As Emory students have finished up our final day of classes for the year, filled out our course evaluations, and questioned how much effort to put into studying for each of our finals, it’s only natural that we’ve reflected on the bigger picture of our classes.
After some personal reflection and hearing the thoughts of friends, I learned a lot about the top-notch classes that Emory offers. No, they’re not the easy A’s or the résumé boosters. Ultimately, the common driving force behind all of the best courses is simply this: the quality of the professor and the authenticity of the overall class experience. In selecting my classes at Emory, I learned that you could never really get a good read on what the best classes were based on the cool course titles and nicely written descriptions (or lack thereof). The number one, best indicator of a quality course is easily the word of mouth.
As the self-proclaimed voice of the people, I’d like to share 10 of these classes (in no particular order):
1) MATH111- Calculus 1 with Robert Schneider
I know what you’re thinking. Really? A calculus class? Believe it or not, this class may be the best I’ve taken so far at Emory and it had nothing to do with math.
The reason this class is everything is because of Robert Schneider. On the first day of class, he introduced himself as wanting to be called “Teach” or “Prof,” like it was done in a retro 70’s sitcom. Throughout the entire course, even the students who hated math with every single cell of their bodies could appreciate why someone else would love math just from Robert’s enthusiasm alone. One of the ways in which he accomplished this was by often connecting our calculus lectures to more profound concepts like the mechanisms of the world, philosophy, or physics and from that, its’ fascinating connection to the real world applications (and occasionally, if it was the case, joked about how useless it was). Even if you didn’t fully comprehend what he was saying, you could still share the spark of his excitement. On top of that, he is inspiringly nice, kind, considerate, understanding, and helpful. I don’t think I’ve met anyone nicer than him in my life.
Finally, and best of all, he has a double life to his graduate student teaching career as a professional musician. Often, he’ll make connections between the mechanisms behind math and that of music. He’s in a band, called The Apples in Stereo. His band even has a song that you’ll probably recognize from the Quaker Oats commercial called “Energy,” which he played for his students with his own guitar that he brought to class on the last day. The song was even covered by the jam band, Phish, which by default makes him amazing. Basically, my calculus professor is kind of a rock star with his own Wikipedia page. Can you say the same?
In case you were interested:
2) HLTH221- Contemporary Nutrition with Patricia Simonds
This class is the most genuinely interesting class I’ve taken at Emory. The material from each lesson is so useful and insightful. Students learn about the science behind each component of our diet along with a perspective on how it fits into the diets of our modern world and whether it’s a step forward or backward. It has a great balance between factual and conceptual knowledge. In that sense, it’s everything a college course should be. It’s no easy A, but at the same time it is not a weed-out health science class.
Patricia Simonds is so nice, so cool, and so knowledgeable. She’s a professional dietitian and very involved in the Physical Education department at Emory along with Emory’s athletic programs. Everything she does is really inspiring.
Oh, and of course, the fact that class activities include eating on multiple occasions doesn’t hurt. For our big project, students grouped up and made a recipe of your choosing to present to the class. Also, on the last day, we got to taste test our own walnut milk and smoothies that we made in class. In addition, the mid-class stretches and yoga are great. These physical interventions made mental room for a reflective pause, which would always remind students how real, important, and applicable everything we’re learning is.
3) SOC221- Culture & Society with Timothy David
The class itself is good, but Timothy David is great! The thing that makes him so notable is his interactions with his students. He’s really funny and friendly. Every Monday, he always asks his students to talk about something fun they did over the weekend.
4) SOC352 – Sociology of Happiness with Corey Keyes
Approximately half the deep quotes that come up on your Instagram feed probably come from this class. The class is sort of like being in a group therapy session – but not in the depressing way. It’s more like group therapy in the sense that it’s really uplifting for Keyes’s students by empowering one another to constantly be improving themselves. There’s truly no predictable day in Keyes’s classroom. The lectures range from being as academic as teaching Buddhist theories and the ideas of German philosopher, Nietzsche, to being as personal as understanding struggles of a college kid and incorporating yoga meditation into our lives.
5) ITAL101 – Language & Culture, Elem 1 with Christine Ristaino
This class will make you want to be Italian…as if Italy’s carb haven of endless pasta and pizza wasn’t enough of a pull. In all seriousness, Ristaino is the sweetest woman alive. She is so much more than just an Italian professor. Students say a huge part of that is definitely her incredible openness with her students. She establishes right on the first day that she wants to talk about anything with her students from school issues to personal life issues. In showing mutual respect back, she also openly shares what’s going on in her life. Despite the fact that the class meets 4 days a week, going to class does not feel burdening at all. Ristaino makes class something to look forward to because each day, it’s as if she’s putting on a show for her students.
6) BUS320 – Corporate Finance with Clifton Green
Clifton Green is easily the funniest professor in the B-school. In fact, walking into his class feels like you are walking into a comedy show.
7) ENG205- Introduction to Poetry with Harry Rusche
Professor Harry Rusche can be described as an “old wise sage.” He has years and years of experiences and amazing personal stories to tell and knowledge to share to show for it. He’s like the grandpa you never had! In fact, his students may even feel like they want to adopt him into their families as their own grandfather. He’s really open to the opinions of his students and makes poetry lovers and non-poetry lovers alike feel comfortable writing their own poems.
8) BUS211 – Managerial Accounting with Ted Rodgers
Rodgers’s students say that he’s the most passionate professor they’ve have had at Emory and the most genuinely interested in his students. You’ll often catch him telling his students “I love you…in the professional way.” His deep dedication to his students is clearly apparent in all the imaginative stories he comes up with to make the information more memorable. One thing a student of Rodgers will never forget is his obsession of Walmart, which he questionably loves more than his wife. His videos of himself going through homework problems make it pretty clear that he sincerely wants to see his students succeed and has their backs. He even encourages you to hit him up on his cell phone by texting or calling the night before the test with last minute questions. You would think that any class titled managerial accounting would be the most boring class offered in the B-school, but his sense of humor and energy made what should’ve been an excruciatingly boring class surprisingly into a pleasure.
9) WSG100 – Intro to Women’s Gender Studies with Sarah Stein
Another unexpected hidden treasure of Emory is this course, covering the basic philosophies behind women’s gender studies. Students may’ve walked into the class dreading it, but walked out with a whole new way of thinking. Lives were changed. The class will leave you feeling more aware of the culture you’re surrounded by. This may all seem like irrelevant philosophy, but actually turns out that it has hugely important real-world application. That is, it gives you the tools you need in today’s world to succeed professionally as a woman. Any student of this class can walk away genuinely feeling like they learned something they’ll use for the rest of their lives—which will definitely be comforting to all the scared, nervous liberal arts students.
10) HIST386/ JS324/ REL324 – History of the Holocaust with Deborah Lipstadt
Dr. Lipstadt course has touched the hearts of so many Emory students. She’s a world-renowned Holocaust historian, and she’s kind of a big deal. She’s on a first name basis with Elie Wiesel. Also, last semester she had to cancel class because President Obama called her to Berlin to attend a conference on anti-Semitism. She even sent her students the White House press release to prove it! Students feel especially connected to the course because of her real human voices that she provides alongside her lessons. One day, students Skyped with the historians who wrote their course’s textbook. Another day, they Skyped with the filmmaker behind a documentary shown in class. She even brought in two survivors to speak to the class who were truly incredible and had moving first-hand stories to share. Fun fact: there’s currently a movie being made about her and her life as a professor. Oh, and Professor Lipstadt’s character will be played by Hilary Swank. If that doesn’t make you the coolest professor ever, then I don’t know what does. Lipstadt’s students leave the course feeling so lucky to have been a part of the class and have the unique opportunity to share the survivors’ stories handed down to them.
Part of the college experience is trying a class the might change your life, or your perspective, or just be an all-around great once in a lifetime chance to try something totally different and new. By the time I’m no longer a student and have become a real person, I know that I’ll regret not taking advantage of the amazing classes right in front of me. Hopefully this list will help Emory students avoid that inevitable regret of adulthood… as much as we can, at least.