Academics
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Here are a few staff favorites of the courses we’ve taken (and loved) at Columbia. For more tips and tricks to navigating Columbia and Barnard academic departments, check out Required Reading.


Name: Erin Neil

Year: Junior

Major: English with a concentration in religion

At Spec: Opinion co-editorial page editor

Natalie Guerra

Millennium: Apocalypse and Utopia with Elizabeth Castelli

I never thought learning about Jonestown, the New York World’s Fair, and nuclear war all in one class would be at all cohesive, but Professor Castelli’s class on millennial movements throughout history proved me wrong. This class covered everything from niche New Age religious movements to Puritanism and the very foundations of this country. The readings were engaging and always lent themselves to fascinating class discussion. This is a great class to take if you’re at all interested in religion and the way it is intrinsically tied to politics, activism, and history.


Name: Isabela Espadas Barros Leal

Year: Senior

Major: English

At Spec: Arts & entertainment deputy editor

Courtesy of

American Literature 1871-1945 with Jennie Kassanoff

I came into this course with little background on American history having spent most of my life outside the United States. Still, I was able to indulge in the literature and gain so much from Professor Kassanoff's lectures. She is a truly gifted speaker with lectures that changed my perspective on both books and history every time I stepped into her class. I took it my first semester and continue to recommend it to all my friends.


Name: Grace Lin

Year: Junior

Major: Political science

At Spec: Spectrum editor

Natalie Guerra

Asian Americans and the Psychology of Race with Shinhee Han

The course focuses on analyzing the psychology of Asian Americans with regards to immigration, racialization, family, identity, memory, and education. It's refreshing to have a class with an Asian-American professor and an emphasis on the sociopolitical identity of the Asian-American community. I particularly enjoyed the first assignment, which was a family genealogy paper that encouraged me to talk with my extended family. Though challenging, it was very enriching.


Name: Kyra Ann Dawkins

Year: Senior

Major: Medicine, literature and society

At Spec: Opinion deputy editorial page editor

Courtesy of

Global Language Justice and the Digital Sphere: Theory and Practice with Isabelle Zaugg

Global Language Justice and the Digital Sphere is the epitome of an excellent interdisciplinary course. In an increasingly digitized world, it makes sense that technology changes the way we communicate. Yet we often forget to think about how these technological advancements have the potential to reinforce toxic narratives of language and cultural dominance. In this class, you not only get to learn about the mechanics of language and script programming, but also why it’s important to make developments equitably around the world. I love how this class considered progress and accountability in an emerging and interesting field.


Name: Sarah Robertson

Year: Senior

Major: English with a concentration in theater

At Spec: Arts & entertainment deputy editor

Courtesy of

Screenwriting with Rubeintz Philippe

Were you enamored by the trailer for Little Women this summer? Do you dream of being the next Greta Gerwig, but don’t know where to start? Screenwriting with Ben Philippe provides the perfect introduction to film: From lively discussions of weekly viewing assignments to an insight into the film industry, this class provided an enjoyable introduction to the tenets of screenwriting with a moderate but manageable workload, culminating in the creation of your own script. First stop, Milbank Hall, next stop: Hollywood!


Spectrum editor Grace Lin can be contacted at grace.lin@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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