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Lula O'Donnell / Columbia Daily Spectator

Congratulations on being accepted into Barnard’s Class of 2023! Very soon you’ll be registering for courses, including your first-year seminar, which can be a daunting task. You’re probably nervous about choosing the right class and professor, and most likely don’t have a way to gauge whether or not a class is going to be the best experience for you. To help you navigate the many first-year seminars Barnard has to offer, check out these top five classes that are highly recommended by past students.

Witches (FYSB BC1336): One highly recommended first-year seminar class is Witches, taught by Wendy Schor-Haim. Through written and visual works, you learn about the role of the witch from classical to modern times to more deeply understand the figure’s representations with respect to gender and power. Overall, with a manageable workload, a knowledgeable and helpful professor, and a unique topic, Witches is definitely a great option for your first-year seminar.

Reacting to the Past (FYSB BC1601): While definitely one of the more intense first-year seminars, Reacting to the Past is completely worth the extra time and effort it takes to do well in it. According to the Barnard Catalog, students in this class participate in “complex historical role-playing games informed by classic texts” that may include The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.

A few warnings: 1) This class is heavily based on participation and debate/public speaking skills. 2) Your role will take over your life in the class, so it’s important to remind yourself to not let the opposition of different roles extend beyond the classroom. And don’t let this scare you away; you’ll come out of the class a stronger leader and heavily bonded to your peers just purely because of having gone through such an insane experience together.

Animals in Text and Society (FYSB BC1572): Taught by Timea Szell, Animals in Text and Society is a class that focuses on the connections between animals and humans in various works of literature, philosophy, and culture. With interesting focal points such as animal-evoked emotions, the respective identities of animals and humans, and the perception of the colonization of animals, you’ll find yourself debating unique questions, such as “Are chimpanzees considered people?” All in all, this class has a great teacher who gives good feedback on papers, assigns a fair workload, and will surely expand the way you look and think about the fine line between humans and animals.

Tipping Points (FYSB BC1599): Tipping Points is a class taught by Margaret Vandenburg. According to the Barnard Catalog, it focuses on whether “intellectual, economic, technological, and ethical tipping points transform what it means to be human.” The main question that the course revolves around is “What will transpire in the digital age of artificial intelligence and globalization?” Previous students have said that Vandenburg is a great professor who will challenge the way you think and what you believe in, while also helping you improve your writing skills, making this course a great choice for any incoming Barnard first-year.

Things and Stuff (FYSB BC1713): Taught by Sandra Goldmark this past semester, Things and Stuff looks at how human-made objects mold human development and how our choices regarding “things and stuff” might change our future paths. According to the Barnard Catalog, you’ll consider questions such as “How do our material choices shape our cultural and individual narratives?” and “How do the things we make, buy, use, keep, and discard tell stories, impact our environment, and help define who we are?” So, if you’re an environmentally-conscious student looking for a thought-provoking class, then definitely check out Things and Stuff.

Staff writer Tian Griffin can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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