Culture in America

Mar 2015

Do not take Culture in America. I was accidentally placed in this class as a first year and the first two lectures he was amazing. Then, slowly over the semester, he deteriorates into random anecdotes, weird stories, discussing readings we never did and more. He will write random words on the board, and just completely confuse us. His tests were IMPOSSIBLE. I did all the readings (mind you, which are A LOT) and got a C on both the midterm and the final. He's a nice guy- I met with him during office hours and he tried to give me advice about the tests but it did not help a bit. He'll pick random stories from the readings for the tests, and it's impossible to 1. remember that much 2. answer them the way he wants. Unless, of course, you meet with the TAs constantly. Do not take this class.

Nov 2012

I am a full-on Rieder groupie. I took a seminar with him freshman year and Culture in America sophmore year. I recruited about 5 of my friends who fell for Rieder the same way I did. He's the kind of Professor that makes you want to work hard for him. And you will do really good work. I could go on for hours about Rieder... just do yourself a favor and take this class, if you can get in. I pulled from the course's books and topics in many, many classes throughout college. They really stuck with me.

Feb 2012

I am not one to write a review but I want to warn anyone who is thinking of taking Lena's class that it won't be super-hard but it will be weird and not entirely intellectually fulfilling. Lena's lectures are filled with nonsensical references, anecdotes and weird humor that I wouldn't mind on occasion, but hers don't drive the point home and two, are irrelevant and don't connect with the main theme/subject of the class. I was confused at what she was trying to teach most of the time. She jumps from one idea to another often and confusingly and I heard this from several students. Lena's weakness is that she is an average lecturer at best but what's worse is that she thinks she is amazing. This arrogance and her often weirdly defensive stance makes for a very sub-par class. Save yourself the weirdness and avoid her class. If you don't believe me, Google "Jennifer Lena Vanderbilt" and go to the "Rate my Professor" website and see her reviews from her previous university, Vanderbilt. Yes, not great at all. I wish I had done that before I took her class.

Nov 2011

This professor is new (hopefully only visiting) as of the 2011-2012 school year so I'm writing this review a bit early for those who are/will be looking to take her classes in the spring semester. Don't do it. Really, save yourself the energy. I am so appalled by her teaching that this is the first time I've actually felt compelled to write a review on culpa to stop any prospectives from taking her class. Professor Lena may seem attractive at first because she seems like another Shamus Khan. Knowledgeable but can communicate information through pop culture/world issues and humor. Wrong, so absolutely wrong. For one, the information she gives, though correct, often feels misleading. At least when it came to studying some classical theorists that sociology majors are required to study in depth through another class called Social Theory. For example, she may lead you to believe that two thoughts that the theorist had were connected when they're not and she lets students leave with a very vague understanding of the theories rather than concrete understanding of their main points, argument and thought process. On top of that, while you might understand what she is trying to get at after each class, you will never understand how each class connects to the other classes until you go to her TAs (which results in meeting with TAs every week in addition to going to her class twice a week). I'm not the only one making complaints, apparently the TAs are swamped with meeting with students and the reasons are all the same. Readings feel completely irrelevant. For example, why would she give us Marx's Contribution to the Critique if her lecture was going to be on Marx's theory of alienation? (Not to mention that she only teaches three clauses to his theory even though there are four) I could go on about this part... The only way they would connect to her lectures and theories in class is if she explicitly talks about the articles in her lecture. More or less, though, they usually do not act as a good example for whatever theorist she's talking about (Ironically sometimes I felt as though the reading would connect better with other theorists). Classes become tedious and never go anywhere because she allows her students to ask any and ALL questions they have no matter how big the tangent is. While this can be good in some aspects, she never gets around to finishing her lectures and she never picks up from where she ended the next class. Hence, students being confused half the time. The part that really irks me though, isn't her terrible teaching... it's her attitude. I once went to her about something that she said in class that seemed confusing in light of information that I was learning in another class. Instead of engaging in conversation with a student who was thinking critically about the material (alas, isn't that was college is aiming to get people to do?), she replied with something sassy and irrelevant about how she didn't say it but that a student said it and she said that it was correct (didn't realize the technicalities were so important but I obviously meant that she led us to understand) and then proceeded to tell me that I was wrong without an explanation to tell me how or why or a clarification of what the theorist meant. This becomes extra frustrating as I begin reading and studying that theorist's actual writings (rather than writings that are semi-aligned with his work) and find that I was right all along (confirmed by another professor). Other emails, even for logistical issues were dealt with nothing but contempt and sass. I wish I could copy and paste some of her responses her but that would be a breach of anonymity. Essentially, don't ever expect her to be helpful without a dose of defensive retort. Generally if you ask a question of clarification in class, she has the tendency of responding to your question with another question that, not only doesn't answer or clarify anything, but only makes you feel stupid for asking for clarification in the first place. Yes, what you thought was humor when you first started in her class turns out to be just a lot of unhelpful guff. I fully understand that many professors are cocky but usually those are professors are the best at what they do, have a lot of knowledge to back up why your argument is incorrect and/or a noble prize or something of the sort. She has a book. One published book. Which leads me to believe that her high and mighty attitude is a little undeserved.