course
Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa

Jan 2020

Dr. Autesserre is by far the best professor I have had at Barnard and Columbia. Sometimes, it feels as though intelligence and organization are mutually exclusive in professors. Some professors are very well-known in their field, yet their syllabi are haphazardly written and teaching styles are mediocre at best. Other professors are the opposite: they are great instructors but not yet well-established in their field. Dr. Autesserre is an exception. She is the whole package: brilliant, honest, organized, caring, dedicated, modest, eloquent, and very, very prominent in her field. A quick google search will prove just how exciting it is to learn from a person like Dr. Autesserre. She has published two award-winning books, both of which you'll read in her Building Peace colloquium (for free!), and both of which are absolutely fascinating. She's also authored many articles on peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She's spent years working in conflict zones with various NGOs and is very well-connected in the UN community. As if that's not impressive enough, Dr. Autesserre did a very well-known TED talk (which everyone should watch...it's amazing!) and has even testified in front of Congress! One would think someone with such an impressive resume may be a bit older, stuck in their ways, or arrogant, but Dr. Autesserre is the exact opposite. She's one of the youngest professors I've ever had, is very flexible and receptive to feedback, and is extremely kind and modest. Dr. Autesserre puts the same kind of hard work into teaching that she expects her students to do while taking her classes. Her teaching style is interesting and dynamic. War, Peace, and Interventions in Africa is a lecture, but Dr. Autesserre incorporates some discussion components into her class. Colloquium on Building Peace involves a well-structured discussion, as well as a simulation of peace talks in Congo. Her grading standards are very clear and are reiterated in almost every class. She is extremely transparent and honest both in and out of office hours, which are well-organized and informative. She is always happy to answer students' questions about the class or her research (especially when it comes to her new book, coming in March 2021!). More importantly, she is willing to connect with students on a personal level. She asks how they're doing, is empathetic to their times of stress, and pushes them to do their very best in a constructive and positive manner. In short, it is an honor to take a class with Severine Autesserre. I couldn't recommend her more!

Jan 2020

Dr. Autesserre is by far the best professor I have had at Barnard and Columbia. Sometimes, it feels as though intelligence and organization are mutually exclusive in professors. Some professors are very well-known in their field, yet their syllabi are haphazardly written and teaching styles are mediocre at best. Other professors are the opposite: they are great instructors but not yet well-established in their field. Dr. Autesserre is an exception. She is the whole package: brilliant, honest, organized, caring, dedicated, modest, eloquent, and very, very prominent in her field. A quick google search will prove just how exciting it is to learn from a person like Dr. Autesserre. She has published two award-winning books, both of which you'll read in her Building Peace colloquium (for free!), and both of which are absolutely fascinating. She's also authored many articles on peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She's spent years working in conflict zones with various NGOs and is very well-connected in the UN community. As if that's not impressive enough, Dr. Autesserre did a very well-known TED talk (which everyone should watch...it's amazing!) and has even testified in front of Congress! One would think someone with such an impressive resume may be a bit older, stuck in their ways, or arrogant, but Dr. Autesserre is the exact opposite. She's one of the youngest professors I've ever had, is very flexible and receptive to feedback, and is extremely kind and modest. Dr. Autesserre puts the same kind of hard work into teaching that she expects her students to do while taking her classes. Her teaching style is interesting and dynamic. War, Peace, and Interventions in Africa is a lecture, but Dr. Autesserre incorporates some discussion components into her class. Colloquium on Building Peace involves a well-structured discussion, as well as a simulation of peace talks in Congo. Her grading standards are very clear and are reiterated in almost every class. She is extremely transparent and honest both in and out of office hours, which are well-organized and informative. She is always happy to answer students' questions about the class or her research (especially when it comes to her new book, coming in March 2021!). More importantly, she is willing to connect with students on a personal level. She asks how they're doing, is empathetic to their times of stress, and pushes them to do their very best in a constructive and positive manner. In short, it is an honor to take a class with Severine Autesserre. I couldn't recommend her more!

Dec 2019

Dr. Autesserre is by far the best professor I have had at Barnard and Columbia. Sometimes, it feels as though intelligence and organization are mutually exclusive in professors. Some professors are very well-known in their field, yet their syllabi are haphazardly written and teaching styles are mediocre at best. Other professors are the opposite: they are great instructors but not yet well-established in their field. Dr. Autesserre is an exception. She is the whole package: brilliant, honest, organized, caring, dedicated, modest, eloquent, and very, very prominent in her field. A quick google search will prove just how exciting it is to learn from a person like Dr. Autesserre. She has published two award-winning books, both of which you'll read in her Building Peace colloquium (for free!), and both of which are absolutely fascinating. She's also authored many articles on peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She's spent years working in conflict zones with various NGOs and is very well-connected in the UN community. As if that's not impressive enough, Dr. Autesserre did a very well-known TED talk (which everyone should watch...it's amazing!) and has even testified in front of Congress! One would think someone with such an impressive resume may be a bit older, stuck in their ways, or arrogant, but Dr. Autesserre is the exact opposite. She's one of the youngest professors I've ever had, is very flexible and receptive to feedback, and is extremely kind and modest. Dr. Autesserre puts the same kind of hard work into teaching that she expects her students to do while taking her classes. Her teaching style is interesting and dynamic. War, Peace, and Interventions in Africa is a lecture, but Dr. Autesserre incorporates some discussion components into her class. Colloquium on Building Peace involves a well-structured discussion, as well as a simulation of peace talks in Congo. Her grading standards are very clear and are reiterated in almost every class. She is extremely transparent and honest both in and out of office hours, which are well-organized and informative. She is always happy to answer students' questions about the class or her research (especially when it comes to her new book, coming in March 2021!). More importantly, she is willing to connect with students on a personal level. She asks how they're doing, is empathetic to their times of stress, and pushes them to do their very best in a constructive and positive manner. In short, it is an honor to take a class with Severine Autesserre. I couldn't recommend her more!

May 2015

This is the single best class I've taken thus far in my college career! The first day of the course, Professor Autesserre will tell everyone that the class is very challenging, so those who are not ready should drop the course immediately so other students can sign up. She has the very best interests of her students in mind, but I don't think the course is too challenging at all. In fact, the amount of reading was manageable, the take-home exams do-able, and overall the material was easily understood and INTERESTING! That doesn't mean the material wasn't challenging to a certain extent, but it made the class all the more engaging. Professor Autesserre is also a fantastic lecturer! Each class is jam-packed with information and super engaging - I only missed one lecture during the entire semester (for an interview). Note that they do take attendance every class though, and in every discussion section. During the first half of the semester, Professor Autesserre presents different theoretical models for understanding civil war - colonialism, economic opportunity, etc... Then, during the second half of the semester, she covers humanitarian aid, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. Each lecture, she also describes cases of civil wars in a few countries that exemplify these models. At the end of class, she asks students to share the strengths and weaknesses of each model, and then she shares her own perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses. This structure is fantastic because it's EXACTLY what you're expected to do on the take-home exams. At the beginning of the semester, I didn't really understand what constituted a strength/weakness, but by the end of the semester I knew exactly how to perform this type of critique. The take-home exams do require a bit of outside research, but she provides an entire list of sources and you don't need anything more than that. Essentially class lectures and readings help frame your argument, and research just provides case details of civil wars in the country you're analyzing. Discussion section was also great! Professor Autesserre expects the TAs to help students understand the readings during section, and then we would have a discussion about a larger question like how much aid countries like the U.S. are morally obligated to send to countries experiencing civil war. You will not regret taking this class!

Apr 2014

Amazing class, amazing teacher. She's brilliant, caring, and compassionate, and worth taking just to hear her speak about her work on the ground and theories about the world. The readings are totally worth it. There are a lot of them, but they are all very different, and will open you up to many perspectives about how the world/violence works. Professor Autesserre is, in addition, very good at presenting the different readings, and presents them all as if they are correct, even though she disagrees with most of them. The papers are standard papers, and the TA's will help you with anything you have questions on. Would definitely recommend this class.

Sep 2010

To second what a reviewer below said - if you value your sanity, stay away from this class! Autesserre puts thought into her readings, but doesn't seem to realize that this is not the only class her students are taking. The reading is unbearably long and dry, and once you turn in your first paper you will probably be no longer motivated to do it. Autessere has gotten the absurd idea that everything you learn in lecture and from the readings can somehow be incorporated,with your own research, into tiny 4 and 8 page papers that attempt to answer vague and difficult questions. The subject matter is interesting and it does count as Global core but the course is so poorly designed that you would be better off staying far, far away. To top it off, Autesserre is pretty conceited and unreasonable a a grader.

May 2010

STAY AWAY FROM THIS CLASS. Although the material is interesting, Autesserre does not understand how to teach beyond lecturing. The mandatory weekly discussion sections were useless: the TAs had barely completed the readings themselves, let alone knew how to talk about them or about our assignments. Almost the entirety of your grade is made up of three papers, really cruel exercises in frustration: rather than giving real exams that might help you to learn the material, Autesserre opts to give one 4-page and two 8-page papers, the latter two in place of midterm and final exams. She asks such ambiguous, broad and complex questions as explaining civil war violence in Somalia or Darfur and then expects everyone to adhere to the very strict page limit or be penalized. She is unclear about what she expects from these papers, and then you are penalized for every last detail or theory you did not include because of space constraints. Beyond this, she is a completely unreasonable piece of work as a person: from the time that you find her insane "classroom etiquette" on courseworks (an example: if you want to use a laptop, you must sit in the last three rows of the classroom and turn in a signed contract stating that you will NEVER use your laptop in class for anything but taking notes; she makes one of the TAs sit at the top of the auditorium to spy on everyone and if you are caught, say, checking your email you are kicked out of class then and there and given an F for the 10% of your grade that is participation) to the time that you find your final work graded in violation of her own stated grading standards in the syllabus, you will be frustrated by this woman and this class. Although she feigns sympathy with her students, she takes herself far too seriously. In sum: do not take this class unless you want to spend an entire semester completely frustrated and confused!!!

Apr 2010

This class is hard. The amount they expect you to do in your papers is too much. You have to apply concepts from readings and lecture material, along with independent research on a case study and present one central arguement using a thoery to critique a case, and then use the case study to critique a theory.. it's a nice idea in practice but it doesn't really work, and does not allow for any freedom in papers or exams. Autesserre wants the exam the way she wants the exam and that's that! But at the same time the class is really interesting. the professor has worked extensively in the field and tells interesting stories about her experiences on the ground.

Mar 2009

Professor Autesserre is very enthusiastic about the material, but obviously new to teaching. Her already too-lengthy required weekly readings were supplemented by a recommended readings list. In the end, I did none of the readings and ended up with a B+ in the class. I would have done better but my final paper was a bit shoddy. The midterm and final are not that difficult; the TAs put together a review and hit upon the major points. However, during the actual lectures it is sometimes hard to follow what the main point is. You definitely have to take notes because the slides are skeletal at best and the readings are not relevant to the material on the exam, really. This class was popular with the GS students with varying backgrounds and a lot to say, so oftentimes the discussion tended to wander as they took the reigns and made references to obscure moments in African history or argued fine points of the frameworks until the whole class was rolling their eyes. That being said, a background in African history would be nice, but not mandatory. It will just mean you catch way more of the references in class, because there is no time for explanations during lecture.