Staff Editorial: Our Spring 2022 class recommendations

It’s a stressful time to be a Washington University student. Many of us have found ourselves in an endless loop of midterm exams, essays, presentations and projects with no end in sight. And on top of that, it’s somehow already time to start stressing over next semester’s classes. With registration starting next week, there’s a lot going on. But in the midst of advisor meetings and triple-checking major requirements, the Student Life Editorial Board advises you not to panic.

It can be really easy for stress about the future to translate into comparing ourselves to everyone around us and feeling like we have to keep up with what everyone else is doing. If all of your friends are pursuing two majors and a minor and you aren’t, you might feel like you aren’t measuring up. If you’re taking 12 credits while everyone around you is taking on 21-credit workloads, it’s easy to think you aren’t doing enough to get into graduate school or to get a job after graduation.

Of course, there are a certain number of course requirements and less-than-fun aspects of receiving an undergraduate degree that you should be aware of. But the level of comparison and competition that most WashU students have unfortunately experienced ultimately only leads to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Before you frantically open your registration worksheet for the millionth time this week, ask yourself: Which classes would you choose if you never had to tell anyone which ones you’re taking? Take the classes and pursue the degree that sounds most interesting to you, not just the one that will look good on paper. And please, for the sake of your mental health come January, remember that you can easily have a fulfilling academic experience by taking on a workload that seems lighter than your peers’.

We encourage you to branch out of your comfort zone and try taking that class you’ve been curious about for the past two years. Take advantage of the resources you have available to you, as well as your advisors, as long as you do your own research as well. Don’t be afraid to explore less traditional options either, whether that means following an accelerated degree program or taking classes through UCollege.

If you’re looking for ideas on some tried-and-true classes, we’ve got you covered.
L27 Music 130: Composition Workshop
While I’ve always been interested in songwriting, I was initially concerned that I wasn’t qualified for this class. I enjoy singing and have very basic piano skills, but I’m in no way a skilled musician. However, because this class is focused on individual projects, it’s truly accessible to students at every level. Each week, students meet with Professor Stark for 30 minutes to work on a composition. Stark meets students where they are, whether they’re composing a major orchestral piece or a song with just four chords (I’m clearly the latter). During the Wednesday class time, students present their progress and share helpful, encouraging feedback.
—Jaden Satenstein, Senior Multimedia Editor

L14 E Lit 334: A History of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature
This is an English class. It’s a history class. It’s an early childhood education class. One of the first classes I took for my English major, Children’s Literature was always fun — despite my 4-5:30 p.m. time slot, and despite its location in the Simon basement. (Both of those downsides are no longer applicable next semester.) Each week, we read one classic work of children’s literature as well as some relevant secondary texts, which meant the workload was often high, but 300 pages of “Alice in Wonderland” is different than 300 pages of a textbook. In addition to revisiting some childhood favorites, I also learned a lot of the influences of the modern education system — you’d be surprised how much ideas from the 1700s still influence us now.
—Isabella Neubauer, Managing Editor

L30 Phil 306G: Philosophy of Language
As a PNP major with an emphasis in philosophy, I’ve taken a lot of philosophy classes. There are so many classes that have different names and themes, but most of the time, they focus on the same core philosophers. At a certain point, there is only so much you can say about Locke, Aristotle and Kant at this level of education. This class, on the other hand, provides a deep dive into how we identify things in the world and language’s role in that. This niche area of study allows you to explore philosophers you will likely never name in other classes. Despite being a philosophy class, there are a lot of interesting takeaways available for many different areas of study. From the neuroscientist to the psychologist to the computer scientist, there is a range of topics that are bound to interest students of all majors.
—Gracie Hime, Senior Cadenza Editor

L14 E Lit 424: Topics in American Literature: Slavery and its Legacies
This is my final semester at WashU, so it was my first time looking through next semester’s course offerings when I was preparing to write this paragraph. That being said, I’m going to suggest to you all a class I haven’t taken, but would take if I were here in the spring. I love the English department, and Dr. Li’s class on Toni Morrison is one of my favorites. Dr. Li is a kind and deeply intelligent professor whose class always has lively discussions, and I’m sure this will be the case for “Slavery and its Legacies.” You’ll get to read numerous fulfilling texts on African American literature, including renowned slave narratives like those of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. Between Dr. Li’s wonderful teaching style and the richness of the assigned texts, this is sure to be a class you should take this spring.
—Jordan Coley, Senior Cadenza Editor and Copy Editor

L97 GS (IAS) 4662: Central American Geographies of Violence
This class taught me so much about a region with which I was very unfamiliar before last spring and (even though it was on Zoom) provided a home for some of the most interesting discussions I have been a part of at WashU. Dr. Clouser does a great job of balancing political and anthropological theory with specific applications of complex ideas. She encouraged us to think deeply about tough issues and come to our own conclusions through thorough research. Overall, the class challenged us to rethink common discourses and stereotypes regarding violence both in Central America and in general. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to take the course!
—Matthew Friedman, Editor-in-Chief

L40 SOC 2030: Social Movements
I firmly believe that everyone should take at least one sociology course in their time at college, and this class is a good place to start. When I took it last year, it was a good starting guide to how social movements gain steam and why they die out, and helped me understand just how non-random social action (and successful activism) is. Best of all, the course is quite accessible, even if you don’t have much background in sociology. If you pay attention, you may just walk away finding it easier to frame the social movements you’re a part of within a larger context that can be daunting to breach on your own.
—Jamila Dawkins, Senior Forum Editor
L19 EPSc 106: First-Year Opportunity: Exploring the Planets
I know this class can only be taken by a quarter of the WashU undergraduate student body — but since there’s only 15 seats, maybe that’s a good thing. If you’re a non-physics major looking for a low-pressure and stimulating way to inject a little STEM into your course load, look no further. This one-credit course will take up only an hour of each week but will give back immense new knowledge of space missions and planetary exploration. Any professor in this field is thrilled to talk and answer questions about the cosmos, and the energy is infectious. When life gets a little too stressful here on earth, I highly recommend floating in space for a while by taking this class.
—Olivia Poolos, Senior Scene Editor

L29 Dance 106E: Introduction to Dance as a Contemporary Art Form
Have you dabbled in different dance styles throughout your life? Great! Have you never attempted a dance move before? Also great! I came into this class looking for a more exciting way to keep my body moving, as I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional gym workouts. Not only did I find that in this class, but I’ve also found an outlet for my daily stresses and emotions. The environment is extremely supportive — I never feel self-conscious during class, and I am able to move freely and comfortably regardless of my actual dance skill. So, if you, like me, want to stay active but can’t stand the gym, or if you just want a class that gives you a break from academics, I would recommend trying out this beginner, stress-free dance class.
—Reilly Brady, Senior Forum Editor

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