These classes will stretch your mind

The Daily Cardinal staff weighs in on the courses that made them think a bit differently afterward.

Pre-Raphaelites: Sex & Death in Victorian Culture

Professor Nancy Rose Marshall, a Converse-wearing, cat-loving redheaded goddess of art history, has such an infectious enthusiasm for Victorian culture that I was this close to double majoring in art history. In this class, Marshall guides you through a fascinating exploration of the Pre-Raphaelites, a unique group of 18th century artists who perfected intricate painting techniques and meddled in scandalous love triangles. The class meets two days per week and requires just three blog posts, a short formal analysis of a piece and a final essay throughout the entire semester—perfect for any student looking for an eye-opening class that isn’t a chore.

Class specs: Art Hist 407,  3 credits, humanities, intermediate/advanced, junior standing and one art hist course at 200 and 300 level, or instructor consent.

Israeli Politics and Society

 The heavy emotion attached to media coverage of events in Israel often impedes on our ability to understand this region in a critical and nuanced way. Enter Professor Nadav Shelef, an expert on Israeli nationalism and identity. After this class you will have an understanding of the reasons why Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews and religious and non-religious Jews have trouble seeing eye to eye. You’ll learn about the origins of the countless Israeli political parties as well as delve into issues of Arab-Israeli identity, the occupation of Palestinian territories, and increasingly fractured political parties. While Shelef’s own nationality is Israeli, he presents information on Israeli-Palestinian relations in a nuanced light. Putting his own beliefs, whatever they might be, aside for lecture, his unwavering presentation style is a breath of fresh air that will allow you to form your own opinions.

Class specs: Poli Sci/Jewish 665, 3 credits, advanced, junior standing and one intro poli sci course.

Environmental Conservation

Environmental Studies 339 is a comprehensive look at the wide range of issues surrounding environmental conservation and solutions to conservation problems. The course is dynamic, including lectures, participation-based discussions, two short papers and group work. You’ll get a wide range of topics, including the history of the environmental movement in the United States, environmental conservation in the Global South, environmental justice and climate change. This is a great course for anyone considering the Environmental Studies major or certificate as well as people who are interested in environmental policy.

Class specs: Geog/Envir St 339, 4 credits, social science, intermediate, sophomore standing.

History of American Education

Do you like talking about issues in education? Are you interested in American history? Consider adding Educational Policy Studies 412 to your fall course shopping cart. Taught by Adam Nelson, the course traces the history of schools in this country. Not only does the material help students understand how some issues in American education came to be, but Nelson is super engaging. The course is well-organized, and Nelson’s lectures are clear and easy to follow as well as downright entertaining at times. The course requires both a research paper and a sit-for final, but neither were too daunting.

Class specs: Ed Pol/Hist 412, 3 credits, social science,

advanced, junior standing or consent from instructor.

Principles of Biological Anthropology

Delve into a fascinating world of evolution and ancient life forms in Anthropology 105. This class offers a comprehensive look at the biological evolution of species, ranging from prehistoric life forms to Neanderthals and modern humans. This class also offers a once-weekly, hands-on lab that allows students to work directly with fossils and bones to learn more about human evolution. The course is a great option for anyone looking for a unique way to fulfill natural science credits.

Class specs: Anthro 105, 3 credits, biological sciences, elementary, open to freshmen.

China in World Politics

Everyone can parrot the cliche that China will be the next world hegemon, but to be one of the few with real and timely knowledge of the topic, enroll in China in World Politics. Professor Edward Friedman teaches the context of Chinese history and nationalism as a backdrop to analyzing the growth and change in the country and its foreign policy since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Friedman has the practical experience as an expert who worked with the U.S. government. After taking his class, you’ll be able to analyze anything in the news about China, and perhaps reason with those who are irrationally afraid of Chinese world domination.

Class specs: Poli Sci 346, 4 credits, social science, intermediate/advanced, junior standing.

Criminal Justice in America

Legal Studies 131 is a crash course in the American criminal justice system. You’ll gain a thorough understanding of how the system functions, but you’ll also examine a variety of interesting cases. The course is well-organized and flows at a reasonable pace, but the exams are challenging. Once in a while, you’ll get some quality legal advice from the professors and TAs, including when the police do and do not have a right to enter your home. This is a need-to-take course for anyone planning to go to law school, or considering the legal studies certificate .

Class specs: Legal St/Soc 131, 4 credits, social

science, elementary, open to freshman and sophomores only until end of freshman registration.

Environmental Studies: The Humanistic Perspective

This class is much more than boring carbon dioxide levels or melting glaciers. Envir St 113 takes a look at environmental problems through a more anthropological approach. You get to see how humans have connected with nature over time, whether it’s learning about animals in nursery rhymes, plants and their uses (yes, even marijuana) or the history of garbage (which is way more interesting than it sounds). Projects included creating an animal journal for a day and keeping track of your recycling bin. Easy and interesting, I’d definitely check this one out.

Class specs: Envir St 113, 3 credits, humanities, elementary, open to freshmen.

Resources and People

If you’re interested in majoring in Geography or Environmental Studies, Envir St 139 is essential. Even if you’re not majoring in these subjects or you’re undeclared, 139 is a fun, accessible course that gives you the rudiments of how people use and understand environmental resources. It gives you a streamlined, easy-to-understand introduction into some of the finer points and intersections of environmental ideas, ideologies, practices and philosophies. It also fulfills some basic requirements. Reading is comparatively light and works well with lectures and discussion sections.

Class specs: Geog/Envir St 139, 3 credits, social science, elementary, open to freshmen.

Mass Communication in Developing Nations

Within this seminar-structured class, where grades are almost based entirely on participation, this class analyzes the boom of humanitarian organizations in an increasingly globalized world and their relationship to the media. Looking at celebrities, nonprofit advertisement and nonprofit promotional events, for instance “We Are the World,” J621 revises your perception of media representations. While any international studies-related class usually leaves you with the feeling that the entire world is an ever-growing disaster, J621 more importantly encourages you to question our surrounding media and international issues.

Class specs: Journ 621, 4 credits, social science, advanced, junior standing.

Shakespearean Drama

“Shakespeare” is, on the surface, a daunting topic for a class to undertake. Where do you start? How do you go about it? Luckily, English 219, under the helm of Elizabeth Bearden, exists. For English majors, it satisfies a base requirement, and for non-majors, it’s an interesting take on one of the English language’s most esteemed authors. In Bearden’s hands, Shakespeare’s plays are full of vim and vigor, wit and bawd and all that good stuff. And since the readings are almost entirely Shakespeare-centric, there’s plenty of time over the semester to dig deep into his plays.

Class specs: Engl 219, 3 credits, literature, intermediate, prerequisite of 6 introductory literature credits.

The Making of the Islamic World: The Middle East, 500-1500

Professor Michael Chamberlain’s entry-level History course is a lot like many others: You get out what you put in. If you choose to come to class —where an attendance sheet is passed around as a response to the idleness of past semesters—you’ll learn about Islam’s formative years as a religious and cultural force and how it came to transform the Middle East. For anyone even remotely interested in the Middle East or current affairs, the class is welcome and useful context. And even if you’re not, Chamberlain’s frequent “Game of Thrones” references and casually dispensed anecdotes of his own travels through places like Syria and Iran are enough to keep you hooked.

Class specs: Hist/LCA 205, 4 credits, humanities, elementary, open to all undergraduates.

Western Culture: Political, Economic and Social Thought I

It is rare to be able to say you took a college class that was in a living room. Situated in the Mieklejohn House, the Integrated Liberal Studies department is literally “home” to a wide variety of literary and philosophical courses. Through famous texts from Plato to Aristotle, this specific course examines how historical ideas still find relevance in today’s changing world. The fact that Professor Richard Avramenko starts each lecture by playing a popular song that relates to current material doesn’t hurt either —who would’ve known Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” could help better convey the idea of physicality being used in Ancient Greece to assert one’s power.

Class specs: ILS 205, 3 credits, humanities or social science,

elementary, open to all undergraduates.

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