lecture, which is led by Russel Romeo, but I am recommending the lab because I enjoyed the lab and Professor Pham SO MUCH. You start the year off by dissecting a sheep’s brain, then you look at rat behavior– both in reaction to caffeine and in reaction to estrogen. Yes, you literally watch rats have sex in this class. This class is not for the faint-hearted because at the end of the semester the brains of the rats are extracted, sliced, and analyzed. It’s also not easy, but it was really rewarding and Kara Pham was honestly the best professor I’ve had at this school so far!”

A general classroom that happens to be Chinese via Public Domain Pictures


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