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Staff editorial: Class recommendations

It’s that time of year again! The sun is finally shining, the birds are chirping and emails from Dean Jen Smith are hitting your inbox with reminders about registration. If you’re looking for that one last fun class to add to your schedule or need to meet one final distribution requirement, the Student Life Editorial Board is here to help with our selection of the best classes at Washington University.

Beginning Hindi I
Hindi is the fourth-most spoken language in the world. It’s also one of the most beautiful languages in the world, steeped in history and culture. This class starts from the very basics, meaning you don’t need any previous background to take it or learn quickly. In this first introduction–which fulfills a language and cultural diversity requirement–you’ll mostly learn to read and write, which you’ll quickly realize is very intuitive. Plus, the course comes with some added perks: The department will periodically host Bollywood movie nights with samosas or dinners at Indian restaurants! — Rohan Gupta, Senior Sports Editor

City on a Hill: The Concept and Culture of American Exceptionalism
Want to know why American politicians insist on describing the U.S. as the “best” country in the world? This class is great for you! This course, taught by Dr. Abram Van Engen, focuses on the seminal Puritan sermon “City on a Hill” and studies how the idea of American exceptionalism has changed over time. Students get the opportunity to examine political rhetoric by reading speeches from politicians ranging from Reagan to Trump, in addition to scholarly articles on the historiography of exceptionalism. Cross-listed in four departments and programs, this class will make you a more mindful member of American society. — Chalaun Lomax, Director of Diversity Initiatives

Introduction to Speech and Hearing Sciences and Disorders
This class covers a wide variety of topics having to do with speech and hearing, ranging from the different medical and cultural models of Deafness to speech and language development. It has a small class size, and features guest lecturers and field trips(!) throughout the semester. Though led by faculty from the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences at the Medical School, it’s taught right here on the Danforth Campus. — Elizabeth Grossman, Copy Chief

Popular Music in American Culture
A super fun, laid-back class about the progression and development of American popular music. The class covers most genres all the way from the mid-19th century to today. The class is mostly taught through song analysis, breaking down the different components of popular songs. As as added bonus, the homework assignments are super fun. Ten pages of reading on ’70s rock and listening to “Stairway to Heaven”? Well, OK, if I HAVE to. — Tyler Sabloff, Senior Forum Editor

Just Do It! Running for Political Office
For some inexplicable reason, I was obsessed with the idea of taking one-credit classes my freshman and sophomore year. I signed up for this one sophomore fall in part because I was planning to major in political science and in part because the U.S. presidential election was coming up. Anyway, this class was super cool. We heard from guest speakers who were knowledgeable about politics and got to pretend to be on a political campaign. Whether you’re a political science junkie or just really want to play a candidate, you should definitely give this class a go. — Ella Chochrek, Director of Special Projects

Freedom, Citizenship and the Making of American Culture
This class is new and I haven’t taken it, but everyone who goes to this University should take at least one small-to-midsize lecture-based history class at some point in their time here. They are a great way to get acquainted with some really interesting things that you are not taught in your high school history classes, and mostly all you have to do is sit back and listen to one of Wash. U.’s excellent history lecturers talk. This one is a 100-level class, open to everyone and will be taught by one of the department’s most popular professors. Even if you think you have no real interest in learning history, give this class a shot. — Jon Lewis, Associate Editor

Introduction to Islamic Civilization
This class takes a really dense topic and makes it accessible and interesting. For any pre-med kids looking for a humanities credit, this is a great class to fulfill that purpose. The assignments are pretty easy and the professor lectures in an engaging style. Or take it to expand your understanding of Islam. Either way, be ready to read and discuss. — Elena Quinones, Senior Cadenza Editor

Computer-Aided Design
In CAD you learn all about engineering design. You learn to sketch 3-D figures and learn a lot about perspective. The majority of the class is dedicated to learning Solidworks parametric modeling software. Although I am no longer a mechanical engineering major, I still enjoyed the class a lot, learned a lot and am planning on taking the second level some time in the future. In CAD you learn a lot of useful information; in fact, being certified in Solidworks can get you a job by itself. If you want to learn modeling software in a class that’s fairly low commitment, I suggest taking CAD. — Josh Zucker, Senior Cadenza Editor

Problems in Philosophy
Philosophy can really suck to study. I like philosophy—quite a bit actually—but when I tried to study it in an academic context elsewhere I absolutely hated it. Philosophers have a rather annoying habit of measuring their intelligence by how unintelligible they can make their works, and that can make any serious study of philosophy incredibly annoying. This class, however, introduces the subject and makes it clear that it’s not something only for high-minded people who write actual sentences like “enframing is the gathering together that belongs to that setting upon which sets upon man and puts him in position to reveal the real in the mode of ordering as standing reserve,” but something accessible, useful and comprehensible. — Sam Seekings, Editor-in-Chief

Programming for Text Analysis
This is a great class for anyone interested in learning how to acquire data from the web and how to use text programming libraries in their studies. Plus, this course assumes no previous coding experience, so it’s a great introduction to Python for those not familiar. — Jeremy Goldstein, Copy Chief

Earth and the Environment
I’m going to be real with you: When I was in this class I didn’t really like it very much. It was first semester freshman year, I was required to take it and at the time I wasn’t super into geology. I’m still not super into geology, but I am grateful to have some basic knowledge of it now. The amount of times I’ve surprisingly been able to recall some obscure term for a rock’s geometry or thought about the fact that Cape Cod was formed by glaciers is borderline embarrassing, but cool nonetheless. — Aidan Strassmann, Managing Editor

Poetry Writing 1
This was a class I had no business taking. I came from no poetry background, no formal knowledge of poetry concepts, and only familiar with one author—Rupi Kaur. Yet somehow it didn’t matter; I loved this class and it completely reshaped my future career goals. In Poetry Writing 1 you’ll learn about poetry as one would learn about art. Writing courses like this one give students the freedom to express all of the inner workings of themselves in a safe environment, with the structured guidance to make something beautiful. It’s a class shrouded in ambiguity, but actually containing so many tools to make beautiful evocative things. — Katy Hutson, Senior Scene Editor

Latin America: Nation, Ethnicity and Social Conflict
Most schools in the U.S. have the terrible flaw of not teaching the history of any other country. Looking for a way to fulfill my Social Differentiation IQ requirement, I stumbled upon this class. It presented an obvious way to fulfill the massive hole in my knowledge of the world, but I was surprised as to how much I ended up loving the class. Ignacio Sanchez Prado (everyone calls him Nacho) remains my favorite teacher at Wash. U. He seems to know absolutely everything on the topic, but still manages to maintain the right mixture of lecture and class discussion. He prefers that each student focuses more on the content of the class than their GPA, so despite the masses of readings he demands, he gives fair grades. The actual content of the class remains the most interesting thing I have learned in college. — Lauren Alley, Senior Forum Editor

Arabic I
Language classes, especially the ones not usually taken by large amounts of people, are fun. The classes have their quirks as a result of the reasons for people taking them and the material they’re taught from. Most of the people taking Arabic are really interested in foreign policy and the class accounts for that. After taking Arabic I, I knew how to say “my dad works for the United Nations and he loves the Prime Minister,” but I still struggle to say “I ate an orange.” That said, the class and all of its intricacies is great. Professor Bennis is fun and engaging. It’s not an easy class but it’s manageable. — Dorian DeBose, Senior Sports Editor