course
Latin American Civilization I

Feb 2015

I took this class my freshman year as a potential chemistry major. Thanks to her, I'm studying Latin American History. Professor Pizzigoni loves what she studies (it's the lives of indigenous peoples in the colonial era in case you were curious) and loves to teach it even more. I wouldn't skip lectures as she doesn't put notes online, but I can't imagine why you would want to in the first place. Her lectures are fascinating, and with her delightful Italian accent she draws you into the material you can't help but gain an interest in. She very much encourages class participation (not an easy feat when lectures have 150+ students), but she fosters such a warm and open atmosphere that it's almost natural to do so. Also of note: she's one of the most approachable professors on campus. She takes an active interest in getting to know her students, and is always ready to help out in any way that she can. She has a playful personality and childlike sense of wonder that is exceedingly rare, but make no mistake she is one of the most intelligent people you will ever meet. I adore her beyond words, she will forever be my favorite professor.

Feb 2013

Incredible class. Professor Pizzigoni is inspiring and incredibly enthusiastic. She obviously loves what she studies and loves teaching it. Her lectures are worth going to, they are also necessary for knowing the material since she does not put the information online, however they are never boring since she has an endearing personality and is energetic throughout lectures, constantly moving around. Although it is a large lecture class, she makes an effort to learn names or at least recognize the faces of people who attend lectures and participate. She is very approachable, always open for comments and questions. Sometimes her Italian accent can be a little difficult to understand, but she likes to make fun of it and admit that she has problems with pronunciation, personally I never found it to be much of an issue. As a Latin American and Caribbean Studies major I found the material to be fascinating, however even if the subject matter isn't something you would normally be enthusiastic to learn about, I think that Professor Pizzigoni makes it something that you will begin to take an interest in. If you go to lecture, do the document readings, and participate in discussion, it is an easy and enjoyable class.

Jan 2013

Just reiterating what other posters have said in hopes of boosting Caterina to a gold nugget. She's passionate about what she teaches and it shows, very engaging, and makes coming to class a pleasure. It's worth going to class because Caterina is very methodical in the way she lectures and if you attend, you really really do not have to do the readings. Go to class and the only readings you really have to do are the Documents which consist of primary sources that she asks you to ID on the midterm and final. At the beginning of class she also writes down key terms on which you're also tested on the midterm/final (asked to define each term), so write those words down at the beginning of each class and you'll be pretty set for the exams. Also, the final has art/photograph IDs based on pictures she displays on slides in class and discusses. I first heard of these art IDs when we were 3/4 of the way through semester, so I was sort of screwed because I usually tuned out that part of the discussion (didn't think it was important, they were almost always discussed at the end of class, and my concentration was waning), so don't do what I did. Really, moral is GO TO CLASS - Pizzigoni is a fantastic lecturer and it will make your life ten times easier. Grading is done by the TAs, but she will review any grade you want her to. She also sends personalized emails mid-semester to let you know where you stand in the class and signs her emails "un abrazo," which is just so endearing. I did, however, think the TA section was lack-luster (just my TA section, I didn't attend any others for comparison). Just going to class regularly and reading the documents will get you a B+. Participating frequently in the TA section will bump you to an A-. You definitely have to put in that extra effort if you want an A, though.

Feb 2012

As everyone before me has said, Professor Pizzigoni is amazing. She absolutely loves to teach, which shows through in her lectures. She truly cares about her students and even in a large lecture would call people by their names. I don't know how she did this! I disagree that this class is an easy A though. Maybe an easy B+ or A-, but you really have to put in that extra effort to get an A because her grading scale is really different. However, don't let this discourage you from taking her class. If you go to the lectures and pay attention to what she says, in her lovely Italian accent, you'll be fine. The papers were graded a bit harshly, but you can easily get an A- on them last minute if you've been paying attention in class. THE FINAL IS NOT CUMULATIVE!!!

Jan 2012

Caterina is absolutely fantastic. I'm a senior history major and took this class as an afterthought to double as a global core and my last breadth requirement. I ended up loving it. Caterina is perhaps the most endearing professor I've had and my only regret is that I could not have her more to myself, as in a seminar-type setting. I agree with the previous reviewer: there is a kind of curiosity and enthusiasm that just radiates from her and infects you. She really cares and is extremely fair. She also appreciates students' input and tries to encourage student discussion whenever feasible (admittedly difficult in a room with 100+ students). I can't think of a more approachable history professor. The course has one core text, from which 15-25 pages were assigned each week. At no point did we discuss these readings in lecture or sections, but I found them helpful to review and go a bit deeper than the lectures. We also had to review a short book for the first paper (really easy and the only other required book). In addition, there was one primary-source document (2-5 pages, to be discussed during lecture) per lecture and 2-3 articles per week. For the exams, only documents and the lectures are necessary to know, but the articles are helpful. There is only one small aspect of the course I did not especially like, and that was that for the exams, you need to know the who/where/when for the documents. I found Foner's approach to documents on his exams to be a little fairer, namely, suggest a plausible who/where/when and justify your answer. That's a minor detail though, and only counts for a small portion of one element of the overall grade.

Dec 2011

TAKE CATERINA PIZZIGONI. I'm a first year and prospective history major, and Caterina was the person who made my first semester at Columbia. She has a great sense of humor and a timid nature, but under her innocent and playful veneer is an incredibly intelligent and remarkable individual. Lectures were interesting and engaging. Even the driest material was brought to life by Caterina's style. If you come to lecture, she will get to know your name (among around 130 students), and when you see her on the street or around campus, she'll make a point of talking to you about life and your classes. Wow. I'm going to miss this class.

Dec 2011

She is my favorite professor ever and I'm a junior at this school. She has a sense of innocence and curiosity that is extremely rare. She never gives off a hint of pretentiousness yet she is extremely knowledgable on the subject matter. I took Latin American Civilization as aglobal core requirement because I had to, but by the end of the semester, through her amazing lectures, I fell in love with the subject. I am in love with her. Everything about her. She is the greatest. She is beautiful in every sense of the word. I adore her. I will never forget her. She almost cried during the last lecture because of how much she loved teaching us, and we in turn almost did too. Truly a diamond in the rough. They need to create a diamond nugget just for her.

Jun 2011

I took Latin American Civ I Fall semester 2010 thinking it would be an interesting Global Core requirement, and someone suggested Pizzigoni. She is absolutely wonderful! She comes to class with a slideshow that is very detailed and a good reflection of the material learned/read. She doesnt just read out a prepared lecture to the class, she truly tries to explain everything and her passion shows through in the class. Although the class is a lecture she asks questions and tries to engage students as much as possible. Also the TAs were good (in my opinion)

May 2011

Where is Caterina Pizzigoni's Golden Nugget? I took her Latin American Civilization class and her seminar on Nahuatl culture. In one semester, we were reading the Nahuatl language, or what many people would label the Aztec language. Caterina is by far the most compassionate historian and teacher I've ever met. While taking her class, my mind was on an incredible journey. I had several epiphanies learning about the people of Mexico and did not want to return my library books at the end of the semester. I have never been so sad to see a class end. Caterina loves what does, and it shines through her. She is both a great historian and a great professor. In my experience at Columbia, you don't always get both, a person who publishes many books doesn't always make them a great professor. Caterina is both, I used her book Testaments of Toluca when writing my research paper and found it to be a fascinating topic. I will never forget how much this class did for my mind and my soul. In the end, we all become a part of history, what other reason is there to study history but to connect to the people who are no more and apply these lessons in our own time. Many thanks to the History department for choosing some one like Caterina Pizzigoni, I will never forget her.

Jun 2009

Gregory is a demanding and thorough TA who is far more interested in encouraging independent thinking than letting his students slide with minimal effort. His sections are not for the faint of heart; if you are taking a class just to get a good grade and have no interest in thinking or learning about the subject material, you may find Gregory to be too intense for your liking. But if you are willing to put in the effort, do the reading, think about the material, and meaningfully participate in discussion, you will reap the intellectual rewards of working with him. He holds his students to a high standard--rightly so, given the quality of this institution--and will always offer an objective, thorough analysis of your work. Sadly, Gregory seems to be one of a very small pool of dedicated, demanding TAs that help you get the most out of each class instead of facilitating an effortless, uneventful transition through the semester like many others do. You will get as much out of a class as you put in, and since Gregory pushes his students to put a lot into the class, his students tend to get more out of it. The more mental effort you put into section, the easier the class as a whole seems.

Mar 2009

Caterina is a great professor--she was very available and friendly (always encouraging us to come to office hours), she's extremely knowledgeable about the material, and unlike previous reviewers I usually didn't have any trouble understanding her. This is definitely a good class to fulfill major cultures, since 50% of the class got some kind of an A. HOWEVER: choose your TA wisely, since whoever you get will completely determine your grade. My TA (Omar Sarwar) was absurdly pretentious, and always seemed annoyed at having to put up with our lowly non-PhD-level comments/questions/papers. For a class that's mostly major cultures kids, he graded way too harshly--I had friends in other sections who said most of their section got A's on the papers, and very few people in mine did. This could all be solved by making sure the grades across sections are normalized, but I don't think they were. Please fix this!! My other complaint is that sections weren't used to review/clarify lecture material, which would have been actually useful since Caterina covers a ton of material, so it's easy to miss some facts here and there. Instead, we had to do a few hundred extra pages of reading each week (my stack of printouts is about 3 inches tall, and I'm definitely missing some) that were related to the course material, but didn't make anything easier to understand. Overall, the material is interesting, and Caterina is great, but make sure you get a good/easy TA!

Dec 2008

I decided to take this class in partial fulfillment of my Major Cultures requirement, largely based on the very positive reviews I saw on CULPA. After doing so, I can only conclude that these reviews were written by a few disturbed individuals or that Professor Pizzigoni wrote them herself--I cannot otherwise account for their astonishing lack of accuracy. Let me provide a couple of personal details about myself. I am a senior, a history major, and a native English speaker. I was let down by Professor Pizzigoni in each of these capacities. As a senior, this was the worst class I have taken in three-and-a-half semesters at Columbia, without a doubt. The lectures were unspeakably dull, the textbook was beyond poorly written (hint: it's a bad sign when your writing style is less comprehensible than Hegel's), and the class actually made me like history less. Professor Pizzigoni is extremely difficult to understand while she is lecturing, and many of the choices she made in teaching the course were incomprehensible as well. For example, 20% of our grade was our participation in our weekly section with the TAs. In these sections we did not review the poorly presented material from lectures or attempt to decode the textbook's jargon, which as a history major, I can say is inexplicable. Instead, students had to do presentations on the additional readings assignments we were given for these sections (about 200 pp/week) which were not tested on either the midterm or the final. The amount of material these TAs were teaching was equivalent to the amount the professor was (supposedly) teaching. Nor are these the words of a poorly graded malcontent; I will get an A in the class, almost certainly, and when I looked around at the extremely poorly attended lectures, two in three students were either sleeping or holding conversations with their friends while the professor was lecturing.

Dec 2008

Meha's focus isn't Latin American history, but she brings some enthusiasm to the subject, and is fairly capable of answering easier questions and explaining some concepts. It as obvious that she knew as much as we would have if we had read everything required. She has the familiar "TAint your friend, TAint your professor" kind of awkwardness, and had us describe the circumstances surrounding our births. Overall, she was friendly and casual and baked us brownies. TAint bad.

Mar 2007

I highly disagree with the last review. Caterina is an AMAZING professor, genuinely interested in teaching her subject to her students. It's hard to find such enthusiastic professors nowadays and I hope that she doesn't change anytime soon. Basically she just needs to keep up the good work. The lectures are amazingly interesting and she clearly prepares a LOT for them. And she's even fluent in Nahua - an indigenous language from Guatemela and with that she's able to provide us with wildly varying and novel perspectives on Latin American history that at least I hadn't thought of before. The books are great, the lectures are great, the workload is manageable. make sure you get carlos as a TA

Feb 2007

Amazing professor. Extremely knowledgeable. Great lecturer. Young, Italian, smart, good-looking. what more could you want from Columbia. She's also very accessible during office hours. I greatly recommend her. this is a great course taught by what I feel will one day be one of our "famous" cc profs like sachs and phelps.

Jan 2007

Hint: you know the class is not going to be hard when the teacher signs her emails with "big hugs!" This is a good class to fulfill the major cultures requirement with if you don't want to do much work and don't mind being occasionally bored. Make sure you're interested in the material, though: I didn't realize the class only went up to the year 1800 or so, meaning that all you learn about is the colonization and early development of Latin America (and the destruction of the Native American empires). If you're at all interested, then take the class: the lectures are okay (not great), the required reading is light, and don't waste your time doing the extra reading (in fact you don't really need most of the required reading, just the primary source documents). Plus: no research papers! Just two "book reviews" which take almost no thought at all. And the grading in the end is pretty light. If you have no interest at all in the material, then you shouldn't take the course, since you'll be bored and frustrated as very little of it applies to modern day Latin America.