THIS IS FOR ANY FRESHMAN WHO THINKS THEY ARE INTO POLITICAL SCIENCE: If you are a human who regularly listens to NPR, the Daily, took AP gov, or literally just has a BASIC understanding of American politics this is gonna be a boring and pointless class. Similarly, if you are interested in learning/thinking about the world with a remotely critical lens, this is not the department for you. Try history, WGSS, CSER, etc. I truly do not understand why Miller has goodish reviews. White men trying to be sassy and smart while they state basic information is so triggering— and he is exactly that. I do not trust anyone who has good things to say about this class.
This is my first CULPA review as well; however, the bad reviews on this guy are a joke. He is one of the most knowledgeable individuals and teachers that I have had. The bad reviews are definitely from underdeveloped students who can't understand humor or what a good professor is. He comes to class every day, using memes, to make it enjoyable for all. We had a mock congressional session and he spends time every class answering questions from the students. I took this as a freshman and I recommend anyone to take this class as well. Great Professor. Easy A.
I have never written a CULPA review before but as someone who was in the Fall 2020 class that received some very negative reviews, I would like to strongly disagree with the comments made about Professor Miller. This was one of the few virtual classes I've taken that was both interesting and manageable. I'm almost certain that the negative reviews were mainly from the first-year students in the class who seemed angry that their writing was being critiqued, all while constantly interrupting the lecture with repetitive questions. Just as an example, in a given lecture there could be 5 separate questions about the due date for something that was clearly marked on the syllabus. Just something to take into account when reading the reviews for Intro to American Politics.
This class was not intolerable, just annoying. Prof. Miller is the worst sort of lecturer - monotonously loud, unfunny, and one gets the feeling probably kind of a narcissist. (Example: an opening joke on day 2 - "Not many men have written a declaration of independence, but I once got a divorce.") Loves to hear himself talk at the expense of a deeper look at the material. If you're someone who generally retains information better from a professor who puts delivery over content, you'll like him. But if you prefer a lecturer who can be nuanced and detailed, sometimes at the expense of fun, stay away. It's an easy class, and there isn't much work required - you'll probably do fine if you take it. And, to his credit, he was accommodating and helpful during his office hours the time I attended. But I can't help but think it would be a far more interesting course were it taught by someone a bit more dynamic. It won't kill you but if you have a choice I'd wait for someone else.
I would not recommend Professor Miller. Wait for Intro to American Politics to be taught by another Professor if you want to take the class that badly. Professor Miller has clear favorites within lectures and calls on these people during the question time in the beginning and allows them to share long dialogues that take up class time. Professor Miller is unhelpful and unfriendly in response to emails and is overall unapproachable. He does have office hours but does not seem to be happy to see students during these hours ... If you take this class make sure you get a good TA- this is essential as they alone grade ALL your work for the class. Professor Miller's lecture style is very unique- the slides are mostly photos/ one or two words (yes words) so be prepared to really listen to what he is saying and do a lot of your own research as the lectures do not offer that much information.
NOTE: Review for an online semester during COVID-19 pandemic. Very laid back TA who gives helpful summaries of the readings and preps you well for the exams. Each student was assigned one week to summarize the section readings, and then people who wanted to jump in could talk about them. Oliver is very knowledgeable and nice, and he doesn't require that much from you besides showing up and doing the reading you're assigned. Gives good essay feedback for people who need it, and a generous grader. Would recommend for an easy and helpful Intro to US Politics experience.
Michael Miller is the only person I can think of that can take a topic as broad as "American Politics" and make it all about himself. From joking about getting arrested to refusing to make his class content widely accessible, you aren't going to get anything but angry with this class. The content and workload are not difficult by any means - it would just help to learn something that is actually useful as opposed to Miller's theoretical approaches to reforming our government.
Hilarious, knowledgeable, nuanced. Would recommend it (at least for Intro to American Politics). Will keep you engaged throughout the lecture with memes.
His class is fab. His exam is very thoughtful. He's organized and his class is interesting. He's the most organized professional professor I've had yet at Columbia. Glad he's here. He's like an actual teacher.
if you're taking literally ANY class except Intro to American politics, dip. He's rude, unhelpful, self aggrandising, and demoralising. There are other amazing polisci professors, don't waste your time + keep your sanity.
Miller always ensures an engaging lecture, even at 8:40am. He challenges what you find in a normal government textbook (which he has us read) and brings refreshing takes on them, that too, non-partisan takes, and he also cracks good jokes here and there. While the beginning has an emphasis on a lot of US history, he covers topics and links them to the past and present to see where they fit in the political history and current political scene. Recommend this course overall, you'll definitely leave after having learned something new. As for the less nice parts of the course, the discussion section was pretty large and not terribly engaging - mostly just chat in groups about assigned reading topic then share in class. Grading is all done by TA's, so if you get a harsh one, you're at a disadvantage, but the best way to combat this is TA office hours. In addition, sometimes it feels like Miller was just a lecturer and not truly a professor - he minimized questions that students could ask him and not TA's, including about course material. Understandable given it's a huge class but still off putting. - then again, it could just be him preparing us for the real world or something, but wish he was more approachable. The exception is he lets students ask anything they want in the first five minutes, but his answers are often condescending and belittle students. For assessments, two midterms where he gives five essay questions in advance and randomly draws two, and for the final everyone answers one surprise question and the other one is drawn from four possible options. There are weekly readings from two textbooks, and there is a paper as well.
Professor Miller was an amazing professor! His lectures were interesting and engaging complete with memes and funny videos. The exams are very easy - he gives you five essay questions about one week ahead of time and two are randomly chosen on the day of the exam. If you attend lecture, the exams are super easy - you can literally just copy and paste from your notes. There is reading from the textbook for class, but I did not find it necessary and made As without reading it (Although if you are not American and/or do not have any background in the subject matter then I recommend reading it). There is also reading from another textbook for the weekly discussion section which is usually about 15 pages and is necessary to receive a good participation grade. There are also 3 simulations throughout the semester for which you have to prepare a "memo" and receive a participation grade for. Overall the class is easy if you show up for lecture and put in a reasonable amount of effort.
People really love Miller. I think he's funny and a great lecturer, but the class isn't particularly life-changing. It was kind of like APUSH 2.0. Lecture is very helpful to go to, but it's not mandatory. The discussion section was almost like a completely different course, which made it feel somewhat useless at times. However, I think that this is a good option for someone trying to fulfill requirements toward a political science major. He's definitely an interesting lecturer and person, but just don't get too caught up in the hype. His exams are extremely fair (he gives the prompts 1-2 weeks in advance and randomly draws), and it's almost impossible not to do well in the class if you study notes and go to section.
Michael Miller is hands down the best professor/teacher I have ever had. His lectures are witty, stimulating, and thought-provoking. His Intro to American Politics class is a favorite of mine: it is both an interesting topic and he just sells it all so well. Non-partisan teacher, too. Literally convinced everyone I know to take this course. It changed my life and way I think. I would donate my kidney for him-- not even a joke.
I think that he is a great person. He is a great guy. However, he is a boring lecturer who teaches everything from the textbook. He talks pretty fast and his slides are just full of texts. His exams are fair, but it really depends on the TAs. Personally, my TA was not helpful at all.
This class was not very difficult, but Professor Phillips is a great lecturer and made the material engaging and relevant.
If you're going to take an intro poli sci course, I'd recommend this one. Phillips is a great lecturer and all you have to do is go to lecture to get the info for the tests. The information is really important to know for a poli sci major. Mandatory recitations which, if you get a good TA, basically tell you exactly what to study for the exams. Would recommend this course. Oliver Mclellan is the best TA I've ever had, and I switched into his section after having Sean Leong, the worst TA I've ever had the misfortune of listening to. Avoid Sean at all costs and get Oliver because he will prepare you soo well for the exams.
This was a great class. I learned so much about political theory and its practice in American politics. I loved Prof. Russell, and I don't think she's disorganized at all. There's a huge value to her madness. I would suggest typing your notes for this class, though if you are to keep up and keep everything organized. Russell truly engages you with the major ideas and concepts and makes it so easy to comprehend. If you think you know American politics, you don't until you take this class. There's a lot of reading, but it's very valuable, especially the textbook with snippets from major political science works. It integrates arguments nicely with class lectures. You can speed read the other textbook and take down key terms, especially for the ID section on the midterm and final. Otherwise, you'll get the bulk of what you need from Prof. Russell. My TA was also great. His name was Steven White and he efficiently helped us to understand the main points of the weekly readings. Overall this class was great and I did really well.TBH I actually fell asleep a couple times during the final because I was so sleep deprived from finals week, but it appears I killed the final. Take this class.
Russell is brilliant, but her lectures can be a bit disorganized dry, especially later on in the semester, when we discussed public policy, for which *there were no readings other than her book.* Overall, however, I learned a lot The readings could be long, tedious, and dry, but my TA was good at explaining them succinctly. This is *not* a repeat of AP Gov from high school -- you're not learning how a bill gets passed or things like that. Russell likes to talk about the theory behind how government works. She does have a political agenda, and this is made very clear to you by the end of the first lecture, and it does carry through her lectures. If you're not liberal, you might not like this. Either drop the class and take it with someone else, or bite the bullet and take it with Russell. Attendance is mandatory in both lectures and discussion sections, and Russell is fanatical about this -- there is an attendance sheet that circulates every lecture, and the TAs all take attendance in section.
it's hard to describe this class. this was my first government class and I didnt know what to expect. Professor Russell is a nice person and she is always readily available in office hours but man her lectures were crazy! Best way put, she "shotguns" her material, she goes all over the place and goes a mile a minute, multiple times a lecture I would ask myself "is this really important to be writing down?" Her midterm wasnt too bad, if you went to class and actually paid attention somewhat. I felt like she over prepared us for the midterm. The paper wasn't too bad either, literally there was no topic, it just had to be about American politics and be somewhat relevant to what we were talking about. Haven't taken the final yet but I have heard its similar to the midterm. Also i feel like she is giving us subliminal messages to watch House of Cards and The West Wing and she said King Joffrey died the day after when half the class hadn't watched the latest GOT episode HA! In conclusion, is this a good class? No, it's really dry, She has potential but I think she has taught this class too much she has lost her magic. However, this class isn't awful, its just one of those classes you need to bite the bullet and just get it over with. You could definitely have a worse teacher for this subject
Judith Russell is a very intelligent, devoted, caring person. However that does not mean she's a good teacher. The readings are heavy and dry (which is silly, because there are so many AMAZING American poli sci readings), and the things she wants you to glean from them are really not consistent or relevant. She seems like one of those people who is so intelligent that her thoughts come out scattered, as if her brain is speeding ahead at 500 mph and her mouth is sputtering out the bits she remembers. I think she might be better in a seminar, but in a lecture setting she's unfocused, repetitive, and doesn't answer questions. The TAs are alright, they're kind of constrained by the dullness of the course. Russell is very liberal, which she is upfront about, and she often points out that she is providing a liberal take on issues - but she often completely glosses over important conservative elements. She's very impassioned about West Wing and House of Cards, and while I appreciate that she tries to connect with students over these topics, she sometimes goes on tangents for half the class, but still expects you to know all the things she didn't talk about for the final.
It's beyond me why this woman doesn't have a golden nugget. SHE IS AMAZING By far the nicest person I've met at Columbia (including students and dining staff). And by far the most accessible. When she says she loves to talk to students she actually means it. And yes, she does help with internships. For me, she not only wrote a rec letter, she actually called the senator office and made sure I got it. I LOVE YOU JUDITH RUSSELL. (I'd marry you if I was a bit older and/or straight) As for the class: It's a really nice class. It's not challenging or hard. It's a good overview and intro to American politics. As an international student, I was really interested, I assume that for most Americans this is stuff you already know... But still, the material is interesting, the readings are good, and professor Russell sometimes adds lectures on things like affirmative action which I found fascinating. Participation is a must. But for realz, she says it in the first lecture. If you think you won't be able to handle attending every class then just DROP THE FUCKING COURSE. Don't come here bitching about it. This was the first year that the exam was in class. I assume she's gonna keep doing it. But the exam is fair, if you attended class (and actually listened), and did the readings, you'll be fine. The discussion sections are ok, depends on who your TA is, but from what I heard they're all kinda good.
Judith Russell is an amazing professor. Having taken her Intro class and worked with her in other capacities, she is one of the most knowledgeable people Iâ€™ve met on American politics today and historically, as well as on the American political science literature. Professor Russell has a superb understanding of the Founding Fathersâ€™ thinking. You leave her class with a real grounding in the core thinkers who shaped the American political system. She also assigns thought provoking articles with differing interpretations about fundamental issues like the framing of the constitution and the role of the judiciary. Another wonderful aspect is that Professor Russell really pushes students to explore their individual interests and works with them to achieve that end. Further, she is excellent as an editor and as someone to bounce ideas off of, always adding valuable insight. Professor Russell is also an exceptionally supportive faculty member who goes above and beyond for her students. She is remarkable as a professor and as a mentor. Columbia is lucky to have her. Take her courses and get to know herâ€”it is absolutely worth it.
This is one of the best classes I have ever taken. It was at 10:10 AM but Professor Phillips managed to always keep my attention. Just by going to the lectures and taking notes you basically can know most of the things needed for the course as long as you skim the reading and primary sources. He is a really engaged professor and definitely is willing to meet with you during office hours. A lot of people didn't do well on the first midterm but people did really well on the other two and most people did well in the course. i definitely recommend the course and Professor Phillips (I also really loved my TA, Albert Fang, and recommend him as well if you can ever get him in a course).
He is phenomenal. He really cares and wants to make sure the students understand the reading. He goes over each and pulls out the main points that students need with discussion and other mediums (powerpoints, news articles, etc.) Additionally, he's really entertaining and makes re-learning facts/history that American students have learned about five different times in elementary/middle/high school interesting. Take him if possible. If not, be happy with whatever second best TA you are stuck with.
I completely agree and understand with how polar these previous reviews seem to be. For the first few lectures with Prof. Russell, I was convinced I had made a terrible mistake. She always begins lectures about 10 to 15 minutes late, and every other lecture ends about an extra 5 or 10 minutes early. Moreover, her lectures are messy, she stomps her feet and moves around a lot (which can be very distracting), and writes completely illegibly on the blackboard. She is repetitive, and takes constant breaks to try and figure out where she herself is in the material. Lastly, at a point the class feels rushed, because she takes days discussing some topics early in the semester, then struggles to catch up towards the end. It also doesn't help that she includes some random lectures on affirmative action and other topics that, while interesting, are not completely relevant and (not being in the syllabus) delay the class even further. Having said that though, I quickly realized I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS WOMAN. She is possibly the MOST approachable professor on campus; she truly makes an effort to get to know her students, and encourages us all to visit her for office hours. Eventually, you realize that her lectures are actually a lot better connected and relevant to each other than you first thought. Sure, she's still messy and she could definitely both streamline her material and cover a lot more of it if she were slightly more efficient. Nevertheless, at the end of the class you realize you've learned a *lot* more than you ever expected. Many come into this class thinking it's just another American politics class covering the same basics: Constitution, Madisonian model, blablabla. And it is. But you learn SO much more about all of these topics than you ever had, and you learn to look at it all through a very different perspective. The readings are a bit excessive sometimes (for one class, we basically had to read an entire book, plus a couple of articles and other chapters), but they're not absolutely essential (especially if you have a good TA). If you do them though, they are actually extremely useful and very interesting. Lastly, she is a great contact for internships and just as an all-around, fantastic, epic woman. If you can, TAKE DR. RUSSELL'S CLASS. She is a great person, you learn a lot more than you expected, and at the end of the day you'll realize you're really going to miss her lectures (no matter how much they *can* improve). It's tough to sum her up because she really is the definition of a hot mess. But in the end, you'll look back on her class and realize how much you've learned, what a great resource she can be (internships, interviews, other classes' projects, etc.), and how much you'll miss her lectures.
I had Camille for my discussion section of Introduction to American Politics and Government. She seems nice enough outside of class, but she is clearly very nervous as a TA. She doesn't explain assignments well, she talks far too quietly, and she is horrible at leading discussion. We didn't even have discussion. Instead she chose to have people email in questions about roughly half the readings and the class would be spent answering them. On the very best days, she would speak in a really tiny voice, reading verbatim from a powerpoint, and snap at everyone she caught whispering. One the worst days, she would become so frustrated that people weren't answering questions (most people were on facebook or just too uncomfortable by the tense climate of the classroom to feel like speaking) that she would end class early (sometimes only 20 minutes into the 50 minute class) and then make passive aggressive remarks like, "I would like to remind everyone that PARTICIPATION WILL COUNT" or "I'll be cutting office hours today, not that it matters because none of you ever come." In short, if I had to take the class over again, I definitely, definitely would have chosen a different TA. I've heard David is actually really good.
Phillips is a good lecturer and he pretty much takes his slides directly from the readings. Most people didn't ever show up for lecture and if you have time to do the readings on your own during the week then you probably don't need to go. Prof. Phillips isn't the most interesting and entertaining lecturer (I've fallen asleep a few times and the 9 AM class time doesn't help much), but he's a nice guy and the tests were always fair. The content of the class consisted of very straight-forward introductory concepts of American government, political systems, institutions, parties, etc. I'm thinking of being a political science major so it was a good fundamental class to get started in the subject. What made this class the most worthwhile for me was my TA--David O'Connell! If you take this class, do everything in your power to get into his section! He is amazing. Overall, good intro class with an easy workload.
Intro to American Politics is an ideal introductory course. Professor Phillips uses PowerPoint to lecture, which ensures that he is always easy to follow and that his lectures are perfectly structured and clear. Professor Phillips understands that not all of the material in the course is super-interesting, and so he makes sure to incorporate various thought-provoking studies and graphs into his lecture to help jazz things up. One of the best parts of this class is that you will never be confused about what's going to be on your midterm/final. If you listen and take notes during lecture, and skim all of the necessary readings, you should have no problem on any of his exams. Even if you aren't a Political Science major, you should still take this class! A lot of what Professor Phillips teaches about Political Behavior is very interesting and applicable to other areas of study, so this course will probably help you sometime down the line. Word of advice: pay attention during the first two lectures! These are the most important lectures of the course, since the terms you learn then will be brought up again and again throughout the semester.
I feel like some of the other reviewers and I must have been taught by completely different people. This is my second consecutive semester in a JR class - last semester I took Politics of American Policymaking (I'm doing it backwards, I know). She is the second-best professor I've had at Columbia. She would be the best, but Dean Awn's Islam class is absolutely amazing and anyone who hasn't taken it should get into it ASAP. Anyway, here's the deal with Professor Russell: attendance in class is mandatory. So I suspect that is what drives a lot of the negativity about her. But really, it's not that big a deal. Go to class. Her lectures are generally very interesting. She has a real gift for explaining the forces behind some of the biggest events in US political history. She has a good sense of humor and she insists that her students keep up on current events, often bringing in clippings from the day's newspaper or recent magazine articles and reading them to highlight how the issues we're talking about are still relevant. She's a good lecturer, but I think the best part about Prof. Russell is how much she cares about her students. Go to her office hours, email her, ask her a question before or after class - she will give you her full, undivided attention. She doesn't forget about people (well, sometimes she does, but when it happens she's extremely apologetic and then works twice as hard to take care of their issue). If you ask her one question, send her one email, or visit her office hours one time, she will know your name for the rest of your life. She'll help students find internships, help them find sources for their research papers, or just give you her thoughts on whatever topics you might be interested in. I never waited more than 24 hours for a response to an email. Several times she responded - with solid answers - in minutes. She is, of the professors I've met, hands-down the one who cares most about her students. The class is worth taking if only as a reason to meet Judith Russell and have her as someone whose knowledge you can tap into for the rest of your time at Columbia. The class itself is easy. I'll get to that in workload, I guess. Anyway, I highly recommend this class or any Judith Russell class.
I cannot speak to her abilities in a seminar. This class however left me with an extremely negative impression. She starts class 10 minutes late, she clearly doesn't spend any time organizing her lecture, she feels the need to give her political thoughts on every topic, and she goes off on tangents that are almost entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand. All in all, I felt like I was being taught American politics by a pundit on MSNBC rather than a Columbia University professor. Yes, she is clearly a nice person who enjoys talking to students and getting people internships. But as far as her abilities as a into US gov lecturer? Go in another direction.
These reviews of Professor Russell are all wrong. The woman is great. She is engaging, funny, caring, and smart as hell. Basically she's a legend. She has this sort of cult following in the political science department: she supervises quite a few theses and independent studies, which is rare here for an Americanist and rarer still for an adjunct. Why do you think that is? Why would so many people SEEK HER OUT to supervise their work (many after having taken her seminar?) It's because she's the best. The CULPA consensus seems to suggest that she's a bad professor. What can I say? I know what I'm talking about and these other tools don't. All I ask is that you give her a chance. Take her seminar and go to her office hours. You'll see what I'm talking about.
People are not giving this woman enough credit. Yes, she is very all over the place and goes on odd tangents, albeit they are very interesting and amusing. The general direction and gist are easy to pick up on and as long as you pay attention and take good notes, you're set. Its very easy to pay attention in the class if you're at least semi-interested in the material. She is one of the most comical professors, with more personality than most, that I have seen here at CU/BC. Those who can't stand her are likely pessimistic and pretentious.
I came to Columbia a naive eighteen year-old dead set on Poli sci, filled with starry-eyed dreams of retracing Obama's footsteps and studying at one of the nation's oldest Political Science depts, learning and frolicking among the hallowed stomping grounds of Hamilton and Jay. Columbia was supposed to be a magical, political place perfect for someone like me, and having come from a high school were no government courses were offered, I was extremely excited to see what Columbia had to offer. Granted, as a jaded sophomore today, I now realize that those unreasonably high expectations were... well, stupid. But I never imagined I would be as utterly disappointed with a poli sci class as I was with Russell's Intro to American Politics. This lady probably knows a lot. But she is a simply atrocious lecturer. Her lectures are basically a series of highly disorganized ramblings punctuated with illegible scrawlings on the blackboard. She almost always loses track of time due to her ranting and as a result we never ended up covering all the promised topics on the syllabus. Listening to her speak is painful and bewildering; it is hard to tell when she is making an important point and when she is simply going on a tangent. She jumps from subject to subject. I believe that Russell is passionate about the subject matter, but that makes it even more bewildering as to why she is unable to convey a coherent message. I do't believe I am alone in feeling this; looking around the room almost everyone else with a laptop is on Gmail, Facebook, or is doing other class assignments. Anyone without a laptop is doodling or slumped over the desk in defeat. It is terrible that Russell takes daily attendance; it's the only reason why people keep coming back. If she dropped the attendance sheet system, nobody would come. The TAs are absolutely useless and barely know anything; discussion sections are just a smaller, more awkward version of class. Overall, it is really unfortunate that this crucial, required class is such a drag. I'll still probably stick with political science for now under the hopes that higher level classes (or Barnard Poli Sci courses) are more interesting - but as for this one? It sucks. Stay away.
Johnson is a fair, intelligent professor who makes her expectation clear and grades in a transparent, straightforward manner. Although she is bumbling at times and struggles with spelling, she teaches the material clearly and picks good readings. You may not look forward to lecture everyday, but she is a competent instructor who does her job well given the dull subject matter. She is also very kind and interested in the students. Getting a good TA helps so try to be placed well.
Everything that was said by the other reviewers is true (especially the poem one, props). Russell is a really nice lady who is extremely accessible and approachable, but her lectures are all over the place. Only after someone made a special request did she put the outline of her lectures on the board before class so that we could at least attempt to follow her train of thought. The material is not difficult at all, pretty basic US Gov stuff, and the TAs were awesome. Amy and David (I didn't have much to do with Zach) probably taught more PoliSci than Russell did, and saved the grades of dozens of students. Russell assigns a zillion readings, most of which aren't necessary, and if you have a good TA they'll tell you what's important to know and what's not. The midterm was take-home which was great and the research paper and final were mostly harmless. She gives you an enormous list of IDs beforehand and if you know that list, you'll ace the final. If I haven't made it clear yet, the lectures are pretty awful but you have to show up because she takes attendance, but if you put in one ounce of effort, an A- or an A is easily attainable.
If you're debating taking Intro to American Politics and you see that Kim Johnson is the teacher, DON'T -- wait until a later semester to take the class. Put bluntly, she is the worst lecturer I've had in three years at Columbia. Her lectures have no overall organization other than the fact that she reductively summarizes the readings for that day, despite the fact that a.) the readings are so long they're almost impossible to do, b.) the TAs do the same thing during discussion section, and c.) it's evident that she hasn't read the readings in months -- she flat out gets things wrong much of the time. That being said, you're not going to get a bad grade from the class, and if you do the readings independently, you will learn enough to take any higher-level American Politics poli-sci course. But I'd hate to see anyone who's debating poli-sci or wanting to check it out take this as his or her first class.
Prof. Phillips was pretty good for this broad but necessary introductory course. If you need to take this class, he's your man -- the lectures are clear and very organized, the exams straightforward and pretty easy (getting an A is not too hard). Not everything in the class is thrilling, but Phillips tries to make it more interesting with case studies and contemporary examples. Reading is not too bad, and some of the articles are interesting. You can get away with not doing the textbook reading and skipping lectures every once in a while. All in all, Phillips teaches well and if you do the work/attend class you'll end up with the knowledge you need in order to know what you're talking about in American politics.
David is an amazing TA - do your best to get in his section! He puts a huge amount of work into being a TA and it's clear that it's his top priority. Discussion sessions were well-organized, and David always tried to inspire debate and ask for people's opinions on the material (though participation was not graded). He's also a very cool and friendly guy, and gets really excited about the material (which is not easy to get excited about in an intro course like this). For exams, David is totally on your side and tries to help you succeed, offering multiple review sessions/office hours and a review sheet. His grading is pretty fair. Highly recommend!
David is by far the most dedicated, knowledgeable, and approachable TA I have had throughout my years at this institution. It is obvious he considers being a TA a priority, as he returns emails and papers quickly and is always available, even outside of his office hours. He is a fair grader for papers, and holds a thorough, organized, and detailed review session that is invaluable for the final exam. On top of all of that, he is a genuinely nice guy. If you have the opportunity to take a class with him, definitely do it.
Stay away from the class at all costs. As an American Studies major with a focus on politics, I went in this class because I thought it would be a good background, having rad the reviews and thinking, Â“Oh well, how bad can it be?Â” Answer: pretty darn bad. The entire time spent in class was extremely tedious (particularly at 9 in the morning), and I gained nothing from the material (or lack thereof). Russell is a useless lecturer, and the high- school level of material combined with her shallow and scattered explanations lulled me into a false sense of security that anything covered in the class I already knew from my relatively broad political understanding and my high school government class. We didnÂ’t have AP Government at my high school, but if you took that I could imagine that the uselessness of this class could be even more compounded. Come finals time, I had a bit of studying to do, but fortunately she gives you a list of IDs ahead of time (granted, 100+). I put the paper off as well which was a huge mistake and resulted with me getting a low grade considering the material, so be aware. One of the worst parts of this class is that there was a pointless discussion section led by a non-American who had never studied American politics or even poli sci in general before. We had to do short presentations on the readings, which were not usually that relevant to the course. In the end, I regretted the hours of life I wasted on this useless course. The only good thing about it was that sheÂ’s extremely helpful on hooking you up with internships with Hillary Clinton (though maybe thatÂ’s changing these days, I took the course Spring 2006). If you want to learn about contemporary American politics, just read a newspaper and youÂ’ll learn more than Judith Russell will teach you.
If Madison and Hillary both really turn you on and notes organized chaotically make your heart break out in song, there's a prof named Judith Russell with whom you can't go wrong (just check your own opinions at the door and you're sure to get along). She can't think through one whole sentence; one point takes three attempts, and on appropriate topics like Obama's experience, she just vents and vents. But Hillary and Madison, she loves more than her rents, and she'll tell you so most every class, until your patience's spent. Oh, and mandatory attendance ain't so bad, you say? Nine a.m. lectures that have no point won't keep your thoughts that way, especially when she enters on her LBJ jobs programs tirade and refers in third person to her book, at LEAST $30 on EBay. So if you think the professor's politics ought not affect the class, on spring semester American Government you ought to take a pass, cuz Jude's pointless rambling and Hillary rants killed my spirit fast and nearly made this polisci class my once-loved major's last. Cuz the only kids that like this class are the ones who want her bribes, the internships she loves to offer because it fills her heart with pride to imagine that the students think she's smart, when really she can't hide that Madison's been dead for years and Hillary's a cheated bride. Seriously, please don't take this class. It sucks.
Professor Russell's Intro to American Politics class was basically a review of material learned in a high school American government class. For anyone who has had experience in this type of a class, Russell's class will not be hard. Her lectures are boring, which is made worse by the fact that they are at 9am and she takes attendance. She also refers to herself in third person, which is annoying after a while. She also assigns a ridiculous amount of reading, but almost all of it is unnecessary for the midterm or final. If you're looking for a basic introductory political science class, go ahead and take this one; just don't expect it to be very interesting or engaging.
Do not take Isil as a TA. Generally, classes would consist of the entire class sitting in silence, while she would bring up some points and ask "What do you think? C'mon, what do you think?" People would talk out of pity, but she was inept at keeping the discussion lively and flowing, even when the topic was interested. She had to resort to assigning mini-oral reports to force conversation. While other discussion sections worked on the 200 word study guide, we did absolutely nothing. This discussion did not teach me one thing about American Politics. There was absolutely nothing to recommend this discussion section.
Grant is a cool, easygoing, and intelligent guy. Godod things about having Grant as your TA: he's smart and resourceful, knows his Amer gvt well and can direct you well in class assignments. He's also relaxed and won't tell on you if you miss a few sections as long as you tell him first and don't make a habit of it (which is good since JRussell's class counts attendance as part of your grade). Finally, he's still really enthusiastic about helping, and will meet with students for lengthy amounts of time even close to due dates, and is really nice about giving extensions, being understanding, etc. In section we probably spend too much time expounding on detailed cases and stuff that you'll never hear of again in the class, but Grant makes an effort to have us all review the readings (which actually wasn't too helpful since most people give rather uninspired summaries and you're better off just doing the reading yourself). I hope I haven't made him sound like a pushover - I suppose it's possible the description sounds like that, but I say don't be an asshole and count yourself lucky to have such a good TA.
Although Professor Phillips is new to Columbia (recently did his dissertation in California) he is very well organized, although sometimes Columbia's computer system breaks down and interrupts his system of power-point teaching. He's very friendly and responds quickly to e-mails, I suspect this is one of the good characteristics he has for just arriving and I hope it's a trait a keeps after long being here. Although some students see the class as a bit dry and over-methodical, he sticks closely to adhering theories to the literature. This class is definitaly taught by the numbers which makes it easy to follow. Professor Phillips is a friendly grader, and really, all you need to do is absorb the main trends in the readings. Actually, a lot of the peripheral readings (literature on cases) didn't seem too pertinent to the exams. All around he's a very fair guy, and is willing to answer questions and doesn't bog you down with tangential information. His professorial freshness makes him attentive if you make yourself known to him, and he lacks the ego and self-righteousness many professors at Columbia have developed after having their asses kissed by students, academia and general society for way too long. The class is a well-balanced. It definitaly treats American politics as a science, and you can learn a lot if you learn to speedread through the readings.
This class was a bit mind-numbing, and not just because the material was elementary; Prof Phillips read directly from his powerpoint presentation, and his powerpoints often parroted our textbook. It's unclear whether professor phillips would have made a better showing if he had been given the opportunity to teach a class with more substance. All in all, he wasn't a very imaginative lecturer, but he did a good job of managing and organizing the course material. Conceptually and work-wise, this class was a breeze. If you attended lecture, the textbook was obsolete (don't buy it). The weekly readings were interesting but pretty basic, so you'll already know about them if you took AP Gov't in high school or if you consider yourself any sort of good citizen.
This class is meant for international students visiting the United States for the first time. The material covered in this class is material that all students should know before being admitted into Columbia University- I was embaressed to be in this class- we covered topics such as "what are the three branches of government" and "what is the difference between the House of Representatives and the Sentate". However, if you want an easy A without having to go to class, this class is for you.
This class was good and bad. It was bad because, basically, it was a repeat of my 8th grade civics course, with more advanced concepts introduced. That being said, if you remember nothing from your civics class, or never took one, this is a good, simple introduction. Also, the workload is light--readings that are hit or miss in terms of being interesting, and are fairly unnecessary if you can bullsh-t well, and two papers.
Prof. Smith knows his stuff, and the most enjoyable parts of the class for me was when he'd just go into trivia mode and go through mini-biographies of various lesser-known political figures (like possible Democratic and Republican presidential nominees from the '04 election), usually inserting a quip or two into each description. The class is run in a sort of high schoolish manner and is accompanied by a similarly somewhat dumbed-down textbook, but that was fine with me; my government class in high school was a joke so I really needed some basic training in American politics. The class also seems to be filled with athletes, so I don't know if that was a coincidence or if the class is known to be a little on the easier side. In any case, it's easy to get away with just skimming the readings and breezing over the course in general, but you can also learn things if you try. The discussion sections are kind of silly/useless but Prof. Smith definitely attempts to make them worthwhile (with debates and stuff like that) even if he doesn't entirely succeed. My TA, John Sivolella, was a nice guy who was basically going through the motions without giving anybody a hard time which, again, was fine with me. Also, the books Prof. Smith chooses are seminal American poli sci works (Neustadt, Mayhew) so it's good to be forced to read those at some point if you're a poli sci major.
Smith's lectures are fun... once in a while. He is a friendly teacher though he speaks fast. But most of the time you will be fine just dropping down a few lines that sound important. His lecture notes are interesting while sometimes they are a bit disorganized. He is, for sure, a very new teacher, so this class will get better! One cool thing, by the way, is that he responds to students' emails very promptly.
Professor Smith is AWESOME. He made this class so enjoyable and entertaining. He is a funny guy, easy to follow, and definitely knows the material. The discussion sections were a drag and completely unnecessary, but the lectures all seemed to fly by rather quickly and the points in class were very indicative of what one would find on the midterm or final. As TAs grade everything, be picky and choose wisely. A bad TA can screw you over. Raymond is always super responsive to emails though and always willing to help with a paper or meet during office hours. Awesome guy. Great teacher. Make sure to take this class with him!
I loved the class and the professor - he was always easy to follow, his notes are great and he is extremely funny. I gained a lot, maybe because I am an international student but I think all of us enjoyed the class. The worst part of the class were the discussion sections - even thought the TAs tried hard to make those 50 annoying minutes better it still sucked.
AP Govt. was harder. smith is funny and makes very basic lectures much more interesting/entertaining.
this class was incredibly boring, and there was nothing in the material that hasn't been taught in an AP american government class. professor russell's lectures are dull, and she reads the material right off of her lecture notes.
Welcome back to 8th grade civics/ 12th grade government. There should really be a way to test out of this class. They're not joking when they say intro (i.e - reviewing the articles of confederation and various articles of the constitution for the first 3 weeks of class). Prof Smith tries to be engaging and seems to enjoy the material, as boring as it may be. Lectures are kind of random, as he'll spend 3/4 of a class giving examples of polling questions/surveys that he finds comical. if you go to class, there's no need to do the reading or waste your money on the 5 required texts. Or, if you skim the reading a day or two before the midterm, there's absolutely no need to go to class and still get an A.
One of the worst English-speaking TA's that I've had at Columbia. Discussion sections basically consisted of her having her students copy a table from the book onto the board, or having students list the constitutional amendments. She was often late, and when she couldn't make a section, rescheduled it for 9:30am, then showed up at 10. Furthermore, I found her grading to be quite biased. I received a B+ on my Midterm, so I sucked up and participated a bit more, and ended up with an A- in the course, even though I performed worse on the final than on the midterm. If you have her, just participate and go to office hours, and you'll be fine. Just don't expect to learn anything from discussions.
Professor Wawro is a very good professor, overall. I really enjoyed his class, and found him to be quite knowledgable. At the beginning of the semester, he used power point slides, but he later gave this up and lectured without them. His lectures, the course readings, and the term papers were quite thought provoking. He brought in great outside speakers. Though there was a lot of reading, it was manegable. All in all, if you must take this class, Professor Wawro is a good bet. Just watch out for the mediocre TA's (don't be afraid to shop around for discussion sections)
I took this course to get a good grade to boost my GPA, like most people that arent poli sci majors. I heard that it was really simple and straightforward but i found out that this guy isnt! First of all I had the TA from hell. Our class really studied for the midterm and he gave our disc section a avg of a 76! I went to this guy's OH and he gave me the run around, you must make it plainly clear that you want an A. From then on I got an A+ on the Final Paper and probably an A or something on the Final because I ended up with an A as a final grade. But this didnt come without some anxiety. Just stick with it, since the lectures SUCK!!!! He is so uninteresting and boring. The moral of the story is get a good TA and just go over the highlighted words in the main textbook.
I took his class and regret it. Don't go over on your paper length. I went over by two pages and was deducted half a grade.
Wawro doesn't get enough credit. Given he's no Gulati, he is still an open-minded, intelligent teacher who's very open in class. The class is a little a boring but so is the material. Basically the class wasn't bad and Wawro did a good job under the circumstances. Word of advice: the TAs grade everything, so maintain contact with yours and attend the the discussion sections.
wawro just plain sucks. probably the most boring professor that i've had at columbia, he is also bad when it comes to exams. Midterm ID's consist of either ridiculously broad topics, or ridiculously narrow ones. Literally reads WORD FOR WORD from a powerpoint presentation and refuses to put the powerpoint slides online. Bottom line, if you have to take intro to american politics, wait until wawro isn't teaching it.
Horrible class. The material had an opportunity to be interesting, however, Russell killed that with her umÂ’s and her random splurges. Classes seemed to have little structure, or to be too structured that she just seemed to be reading off a list. Grades were even more random, but that was mostly on the TAÂ’s. I would stay away from her class if you want to keep your sanity.
When I first stepped into this class, looked at the syllabus, and then listened to a nearly unintelligible lecture, I thought I was in for a very complex and tough course. Entirely uninterested in the lectures and the subject (Russell simply cannot convey anything about poli sci in an appealing, understandable way), I began to slack off in the reading, reaching a point where I realized I had not read from the textbook in over a month. Though there is absolutely nothing intellectually stimulating about this course, you can get an A without doing any reading--you do have to show up for every class though (attendance is mandatory--and really annoying at 9 am). The TA's are very generous graders, and it's very possible to write the term paper in just a week (and get an A), do the take-home midterm without having opened the books before (and get an A) and cram for the final and once again, get an A. Definitely worth missing, but if you're looking for a filler course to boost your gpa, go ahead and take the class.
Like the other reviewers have stated DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS WITH PROFESSOR RUSSELL! She was the worst professor I have taken a class with at columbia. The lectures seemed to have no direction and Russell's presentation of the materials was incoherent. The reading assigned was massive, about 300 pages a class, and attendance was taken. If I didn't fall asleep from bordom I found myself wondering what she was mumbling about between all of the "ums." Russell races through the important material but spends hours pontificating on mundane and irrelevant material. Avoid this class if you can!
DO NOT TAKE ANY CLASS WITH JUDITH RUSSELL. I have read the other reviews that say she is brilliant and although I do not think she is, that is not the issue. She is simply the worst professor I have ever had here at Columbia. Her lectures are so unorganized that it is never clear what points she is trying to make. She literally cannot finish a sentence without injecting 5 or 6 ums into it so that it is incomprehensible if she ever does finish it. She is didactic, extremely condescending, and not pleasant to listen to at all, especially when she berates the ladies in the class for not raising their hands enough and threatens to give out pop quizzes (as if we are still in high school). And to top it all off, she micromanages your life to the point where she takes attendance for a 9 am class (even my high school teachers didn't take attendance). The only good part about this class were the TA's, they were friendly and always willing to help decipher her messy and incomprehendable lectures. Really guys, for your own good, skip this professor!
I agree with the other reviewers, exceit I wont even give Russell credit for knowing her stuff. She's not too bright - and her overarching themes are obvious and redundant. But the worst part of this class - which may be the worst polisci class at Columbia - is that she makes it impossible to take notes, because her sentences come out in gibberish. A typical lecture sounds like: "Um, um um , uhhh, so Reagan, no, Bush, um, Clinton, proposed, um, opposed, um said, um passed a bill, um to stop, um start, continue, um, welfare reform." This is not an exageration. And then there is also the expected liberal slant, so that whatever Saint Clinton did was great and whatever Bush or Reagan did was horrible. Just plain horrible class.
Professor Russell is a very brilliant person: she's well read in political science literature and knows plenty about public policy and social welfare. However, all of this does not come through in her lectures: she's rather boring, speaks too quickly, and inserts "UM"s between every few words. You will leave her class scratching your head trying to find the point of her lecture, and you won't be the only one either: the TAs all agree that her lectures are disorganized and not cohesive at all. Also, she assigns WAY too much reading for the class, and don't even think of skipping any-it all appears on either the midterm or the final. Finally, attendance does count (so sign the sheet!), and since this is a 9 AM class, it can be pretty hard to get to class sometimes. My advice? Skip Russell's version of the class, and take it with someone who is a better teacher.
This class is an utter waste of time. Russell makes points that are extremely obvious even to the bluntest observers. Far too much reading and none of it is really relevant to class. She is obsessed with certain books that when I read I found to be written on perhaps an eighth-grade level. Russell herself seems to be on a power trip in class sometimes. She circulates an attendance sheet and always complains about people coming late to class which is simply a fact of life here. She also spends a ridiculous amount of time on administrivia. The TAs were helpful but not very knowledgeable--I had to correct them on several very basic points of American government. This class is a must miss.
This is absolutely the worst poli sci class that I have ever taken at Columbia. Despite the fact that she knows some stuff in American politics, she can't lecture for shit. Her thousands of "ums" are just plain annoying. Her strict attendance policy, which is only 10% of the grade is just way too ridiculous. She takes the attendance very seriously and personally, but everything she does in class is straight out of the reading. She also assigns way too many outdated books from the 70s. BE SURE TO SIGN THE ATTENDANCE SHEET!!
Professor Russell is an extremely intelligent individual. She knows her material and has read and often recommends tons of interest books on the subject of politics. However...the woman does not know how to give a lecture to save her life. Her public speaking skills are awful. She says "UM" like 500 times in an hour and a half class. She does not know how to engage her students and you'll probable fall asleep in the first 15mins. It's actually quiet sad that she has all that knowledge and can't properly convey it to students.
Ngoni is currently a PhD student and first-time college-level insturctor; this was evidenced in his teaching this summer. While his lectures were certainly thorough, he basically just reiterated what the book said and did not add too many new/interesting things in. I must add though, that time constraints prevented much adding if the readings were to be gone over thoroughly. Ngoni tends to read from lecture notes--his public speaking style is not all that developed--and this can be a bit boring. He will answer any questions you have, however, is totally approachable and does not mind repeating concepts that you don't understand. Overall, a great class, if just for the texts you get to read.
Not a bad bet for Intro to American Politics. His lectures were pretty easy to get through, and the workload was extremely reasonable. Prof. Smith seemed very knowledgeable and allowed plenty of time for questions. Unfortunately, this question/answer time usually turned into "try to impress the teacher and annoy the entire class" time. But I have to give Prof. Smith credit for curtailing the ramblings of self-important students.
Maricele has been a TA for Gregory WawroÂ’s Intro to American Politics class something like 5 times, so youÂ’re lucky if you get her. She is very approachable and helps her sections out with summaries of the most important readings. She does tend to let sections be controlled by the students, especially ones who want to talk, which can be a plus or a minus.
Bring your laptop to class so you can mindlessly copy Professor Wawro's PowerPoint slides. He refuses to put these slides up on the web for fear fewer people come to his already empty class. If you have to take the class to fulfill your political science major requirements you'll just have to deal with it. If you want to take an American government class for fun, however, this isnÂ’t the place to look. The only saving grace was interesting paper topics.
I find American Politics to be intersting in itself, so the review may be a bit biased as a result. Prof. Wawro used powerpoint during his lectures, and he essentially read off the screen. He was knowledgable, and also seemed like a nice guy. The ID's on the exams proved to be the biggest problem, because they were somewhat obscure terms from the readings.
a truly awful class. nacos's lectures are plodding and rambly. ta's grade arbitrarily on both papers and the midterms. discussions are so crowded that they render the discussion pointless.
Ah, another wonderful professor in love with the sound of his own voice. Mr. Wawro proves his excellent reading skills each lecture when he reads his obsessively detailed and yet moronic PowerPoint presentations right off the screen. For you punctual folks out there, don't worry, Greg is always five minutes late to class and feels there is no issue with running over. Of course, intro classes can be dangerous, but this one affords no interesting upshots, like acquisition of knowledge. You can buy the textbook and teach yourself the material. The reading is excessive. The class is generally populated with athletes and people like this unwitting senior who thought she'd get off easy with an interesting but simple intro course. Alas, the IDs on the tests draw on solid familiarity with the reading & the kicker is the "term paper." The idiocy of this class will make you feel like you're back in high school. Of course, it is possible that this is a required class for aspiring poly sci majors. If so, enjoy a semester worth of mumbo jumbo that will numb your mind and make your ears bleed.
This has to be one of the easiest classes I've ever taken. It's all stuff American children know growing up or at least from a high school civics class. Some of the readings are interesting, but for the most part they're not necessary. Most people go to class because he takes attendence periodically, but just about everyone reads the spec or does the crossword puzzle.
Subpar lecturer, always off on pointless tangents. The only reason to go is because of periodic attendance. Discussion sections are all you need to know what he talked about.
Professor Smith is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about politics, and his lectures were well organized. He sometimes lets students ask pretty tangential questions, but it's not that bad because the course is simple anyway. It's basically a high school civics course, nothing too complicated. Do the extra readings even though most of them won't be tested because they're really intersting and short, too. There's a weekly discussion section that's not too useful, but not too boring either, because it's small so you get to discuss more in- depth stuff.
Good lord, do not take this class with prof. Wawro. He is uninteresting, boring, and what he says is crap I learned in my high school government class. He uses power point, and then just reads out to us what is written there. He doesn't put the notes on the class web site because he knows if he did, noone would come to class. If you have to take this class, just wait a semester and try to get someone else.
AWFUL! This woman's lectures are inpenetrable. She has a horrific accent, which coupled with her monotone and robotic delivery makes for snooze time.
If you have any background in American Politics, don't take this class. However, if you come from another country, or attended a NY public scool, like me, this class provides a comprehensive understanding of U.S. politics. Prof. Smith has a great voice and his lectures are well organized although they do for the most part reiterate the reading. I had absolutly no knowledge of American Politics previous to this class and was able to get an A So it's not very challanging but I did learn a lot!
This class was idiotic. Smith would begin each class with a discussion of current events which seemed like a good idea at first, but just boiled down to people trying to show how much they know about a given topic during lecture. The books assigned were largely pointless and lectures only covered the most basic material. The plus side is that you can either choose the readings or the lecture. If you want a nice relaxing break in your day where you really don't have to take notes, take this class.
Just thought I'd throw in my two cents because everyone I knew in this class, including myself, hated it with a passion. I can see that Epstein is a nice guy and entertaining and all that, and I'm sure he knows a lot, maybe he's just not suited to intro classes. We all agreed that he knew nothing -- he was frequently stumped by student questions, and would just say "Oh, I don't know..." to things like how many wars America has fought in the last 50 years, for example. His lectures were full of boring and evident information... my inner monologue throughout the class consisted mainly of "Thank you, Captain Obvious." And I'm not even an American. He was distracted, didn't seem to give a rat's behind about the class, and clearly wanted to be somewhere else (probably why he would show up 20 minutes late every day, not 10, as another reviewer erroneously stated.. I'm all for shorter classes, but when you show up on time, or even late, and still end up sitting around for ever waiting for your prof, wishing you were somewhere else, you start to get annoyed.). His anecdotes seemed more like showing off than like an effort to entertain us: they smacked of "look at me, aren't I an important person?". I'm sure he's brilliant, knowledgeable, and an expert in his field.. but I wish I hadn't taken this class. I just got the impression that the only person more bored than I was, was him. Understandable, but doesn't make for an enriching experience.
It's no wonder that the people who didn't like her class had stopped going to her lectures. Since her exams rely heavily on lecture material, they probably weren't too happy with their grades. Attend, take good notes, and you will do well. She is a well-spring of both american and international politics. She is a clear, organized lecturer and she provides lecture notes. She makes it very clear just what she wants to cover, will stop to reiterate if she has wandered from the main subject of if it's just taking a long time to get through, and will sum up the main points at the end. Her depth of knowledge is perceptible on almost every subject; no matter how seemingly mundane, she knows the history, the controversy, the cases all almost up-to-the-minute basis. She takes class participation very seriously and will give you more in info., both in breadth and depth, than you ever imaged existed on a given subject if you ask a question in class or post on the board. She draws primarily on famous or controversial authors, and what they have to say about a given subject, and on relevant legal cases (their history, outcome, and ramifications) - none of which you will find in the book. So if you want someone who simply outlines the book, then take a correspondance course. This woman has decades of experience in journalism, law, and political science and it shows. And to top it all off, her exams are really straight-forward. If you attend class and section you will get an A.
All in all a great teacher to get, Professor Epstein is superbly knowledgeable (and seems to be professionally connected to current American politics) and brings a great deal of humor and personality to his lectures. He's more than a bit disorganized, often coming in 10-15 minutes late, but his lectures are almost always worth the wait. They're always informative and funny, and memorable for his millions of silly side stories that always seem somehow relevant. Never before taking his course did I think that a lecture of over 120 students could involve heated and relevant discussion, but it often did. Just be sure you get a good TA, or you'll be stuck in a boring discussion section to what could otherwise be a most fascinating complement to the great course.
Yeah, Prof Epstein really is a great teacher. Sometimes (well...most times) his lectures were a bit strange. Like to teach us how a bill becomes a law he outlined every single step of the Voting Rights Act. And he'll put up tiny overhead copies of graphs in the book to illustrate a point which never really works but he took it all in stride. In a large lecture class (maybe 120), he answers questions, asks them, involves discussion a lot, and really gets in touch with the students. I think I fell asleep once in his class b/c I was feeling sick but that alone is a record for me. He drinks Mountain Dew or some other hi-caffeine drink every class, starts 10 or so minutes late, and always completes a good and usually funny lecture filled with insight and personal stories that you'll get nowhere else. If he's teaching the Intro class, take it. (As a side story: during the class before the midterm, he held a review. The kid in front of me brought in a slice of pizza and a large beer. Didn't take notes, but he ate and drank his stuff and left when he was finished.)
David is a great professor who gives interesting lectures and is a VERY, VERY, VERY easy grader. Take this class if you are American, live in America, or want to get a good grade in an intro class. Go to sections to discuss the IMPORTANT readings that will be on the midterm and final. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy this comical, Mountain Dew-drinking man.
While at first David's knowlege on various general matters seemed lacking, he managed to prove otherwise by the end of the semester. He usually adds some interesting tid bit to his lectures inciting interest from his audience and showing his political insight. Friendly enough and approachable.
Epstein kicks ass, and this class is awesome. He knows what he is talking about completely, and tells lots of humerous stories that illustrate his points. He is not really accesible, although I e-mailed him, and he wrote back within a day. Also, he doesn't really give a rats ass about the class, so the curve is great (0=C, 79=A). The tests aren't hard if you went to lecture.Oh yeah, you learn a lot also.
Prof. Epstein is a really nice guy, and he really knows his stuff - especially about voting (gerrymandering) and elections. He's a big guy in the PoliSci dept now (might even be a dean) and for good reason, in terms of the amount of information he has stored in his head. Unfortunately, he is ill-suited for an intro course; his lectures are, basically, let's write notes on the board and his tests are, basically, let's ask incredibly tough questions on stuff you didn't think you needed to know. Textbook is superfluous because he just summarizes it during lectures, but the reading for recitation is always on the tests in a big way and you've gotta go to recitation anyway, so you might as well read it. Overall, not a tough workload, tough tests though. TA's are completely arbitrary.
If you enjoy counting "uh"s and writing down everything your prof says because you have no clue what's relevant and what isn't, this class is for you. I'd like to second another reviewer who said this class really isn't about American Politics, but about extremist groups and the media, her area of expertise which she manages to work into every class. Discussion sections were absolutely all that kept the subject matter of this class together, but lectures were thoroughly incomprehensible. I did none of the reading (except for the soul-crushing book for the paper) and stopped going to lectures after two weeks, and was none the worse for it. Maybe try her for a class in her expertise.
An ill-advised choice. Nacos' tests are almost completely based on her lectures, which are boring and essentially unendurable. She is not interested in teaching an Intro course to american politics - instead she enjoys talking about her specialty of the media, and asking test questions that are too difficult for an intro course and are more related to sociology than political science. All the grading is done by the TA's, who, like all TA's, are unaccountable and seem to enjoy it.
Prof. Lieberman teaches the ideal american gov't class. He stays broad enough to cover all the bases to make sure you get an idea as to what American Gov't is all about. His lectures are boreing at times, but generally entertaining. He takes questions regularly in class and actually turns parts of lecture into debate with him taking whatever positioin seems to be the least popular. The occaisonally dry material is made mildly amusing by miscelaenous anecdotes from the Professor's career and extensive knowledge of history. The reading isn't too bad- pretty interesting and generally well-written. As for grading- its pretty lenient. Workload: aprox. 5 hours of reading/week, take home midterm makes for a hellish weekend, 6-8 page term paper, and in-class final (pretty easy). Definitely recomended.