Begoña is incredible! She knows a lot about all of these time periods, and the readings she assigns are all very engaging. She is extremely patient and lovely. I'm a native spanish speaker, so I understood her very well, but she did speak a little fast sometimes, however she is very receptive to feedback and if she's going too fast you can just say so. When some professors say "oh this is a safe space, you can express your opinions freely here," her class is what they mean. It is a very comfortable and productive environment, and I really learned a lot! DO TAKE HER! she's amazing
Adrian is a passionate instructor that expects you to engage with the material. If you don't know a lot about Spanish and Latin American history he won't hesitate to explain things to you. This is one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. There should be an option to take this instead of CC. The readings were all relevant, except the religious texts at the beginning which were really difficult to read. However, Adrian explained everything and was always open to provide background information and handouts in english to help us understand! Although this class is known to be challenging, it was worth it because Adrian made it interesting, so at times it didn't even feel that hard. It was cool that sometimes Adrian would adapt the discussion based what we were actually interested in talking about. Even though Adrian can be very sarcastic, which might make you feel judged for being completely lost because his accent can be difficult to understand, he's actually a funny and encouraging professor that is willing to help you do well in the class. This class is more "about learning" than anything else so he doesn't like mundane summaries and does not judge you if you make Spanish mistakes as long as you bring up something interesting. Although he is not an easy professor, and sometimes the workload might seem impossible, he makes his students, including non-native speakers, feel comfortable and welcome to contribute to the class discussion. He even brings food and snacks to class!
Wow, I'm a bit surprised by the last review. My experience of her class was the opposite. Personally, I thought Lara was a great instructor. I really enjoyed the way she introduced questions about the texts (which could be pretty dry and boring) and she did not allow our class discussion to operate on a lower level just because we were speaking and writing in Spanish. She was also just really nice which created a safe environment for participation. She always listens to what students say but be careful; she will call you out if she can tell you haven't done the reading. We were able to practice our Spanish speaking skills and I feel that my writing improved as well. I'm not sure what happened with the last reviewer but I actually think that she has been the best graduate student instructor I have had at Columbia.
ON LARA TUCKER Lara is one of the worst instructors I've had at Columbia. Every class was like pulling teeth it was so painful. First, she would get in front of the class and give her interpretation of the texts. This interpretation was like law for her but the sad reality was that it was normally pretty superficial. Next, she would ask the most pedantic and insulting questions imaginable: she would point to a sentence, and then ask "what does this mean?" The meaning would be blisteringly obvious to everyone in the class and I personally felt demeaned answering these obvious questions. Someone, however, would eventually cough up the answer she wanted and then we'd move on. Next, Lara would give us a handout that asked more of these absurd questions... we had to do a scavenger hunt to find examples of the things she was looking for. Once for example, we had to pretend to be psychiatrists and "diagnose" what was going on with a culture by looking at the "symptoms" in the text. (This is when I would want to bash my brain in...) Lara also very clearly had an opinion about what the texts "meant" and she didn't really jive when people wanted to debate her. She would tense up and become defensive and would be totally unwilling to concede a point. Great way to lead a discussion based class! Finally, Lara just seem disorganized. She was always changing the dates of when assignments were due and it was hard to keep track of what was due when. ON THE CLASS So much of the readings were abstract bunk... No one would do them because of this. Crazy, wandering stuff that would be near impossible to understand even in English. I honestly would prefer to (a) either read literature or (b) have a real history course. This critical theory / cultural studies middle way drives me up the wall. If you're considering doing the Hispanic Studies minor or major, I would try and talk to people who've taken these courses (Intro to Study..., Hisp Cult I, and Hisp Cult II) and then decide. They are SO painful... honestly one of the least intellectually satisfying experiences I've ever had. Also, they don't really improve your language. At best, they help you maintain it, but I'm not even sure of this. All that said, these courses are THE easiest As at Columbia. I know this for a fact b/c on the back of my transcript it says everyone gets an A in these courses and everyone also says that this is true. If you want an A+ without that much sweat, I guess you might be able to deal with all the above (Lord knows I've managed!).
The course is kind of...less than engaging. He tries to make it better, but really leaves it up to the students to do so. He is a huge fan of awkward silences, but I think it's mostly a response to the fact that a lot of students don't come fully prepared for class or don't care enough about the material to have an opinion on it. He clearly puts a lot of effort into the class and comes very well prepared. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the class. His interest in post franco spain is apparent in the section of the course that deals with the topic and creates a deeper discussion of the material. He is enthusiastic about meeting with students should they need help and takes your comments seriously. The events he recommends are usually very good. He is very casual about the class but takes it seriously. He is a very fair grader. The tests count for more than you'd expect so really study for them. This is kind of useless since he's going to teach in North Carolina next year, but I thought I'd submit the review since it's also about the course. If he does ever come back to Columbia I seriously recommend taking a course with him.
Despite liking Paloma very much as a person and doing quite well on both the midterm and the final, I suffered in this class. The bi-weekly short papers that we had to write for her should not have been incredibly difficult, but I found myself struggling to do well on them for the first time in my college career and in my 7 years of Spanish. At the beginning of the semester, she graded my content very harshly, but without giving me very much explanation of why she found my work unsatisfactory. I went to her many times to figure out what it was that I was doing wrong, but was bewildered to find similar comments on every singly paper. Over time, my grades got incrementally better until I was earning A's on my work. I felt that I was made an example of, and it did not help me to become a better student of Spanish literature. Paloma needs to be clearer in her reasons for the grades she gives so that she is providing tools for improvement, rather than some sort of a final verdict.
Overall a pretty good class. Professor Grieve is very nice and tries hard to stimulate discussion. Class can be a bit boring at times--just discussing the reading every class, but its definitely tolerable. The first test was pretty hard, but for the next two she told us exactly what would be on the exam which made them much easier. The compositions were a little annoying but definitely boosted my grade, and you can write on pretty much anything you want. Also there's no book to buy which is nice, and there are three unit tests instead of anything cumulative.
Valerie Keller is an extremely intelligent professor, even if she is only a graduate student. She always has awesome insight to bring to all of the readings and topics, and she does a great job at facilitating class discussions. She is a tough grader, especially on the compositions, but she is a great teacher. The class itself is pretty interesting, although the chapters try to cover so much material at once. Although Valerie expects a lot of you as a student, you will grow as a writer and as a critical thinker in her class. She pushes you to develop your writing and analytical skills, and expects a lot of participation from you. If you are a Spanish major, I would definitely recommend on taking this class with her, but don't expect it to be a breeze because you have to work very hard for a good grade in this class.
Paloma is cearly very well versed in what she is teaching, despite the fact that she looks to be about 26. I am constantly impressed by how much she knows about each topic we study. She always makes sure that everyone can participate in discussions. But beware, you can't get away with writing bullshit papers. (It's okay though because none of the compositions are longer than 2 pages). At first her accent is a little difficult to understand, but everyone gets used to it eventually. Don't be late to class. As far as the content of the class goes, I think a lot of it is determined by the department. That being said, we looked at everything from Barthes to youtube videos (a favorite of mine was called "El futuro esta en porno") to Calle 13 lyrics.
Phil is a great instructor and a really nice guy. He is not an easy grader, but definitely gives out A's (if and when you deserve one). He is a little stand-offish about absences, so don't register for this course if it is an inconvenient time. His teaching style is a good mix of the Socratic method and introduction to the various facets of Hispanic cultures from 1500-2006. Half of the class covers Spain, and the other half covers Latin-America (alternating weekly). Likewise, it is mainly half History and half Arts. Too much prior knowledge of the subject area is not necessary (I am not a major), but fluency in Spanish IS necessary, so don't register otherwise.