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Hear from four veteran Species on classes that shaped our undergraduate years. These classes have no prerequisites, so if you can secure a spot we recommend taking them as early as they’re offered! For more tips and tricks to navigating Columbia and Barnard academic departments, check out Required Reading.

Name: Destiny Spruill

Position: Deputy opinion editor

Year: Junior

Major: Creative writing and political science

Class: Drawing Conclusions with Dwayne Booth

Drawing Conclusions with Professor Dwayne Booth is the cherry atop any schedule. Whether you enjoy the history of activism, crude humor, or being able to call your professor by his pen name—Mr. Fish—this course will remind you of the importance of protest and its relationship with art. Professor Booth introduces his students to the world of art activism and political cartooning, all while creating his own satirical masterpieces that you can find in Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, and my bedroom wall.


Name: Kim Banks

Position: News writer

Year: Sophomore

Major: Political science

Class: The Comparative Politics of Gender Inequalities with Claire Ullman

This class focuses on the countless factors that contribute to different levels of social, political, and economic gender inequality across both developing and developed countries. Ullman requires that her students participate and reflect on the extensive academic readings more than she leads the discussion, forcing you to read in depth to understand the material. There are no tests—rather, essays reflecting on the readings and a research paper on a specific type of gender inequality in a country of your choosing. I highly recommend this course as it pushes you to grow both in your ability to read heavy academic material and write to the highest level. Professor Ullman puts her all into teaching this course and focuses on giving the most constructive feedback on your writing.


Name: Hannah Barbosa-Cesnik

Position: Staff director

Year: Senior

Major: English

Class: Tudor-Stuart Drama with Lauren Robertson

Tudor-Stuart Drama—or any Renaissance drama class—with Professor Lauren Robertson is the whole package: entertaining readings full of murder, seduction, and intrigue, delightful class discussions, and the kind of grading feedback that makes you a better scholar. If you thought you knew Shakespeare before coming to Columbia, I raise you “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” analyzed through the lens of queer love and BDSM. Trust me, you’ll look forward to her class, whichever one it may be.


Name: Aaron Holmes

Position: Managing editor

Year: Senior

Major: English

Class: Freedom of Speech and Press with Lee Bollinger

The First Amendment is one of those topics that most people assume they understand in theory, but in practice is incredibly nuanced, complex, and often difficult to reckon with. Regardless of your opinion of him as Columbia’s president, Bollinger is one of the best First Amendment scholars in the nation, wielding an encyclopedic knowledge of case law and experience arguing before the Supreme Court. He teaches Freedom of Speech and Press like a law school course—complete with cold-calling names from the attendance sheet to answer questions in class—with a focus on how the Supreme Court’s understanding of free speech has changed over time, and how the “spirit” of the First Amendment can be applied at private institutions like Columbia. The class can be a bit challenging, and you need to do the reading, but a thorough understanding of constitutional free speech is undeniably worth it.

RELATED: How to build your perfect schedule

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