course
Building Peace

Dec 2020

I was initially scared off by some of the reviews and ended up dropping this course the first time the dept placed me in it. Then the next semester I had no choice but to take this class. After finishing the course, I can confidently say the Professor Autesserre is by farrrr one of the BEST teachers in this university. Not only is she a leader in her field, turning out important and compelling research based on her experiences, but she is also an EXCELLENT teacher. Her expectations for each assignment are clearly communicated and by utilizing her office hours it is not hard to meet them. her guidance has definitely improved my writing more than any class I've taken. Moreover, Professor Autesserre is incredibly sweet. When critiquing anyone's work she always made sure to first highlight their successes and compliment what she liked about their projects and her criticism was always, always constructive. She led enjoyable discussions and at the end of the class I was always shocked how quickly the 2 hours went by. Yes, like some of the reviews mentioned this class is reading intensive--but that should be expected for poli sci colloquium. During my time taking it, a bunch of the students complained about the reading level and she ended up cutting out a lot of reading from the syllabus to accommodate us. Regardless, I found all the readings incredibly interesting. In sum, DON'T BE SCARED OFF BY THE REVIEWS AND THE AMOUNT OF READING!!!!! TAKE THIS CLASS! YOU WON'T REGRET IT!

Dec 2020

I took my first colloquium with Autesserre and I have never regretted taking a class more. Sev is not only one of the harshest graders I've ever had, but most of her critiques aren't even constructive. She had obvious favorites in the class and if you weren't one of them, you probably did not get a good grade. I was terrified to go to office hours for fear of what she would say to me. It got to point I was terrified of going to class every week. Not to mention, she told us point-blank on the last day of class not to request a letter of rec if you didn't get at least an A- in the class. I've literally never had a professor say something like that before.

Apr 2020

LOVED THIS CLASS!!! Was warned by other reviews not to take this as my first Colloquium, and I did anyway and have no regrets. Professor Autesserre is brilliant, compassionate, engaging, and supportive. The workload is a lot but expected for a polysci colloquium. It is very very very reading heavy and important to do the readings so that you can participate in class, but it is worth it. If a reading is boring, you can get away with skimming it or focusing on just one chapter. She was extremely helpful in helping me finetune my research question. I feel lucky to have the privilege of learning from Professor Autessere and her passion for humanitarian work is unmatched by any professor I have heard from. She is unbelievably intelligent and feels strongly about what she teaches, which contributes to the content of the course. Hard class but SO worth it!!!! ALSO the mock peace talks are so so soo so fun. And I learned so much!!!!

Feb 2020

This course is fantastic, and very much worth taking. Professor Autesserre is highly knowledgeable and clearly in love with peacebuilding (as a topic and in practice). Hearing her discuss peacebuilding (especially those rare mentions of her own experiences) is absolutely delightful. I _adore_ the course, and sincerely wish she taught another in the same vein with new/more in-depth material. (Peacebuilding is such a thorny topic that if you've only one semester, it's difficult to both address all of the most important topics to understand, _and_ delve deeply into any one subject.) She prefers a clear, concise writing style, which is a relief (especially compared to those teachers impressed by obtuse and florid language). Her expectations are reasonable. I guess you could say they're a touch on the high side, but I've not noticed a real difference between hers and those of other colloquia teachers. Yeah, you're gonna have to put in real work for the class, but again, this is a colloquium; that's not unusual. Office hours: Mondays 5-7 pm, sometimes switched out for Tuesday 2-4pm. I do have a couple complaints. First, she could be a little faster to answer emails (wait time is 2-3 business days, varying somewhat depending on the time of the semester). She also (not really unreasonably) prefers to answer questions in person, rather than by email, so a better discussion can be had. However, that can be frustrating if you have a question you _really_ want answered as soon as possible, but you have to wait a week to find out (which might be too late). Second, the office hours can be a bit confusing, and I tended to get mixed up. :/ She has a website for making appointments in 15-minute blocks, but if all are taken, there's nowhere online you can look (that I know of) to find out when it is that week. That said, if you're a walk-in, in my experience the odds of having a full 15 minutes to chat is unlikely. She's pretty popular, and many (certainly more than her 20-30 undergrads) want her time. Often, the best you can hope for is a couple stolen minutes, _if_ the next appointee has yet to arrive (also unlikely). If you _are_ blessed with her time, it's fantastic. I went frequently, especially towards the end of the semester. Problems that felt insurmountable when I entered her office magically became solvable and straightforward in 15 minutes. The class experience: - Readings: The weekly readings are a bit long, and often an entire book is assigned for the coming week's reading. However, the material is fascinating (admittedly frequently DR Congo-specific or related), and the authors assigned usually write well enough that the reading doesn't feel like a chore. - Class participation (15%): Class discussions are always interesting and lively. As previously mentioned, Professor Autesserre is extremely knowledgeable and loves the topic (being a current researcher in peacebuilding as well as a former peacekeeper, among other things). Her speaking style is engaging and fun, though she spends little time giving her own opinion of the readings, preferring to let class members discuss what they think. (To be honest, I so enjoyed hearing her talk that I often wished she would speak more.) Additionally, those in the class are (obviously) self-selected, so the people in class _also_ love the subject, and proffer fascinating takes on the weekly reading. Class discussions are generally my favorite part of any political science seminar/colloquium, and the those in this class were top notch. - Reading review (20%): The review itself is brief, and you're given detailed instructions on exactly how she wants it to be written. There are no mysteries in figuring out what she wants; doing well in class is easy, provided you follow the instructions. (The instructions themselves are also fairly intuitive and make perfect sense.) You can choose which reading you want to review. The readings themselves are always complex enough that finding something to talk about for two pages is fairly simple. - Mock peace negotiations (2 classes): I personally loved this exercise the most. Everyone in class is assigned a different actor in the Congolese conflict (the President, the leader of the opposition, the FDLR, etc.). The goal is to achieve the outcome you (as the actor) want. Communicating with classmates to set up alliances ahead of time is encouraged (and extremely fun, especially if you attempt bribery via cookies, as I did.) The in-class talks themselves can get hilariously intense, as everyone gets deeply into character, which greatly adds to the fun. Watching the President and the leader of the opposition snipe at each other across the was _so_ entertaining, it honestly merited popcorn and a soda. - Memo (15%): Very brief, and you're permitted to write in an outline-esque format. Not at all difficult to write provided you do even light research on the actor you're playing (although of course, you can say more and participate more fully if you do more research about who you are and about the conflict itself.) - Research paper (50% in total): 25-30 pages is standard length for final papers in colloquia and political science seminars. You have the freedom to choose what you want to write about, provided it's related to what the course is about, and utilizes some of the class readings. (Really, you'll want to do that regardless, because the texts are often seminal works.) For those who struggle with time management, there are multiple steps of the writing process you need to complete by different times over the course of the semester. Discussing and preparing for the paper (thankfully!) starts day 1. Personally, I tend towards having too much to say than too little. That's especially true for this course, due to the information-heavy readings. Achieving the desired page count is far from impossible. My sole complaint is that a draft of the paper is due two weeks before the final paper is due, _but_ it's to your assigned peer partner(s) (with her CC'ed), and the deadline is negotiable provided the other(s) are willing. A hard deadline for a draft 2-3 weeks in advance of the final deadine, graded and returned soon with commentary, would have been (my) ideal. This course has easily been my absolute favorite course I've taken at Barnard, and I'm a second-semester senior. I speak without hyperbole. This is the course that made me decide that I want to pursue a career in political science, rather than purely majoring in it for fun, because undergrad at a liberal arts school is the time to indulge your interests. I want to end up doing exactly what she does as a career. (Even after hearing the long anti-academia spiel she, an academic, gave me.) If you have the slightest interest in international affairs and conflicts with a peacebuilding focus, take this class. Note: I would like to remind those who've read this far that Culpa reviews tend to slant negative, because the people unhappy with the course are those most inclined to post a review. I've talked to most of my classmates, so I can say for a fact that I am very far from alone in deeply enjoying this class. ...,,.,....,.,,.,Y'all I'm really actually obsessed with this course and with this professor. A single compliment from her gives me tachycardia for _weeks._ You know how sometimes there are those teachers/miscellaneous authority figures who are so cool, and you want them to respect and like you _so_ badly, that it's almost like a crush? I call that a mentor-crush, and I don't......_not_ have one. Sghdkfjlsdk I've now made myself WAY too emotional, just from writing a class review!!! Ridiculous. I'm in love. Guys. Guys. Seriously. Take this class if you can.

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!

Nov 2019

Professor Autesserre is obviously brilliant but I actively regret taking her colloquium. Her office hours were the worst I've ever been to -- she's made multiple students cry and offers very little guidance on the final paper. Unless you are singularly interested in peacekeeping I wouldn't say this class is worth taking.

May 2019

Please don't take Building Peace with Dr. Autesserre. She is unhelpful and condescending when you approach her. She only criticizes without offering any meaningful direction to write your paper. If you want to be overworked without any gratification or increased skill set than take this class.

Mar 2016

This class was extremely STRESSFUL and expectations are VERY VERY high. DON'T TAKE THIS CLASS AS YOUR FIRST COLLOQUIUM. I took the class because I heard amazing things about Professor Autesserre and read great reviews about her on CULPA. However, the class was by no means EASY and Professor Autesserre is by far the most intense professor I have had at Barnard/Columbia. Personally, I did not think the class was enjoyable..I was miserable and dreaded going to class every week but that was because it was my first colloquium and I didn't know/care a lot about peace building. I would not recommend taking the class unless you are a) knowledgable on the subject b) took her Civil Wars class before or c) very passionate about peacebuilding in the Congo, Rwanda or former Yugoslavia. For me, it wasn't worth stress especially over a topic that I did not feel strongly about (everyone in your 16 person class will have a lot to say on peacebuilding in Africa). However, if you are seriously considering a career at the UN or in peacebuilding/peacekeeping, Professor Autesserre is knowledgable and passionate about the subject and is extremely well-regarded and well connected in the field. POSITIVES: - The class is very organized, structured and planned which ensures that writing the research paper will not be last-minute - Professor Autesserre is impressive in her field and has great firsthand experience..she also brings in a lot of interesting speakers because she has impressive colleagues - You learn a lot about peacebuilding and the UN NEGATIVES: - The workload sucks and this class will definitely have to be your top priority - Professor Autesserre has very high expectations for quality of work, participation & preparation and is condescending if you don't meet those expectations - On average, you do much more work than most other colloquiums because there are the presentations, the mock negotiation/role play, etc. CONCLUSION: It is definitely doable but make sure that you are willing to invest a lot of time and energy into this class!