One of the things that told me that I wanted to be a political science major was the fact that I wanted to take so many of the classes the department offered. As last semester demonstrated, I’m big on filling my schedule with political science classes, and I’m taking three of them again (it was originally two, but I’m finding it hard to go back to a schedule that’s not majority poli sci). So, here they go!
La France Contemporaine I – This is the first in a year long sequence for French Cultural Studies minors. It focuses on French culture, history, politics, food, etc. It’s not writing intensive (like Advanced last year), but instead is speaking focused. The subject matter in this class is much more interesting to me (we’ve done French geography and history so far), than the readings we covered last year, so I’ve been participating in class a lot more (even if it is at 9am). The other nice thing I’ve been noticing this year is I’ve gotten much better at understanding spoken French – I understand a lot more of the videos/class conversation, which is pretty exciting for me. I’m much more of a visual learner, and with a language like French that can have similar words with very different spellings then written French is much easier to understand. I have a great TA as well, which is definitely a positive.
Introduction to History of Africa Since 1880 – This is one of my core classes for the Africana Studies minor, and it’s definitely a good introduction. It covers a big time period and a huge geographic area – as a result, we’ve mostly focused on different aspects of African history and culture. Most of our readings are primary sources or come from field studies, so it’s been a good way to learn about different cultures. Before this, my knowledge of Africa covered what I’d learned about politics in South Africa, what I’d read in the NY Times, and what I’d gotten from (hopefully) accurate historical novels (like The Poisonwood Bible – book recommendation), so it’ll be nice to have this background.
Policy Disasters – This is the second class I’ve taken with this professor, and although I end up spending most of my weekend doing the readings for it, I’m not regretting it yet. I’ve found that if I like a professor’s teaching style, I end up liking the class, and it’s proving true again. In Policy Disasters, we’re looking at things that failed – urban school reform, the Japanese nuclear disaster, the financial crisis, the Challenger launch, etc – and seeing why they failed and what lessons we can take from them. It’s a class that’s definitely got real world applications, and also keeps connecting back to other classes I’m taking. The writing is also different – the main writing is policy briefs, which are different from normal academic writing. It’s definitely a different style – I’m not generally a fan of 750 word count limits, but it’s definitely helpful in making my writing more articulate/learning how to summarize things more concisely.
Urban Politics and Policy – I’d heard great things about this class, so I was excited to get off the waitlist in August after 4 months of waiting! This is definitely a class I wouldn’t take with any professor – it’s much more theory based than I usually like. However, class has lots of good discussions, and makes me think really critically about problems facing urban areas and the institutions in place in urban areas. I hadn’t ever really thought about the underlying features and structures in urban areas, but this class is really good at getting me to connect theory to reality. We also have an open ended term paper, which (hopefully) means that I get to write another paper on another aspect of urban education!
The Constitution and the Criminal Justice System – I added this class the first week of school, and I’m very glad I did. I discovered during Con Law last year that I like discussing specific issues concerning the constitution more than just analyzing the constitution itself. I also really enjoy learning about the criminal justice system (legal nerd here), so this is a good mixture! We’ve been doing a lot on search and seizure recently, but we’ll be doing the death penalty later on in the semester (this is something I’m passionately against, and love discussing) and other issues dealing with admission of evidence (oh hey more mock trial!). Downside: my entire grade comes from tests, which I’m not thrilled about, but I really enjoy the class material, which should help with studying/test nervousness. We also have an optional section every week – it usually ends up being about five of us, but it’s a good chance to argue about courts and the law, which I never pass up!).