course
Exploring the Poles

Jul 2013

Professor Pfirman was one of my favorite professors from my first year at Barnard. She is a genuinely kind, sweet, and caring person who treats all of her students with respect—no egomaniacal behavior here! She tried to create an open, fun class atmosphere (my class wasn't too receptive, but she tried!) She loves the theory behind education, so she incorporates creative approaches, application, synthesis, multiple intelligence-type stuff to her assignments and usually tells you why she's doing it. Can be a little meta at times, but I generally appreciated the effort. Pfirman has casually had unbelievable life experiences in science, politics and travel. Ask her questions about her life—she is such a great resource, especially for advice about being the only woman in a male-dominated field. I also appreciated her effort to connect the class with the real world: potential career opportunities, obstacles to women in leadership positions. At the end of the semester, she offered to write us recommendations, should we need them, which was a nice gesture. The class was very unique. It is impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it. When people asked me what I did in my seminar, I'd just say, "I'm exploring the poles!" The breakdown of the class: 1/3 history of polar exploration (Nansen, Shackleton, Amundsen etc.), 1/3 leadership and psychology (Harvard business school articles, women in leadership, group psychology), 1/3 environmental science. The class dragged a bit mid-semester when Pfirman replaced class discussion with dull lectures. This is supposed to be a seminar, after all; but overall, the class was interesting and enjoyable. A strange collection of disciplines and topics that you won't get anywhere else. There's a little something for everyone.