This is sort of like a science course for non-science folks. If you took chemistry in high school, you’ll be fine. The class is broken up into three parts—the layers of soil, the differences between soil across regions and the more chemical aspects of soil. The instructor, Kevin McSweeney, is an amiable old British gent who adores what he talks about. The tests are all lecture based, so as long as you’re in class you’re fine. The lecture hall is fun—primo view of Observatory, with soil diagrams all along the walls.
Class specs: Soil Sci/Geog/Env St 230, 3 credits, physical science, intermediate, open to students with Soil Sci 301
Introduction to the Middle East
This class gives a good overview of a very complicated region. I came out of it being able to actually understand news articles about the Middle East, which is why I took it. I’m really glad I took it, and I think students should take it if they do not know anything about the Middle East. Professor Loewenstein can at times come off as biased in lecture, so I would suggest students do their own research about the other side of the story after taking the class. Midterm and take-home final.
Class specs: LCA 266, 3 credits, humanities or social science, intermediate, open to freshmen
History of Mass Communication
Professor Baughman offers students a chance to learn about the rise of news media in American journalism. While this might not sound like the most interesting topic UW-Madison has to offer, Baughman’s quirky dance and witty sense of humor will keep you motivated to attend this class every Monday, Wednesday and even Friday. The class requires large amounts of reading, but if you are at all interested in history, they will be quick reads. You will complete one midterm exam, a research paper and the final.
Class specs: Journ/History 560, 4 credits, social
science, advanced, junior standing
Introduction to Cartography
Maps! Everyone loves em, anyone can make one. However, Introduction to Cartography goes beyond just the simple world of quick napkin-direction maps and shows you how to produce ones that look almost professional. On top of that the class spends a good deal of time teaching the behind-the-scenes logic of cartography and general information graphics. If you have any interests in geography, design, journalism, computer science and, of course, cartography, Introduction to Cartography would do you well.
Class specs: Geog 370, 4 credits, physical science, intermediate, sophomore standing or instructor consent
This is one of the most intellectually stimulating classes I’ve taken. Claudia Card is an astounding professor and brilliant. She’s a little hard to hear but if you sit up front she easily transfers her knowledge of the material. You learn about a wealth of philosophers and the class expands your thinking on morality. Although the class is reading heavy, don’t let that deter you because Card reviews everything you need to know in class. Three exams.
Class specs: Philos 241, 4 credits, humanities or social science, intermediate, sophomore standing
World Hunger and Malnutrition
This class gave me a better, more nuanced understanding of why there are people in the world who do not have enough to eat. (Did you know there actually is enough food produced, thanks to technology, to feed everyone? Now do you want to learn why some people, and nations, are left out?) This class counts as biological science, but two-thirds of the class focuses on the socioeconomics of hunger, as well as different policy approaches to combat it. And most imporantly, professor Chavas is darling.
Class specs: AAE/Agronomy/Nuri Sci 350, 3
credits, biological science, intermediate
The class is all about sex, which is FABULOUS! Dr. Hyde is an amazing lecturer who easily transfers her expertise in a way undergrads can comprehend. She’s also pretty funny. She wrote the textbook and I definitely recommend reading it. The text isn’t too taxing and will really help with exams. You learn a lot about research on things such as sexuality, birth and gender. Four exams and a paper.
Class specs: Psych/Soc 350, 4 credits, social
science, intermediate, sophomore standing or instructor consent, not open to students with Psych/Soc 160
Western Culture: Literature and the Arts II
This class is single handedly one of the best classes to take if you’re interested in art but cannot, or do not want to, take an actual art class. It spans art history from the Renaissance through street art, taking into account painting, sculpture, literature, music and, to a certain degree, dance. Its professor, Mike Vanden Heuvel, is an approachable, mild-mannered expert on each section covered in the class, with a knack for handing an understanding of the subject matter to even the least art-savvy student. This class comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the finer side of culture—and is the reason I’m getting a certificate in ILS. A take-home midterm, paper and final.
Class specs: ILS 204, 3 credits, literature,
elementary, open to all undergrads
Introduction to Media Production
My favorite course at UW-Madison has been Comm Arts 355, Intro to Media Production. This course teaches the basics of all things film making. If you’ve ever seen yourself as a combination of Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay, this is the place to start. The class touches on the principles of screenwriting, camera work and video editing. In the class, students make a short dramatic film as well as a documentary on whatever they want. Instructor Aaron Granat certainly makes the mornings worth it. He may also have an alter ego as Ryan Gosling’s character in “Drive.”
Class specs: Comm Arts 355, 4 credits, intermediate, sophomore standing or completion of Comm Arts 155