Oberlin Blogs

Some Courses

August 24, 2013

Ben Reid ’16

As I sit at the gate for my flight back to Obes (well, to Philly for a 4 hour connection, then to Ohio), I decided to write a blog post--something I have not had the time to do in the past two months, as I have been working at an overnight camp and had no computer access.

Now, technology has once again taken over my life. The upside? I can blog more! Woohoo!

Anyway, for the past hour I have been perusing the course catalog on the BEST WEBSITE TO EVER EXIST "Prestissimo," and I imagine many of you are doing the same in preparation for next semester. If you're not doing it now, you will be soon, so I thought I'd help you out by offering you in-depth analyses of four random courses--or, more specifically, the four courses that I took last semester! Woohoo!

My Courses, Spring 2013:

1. Spanish 202: Intermediate Spanish, Professor Solomon

I cannot stress this enough: TAKE A CLASS WITH CLAIRE SOLOMON. She is a positively wonderful professor, who made taking a Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:00 AM class enjoyable, which is a nearly impossible feat (especially when it's conducted in a foreign language)!

Claire is an Obie alum herself--and you can tell. I still remember, the first day of class, when she lamented the Spanish workbooks we use as too "corporate," and at times ineffective in the social and political information they promote in various sections of the book. When all of the terrible events happened here in early March, she empathized with the student body as a member of the Oberlin community, and spent an entire class checking in with us and making sure we were all OK. She answered any questions that we had, and offered helpful anecdotes about her time at Oberlin that gave us hope that when tragedy hits, our community can and does heal. For this and other reasons, I will repeat: Take a class with Claire Solomon.

2. Econ 207: Urban Economics, Professor Cheung

I wanted to take this class so badly. I still remember, way back in December, the feeling I had when I got the 40th and final spot in the class. It is apparently a very popular course, so it filled up quickly.

What I liked about this course (and about economics in general!) is that it used systematic, quantitative models to explain sociological phenomena that I have seen all my life. For example: What do economists think are the causes of racial segregation? Why does the "Auto Mile" exist? And how and why do cities themselves form in the first place? Take this class to find out! I highly recommend it for the course material, and Ron Cheung is an engaging, clear, and enthusiastic professor to take it with.

3. Math 133: Calculus I, Professor Raney

I liked this class as much as one can "like" an introductory calculus course. Calculus has always interested me, at least more than other math courses have. I approached each exam as a set of little puzzles that needed solving using any number of calculus tools and tricks to find an answer. This class was hard, but reasonable, and definitely rewarding at times (who doesn't love the feeling of finishing a math problem after thirty minutes and flipping to the back of the book and seeing that you got it right). I took this class because it is a prerequisite for many economics courses I want to take, and I hope to squeeze Calc II, with Michael Raney again, into my schedule next semester.

4. ARTS 200: Approaches to Western Art, Professor Glass

It took a while for me to figure out what my fourth course would be. Originally, I was enrolled in another econ course, but thought that I was snubbing my liberal arts education by taking two econ courses and a math course all in just my second semester of college. One great thing about Oberlin is that you don't need to focus so hastily on your major requirements; indeed, you are encouraged to take classes in disparate subjects, taking advantage of the strong departments Oberlin offers across the disciplines.

So I dropped the other econ course, saving it for a later semester, and enrolled in my friend's 200-level religion class. I saw that it had prerequisites, but I was able to register so I tried it out. While it seemed very interesting, it was full of religion majors and I felt in a little over my head.

I cannot wait to hang up on my dorm room wall the 6x4 flashcards of beautiful, full color artworks that I made for the final exam! It's gonna be awesome.

So I dropped the religion class, and joined my other friend Connor's Art History course. And I am glad I did! The class was taught by a first-year visiting professor, Robert Glass, who gave engaging and dynamic lectures in class day after day. The pace of the course was just right, given the immense breadth of the course that covered art from the Pantheon to the Renaissance to contemporary art from the 21st century.

As I walked away from the final exam with my friend Carolyn, who was in the class as well, we concluded that what we learned in that class was actually useful. I now feel comfortable going to an art museum (like ours!) and identifying and discussing the qualities of an artwork and relating it to various artists and artistic movements. When writing the last essay on the final exam, I was struck by the fact that I was able to identify not just what changed about art, but how: which works changed the playing field of art at the time they were produced and why?

If you were thinking of taking one of these courses or not, I hope this helped! Good luck registering for classes!!!

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