Picture from my sophomore year of college; the bridge between East and West Campus. Decided against the chapel pic because it’s too basic now.

Top 10 Courses of my College Career

Advice for underclassmen bookbagging for next year

As someone who’s been here for five long years, I’ve had my share of ups and downs when it comes to courses I’ve taken. But here are my top recommendations:

1. Ethics in an Unjust World with Adam Hollowell (spring only!)

I can’t emphasize enough how much this course changed my life — How much my worldview changed, how engaging the readings and lectures were, and how the entire course was structured. I’ve kept a copy of the syllabus so I can read the full works that Prof. Hollowell recommends. If you want to learn more about ethics, frameworks related to poverty, and the many social issues minorities face in today’s world, then this course is for you.

2. Leadership and Civic Engagement with Tony Brown

Words like moral fiber and moral compass had never entered my vocabulary until I took this class. I learned how to start student initiatives dedicated to solving campus problems. So many organizations were birthed from this class, ones that persist even to today: Peer for You, Student U, and the like. Tony is such an inspirational figure to learn from.

3. Beyond Reason: Empathy/Identity with Bob Thompson

This freshman seminar was one of the most interesting ones I’ve taken. He uses a mix of TED talks, psychology-related videos, and research articles to enhance your understanding of how you can find your place in the world. He introduces you to new ways of thinking about knowledge formation, personal identity, and all the areas of life that exist beyond logic and reason. He’s also one of the most caring professors I’ve met.

4. Self-Defense for Women with Diane Whitfield

This PhysEd class is so empowering for women. In a world where women traveling solo from country to country or even on the daily commute can be a dangerous endeavor, this course can help you build a sense of confidence and a newfound freedom while moving around in the world. You learn to be more assertive and how to say “No” firmly to those who are harassing you rather than averting your gaze or appearing submissive.

5. Massage Therapy with Bob Brame

As someone who wasn’t very comfortable in her own body, I found this PhysEd class to be a good way to get in touch with my physicality. Also… free massages every week were definitely super nice. I’ve become much better at giving massages, too, and I think it’s a useful skill to learn when it comes to stress relief and promoting physical well-being.

6. Video for Social Change with Bruce Orenstein

This class allowed me to explore the power of storytelling, in sharing the stories of those who are overworked and underpaid. It highlighted the income inequality faced by too many Americans today, analyzing our past to see how such inequality was created throughout the years. Through this class, I got to meet the owner of Cocoa Cinnamon and interview a barista there, to promote the Living Wage Certification Program in Durham. The video-editing skills I learned are invaluable, and I expect that they’ll help me in unexpected ways in the years to come.

7. Grief Work: End of Life Care with Jehanne Gheith

The so-called infamous “Death” class that puts life into perspective. For this class, I learned so much about how people struggle with adversity. How people turn to faith for answers when the world seems too unpredictably chaotic. How empathy is key for doctors to practice bedside manner and how to help those who know that death is imminent.

8. Computer Science 101 with Susan Rogers

The prof was alright. The way the class was structured was work-intensive, but I found the coding process a lot of fun. It wasn’t too difficult — just challenging enough for you to feel like you were figuring something out for yourself. It’s amazing how people can create so many different solutions to the same problem. I saw coding as an art and a good metaphor for life: only through repeated failures can you begin to succeed.

9. Neuroscience 101 with Karen Murphy

This course was one of the most difficult ones in my college career. But the material was immensely interesting, and Prof. Murphy’s enthusiasm was simply infectious. I don’t remember much of what I learned, but I know I found it fascinating. To this day, I occasionally check out books about how our brains work.

10. Political Choice and Value Conflict with Evan Charney

Charney presents ethical dilemmas and speaks of controversial topics in every class. Lectures are a joy to attend — and an attack on the senses. Expect him to call you out on any flaws in your argument, to challenge you until you’re no longer sure what you believe is true. He’s highly confrontational and isn’t afraid to call BS when he sees it, which is refreshing in the classroom. He invites guest speakers whose life stories will blow your mind, changing your opinions and views on topics like prostitution and sex work.

Hope this post was enlightening! Best of luck with bookbagging!

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