Since none of the reviews are recent, I needed to write one. Please do yourself a favor and do not take a class with this professor. Professor Jaanus is older, which is fine, except her worldview is entirely outdated. She would frequently say racist and otherwise bigoted things in class, not even realizing the implications of what she was saying but also not willing to listen to the class' point of view. She constantly mis-gendered and dead-named a gender nonconforming student after being reminded multiple times. Whenever we tried to critically analyze the perspective of the wealthy white male authors we were reading (no female authors in the syllabus -- except one who she ended up cutting!), she would immediately shut us down and change the topic. This class was entirely nonproductive, and I wish I had not taken it. Her class was a poor representation of the English major at Barnard.
Professor Passell is an extremely dry lecturer and seminar-leader. His assignments are mostly dull and he does little to illuminate the readings. He has a very singular approach to urbanism which can be frustrating considering the multitude of perspectives that should be accounted for in Urban Studies. He leads you to believe he is an understanding professor with flexibility on assignment material but upon submitting an assignment you will learn he is a harsh grader who is looking for a specific approach and perspective. If you don't hit his nail on the head then good luck!
Her thesis seminar is awesome! She expects a lot from you in any of her classes, but will go out of her way to get to know your interests and give you advice on how to improve and give extra suggested readings. I also took her upper level seminar for Urban Studies, which is a lot of work but well worth it.
Everyone takes this class because its required, therefore Urban Studies Majors obviously HAVE to take it. I can honestly say I got very little or not nothing out of it. An insane amount of reading gets assigned weekly and as the weeks go on it becomes more and more obvious that NO ONE is doing the reading. Class assignments have basically nothing to do with the reading, which doesn't really make sense. Each week a "new" historical urban issue is studied, but they all seem to basically be a review of concepts of many of the Urban Studies "A" requirements. Prof. Linn might be better suited to teach high school because the way she structures the class has ZERO intellectual "discovery". She focuses on simply "recalling" the main points from the readings....asking what they said about x,y,z, which usually creates dead silence in the classsroom. She is also very opinionated and kinda rejects any challenges to her ideas. Oftentimes, a super politically charged statement slips from her mouth that doesn't really seem all that appropriate. Good-luck disagreeing with her, she will politely dismiss you and hold it against you. She does provide a lot of feedback on assignments, especially the final paper. But, I would suggest staying "in the middle of the road" on assignments. Don't try to be critical or challenge anything ever, because it seems like she just wants people to simply read the material and recite it back, just like a 9th grade Social Studies class. Her grading is very subjective and seems to have a wide range, favoring people that simply "recite" back on their assignments. She values "looking at where research came, primary or secondary sources, etc and not any intellectual application of research. I'd probably suggest taking the class with a different professor if you're looking to get something out of the class. However, Prof.Linn's class is good if you want to stay in the "middle of the road" and never do the readings.
Prof. Abzug is very engaging and knowledgeable in class. Her extensive experience in the field shows through in her teaching. The class is very focused on discussion. So, often times one or two obnoxiously loud people end up dominating the class. I think Abzug does not do the best job of managing these people who tend to talk too much. Also, I had a very difficult time with professor Abzug outside of the classroom. She often ignores students emails and is grumpy about arranging meetings.
Prof. Baics is amazing. His natural ability to lead class discussion and get students thinking astounds me, considering the fact that he only recently received his PhD. He really wanted everyone in the class to do well and is the friendliest, most open-minded and approachable instructor I've ever had. He maintains a surprisingly good balance between his own work/research and teaching and has a lot to share with the class. You'll never think of history the same way again. As for the books we read, a lot were really good and some were EXTREMELY boring. Baics took our opinions into account and showed a great deal of empathy when the workload was too heavy or the reading wasn't the greatest.
This was one of the best classes I've taken on this campus. Although the reading was a bit much and most students didn't finish it, the discussions were quite enriching and prof Baics was the first prof. I've had on this campus who was truly encouraging of the students to explore ideas with disregard to his own opinion. He was super helpful and available. This man truly cares about history, urban centers, and teaching. If you can I highly recommend taking a course with him.
Gergely Baics is one of the best professors I've had so far. Take his class. One of those professors that makes the material more interesting by teaching it well. He always did a great job mediating discussions, posing interesting questions, and explaining gray areas. He related the texts to each other in really cool ways. He made the big picture of all of the material visible which made understanding each text easier and more interesting. He brought in cool outside materials to relate to the texts. He brought us cookies. He's always positive and brings a great energy to class. He is patient, enthusiastic, funny, and seems to genuinely care that his students have a good learning experience. He's not overly nice or push-overish like some fresh-out-of-grad-school professors are but nor does he seem to have too much to prove. He's very helpful with the writing assignments and grades fairly.
This was one of the worst classes I have ever taken at Columbia. The reading was incredibly extensive, though familiar (and repetitive) if you have ever taken any urban studies courses before. As for Dean Yatrakis, she would constantly start class late, go over time, not giving us breaks because she was going to "end early" (never happened). She also was a horrible facilitator of class discussions, constantly interrupting people and never staying on topic for very long. I would strongly recommend not signing up for her section.
If you like sarcastic people, you'll like Minkoff. She's not the most prepared teacher but if you raise good questions, the discussion can be interesting. She chooses interesting readings for the most part (most of which IS necessary, although you could get by with some skimming in the books she assigns). You should try to get on her good side by participating as much as possible.
I thought that this class was challenging but interesting. Trask had high expectations of preparedness for class as well as the writing assignments. He was also very interested and informed with regards to the subjects being discussed but didn't run discussion. It really was a venue to discuss many aspects of the readings and their significance to cities. He was insistent on meetings with all of us about our research papers but it was a good thing because i always came out of them feeling like i needed to work on it which kept me on pace to get it done. They were also helpful with regards to where to find good sources and what he was looking for. All in all, the class was worth the time I put into it.
Vanilla Ice cream. For better and for worse. Dependable and gives good explanations, but will never blow you away like chubby hubby or anything. Still, having gone through most people in the religion dept, especially the ones teaching more theory, i'd take vanilla ice cream and run
Dean Yatrakis' class (she's also dean of academic affairs at columbia) is one of the best seminars i've ever taken. she taught us after a long hiatus, but you can tell that she knows how to lead discussions, plan a curriculum, and get the material across. she has this great ability to get everyone to speak (well, not Everyone but she makes a big effort) and maintains a comfortable atmosphere during class-- which is pretty hard with some professors who tend to ignore some students while only focusing on others. she also made it a point to keep free time for her urban studies students, not an easy task b/c of all her other meetings. the material is interesting-- if youre into social urban affairs like education, social services, local goverening, poverty. but most people in teh class are junior urbst majors, so everyone is pretty familiar with the topics, and at times its great to hear everyone's varying viewpoints on the same topic. she's also very funny-- and will often refer to personal anecdoes to highlight certain points, whcih definitely helps make some of the readings less dry. (though i enjoyed most the readings anyway) overall-- she is a personable, funny, helpful and very knowledgeable. try to take the jr colloquium with her if possible.
When I read all those other reviews, I can see where they're coming from. Platt is so excited about the material and he's really knowledgable. My complaint is not about his lectures; they were great. But the man does not know how to lead a discussion. Some teachers know how to let go a little, let the students talk about what interest them (as long as it's not bullshit). He has a very strict agenda for his classes and knows exactly what he wants to talk about. That being said, if you're an English major, he's one of your better bets for the colloquium.
Great professor who really knows her stuff. Don't miss out on an amazing opportunity if you get the chance to take a class with her!
Our class with Prof. Yarnal had probably the best dynamic of any class I've taken at Columbia. It was basically 20 exceptionally bright - brilliant people with a lot of interesting things to say about a lot of interesting topics. Discussion at times was fragmented because everyone had something to say (a good thing in this class) but it was difficult to stay on one topic for long because it -- we'd go off on interesting and relevant, but somewhat off course tangents Prof. Yarnal knew his stuff cold -- He helped illuminate the material and was very willing to take it all to the edge. Intellectually exciting (although he does speak in a monotone). He's a Buddhism expert, which I found to be very helpful b/c it appears that a lot of questions of theory/method are discussed in fruitful ways in the Buddhist discourse. Was ceratinly an eye-opener.... If you want an intellecutal expereince, take Prof. Yarnal, take the class.
Prof. Yarnall did a very good job considering this was one of the first seminars he has taught at Columbia. He is knowledgeable about the readings and very open to his students, including and esp. any personal experiences/opinions which might be relevant to the subject matter. Our class had a great dynamic, although sometimes it resemebled more of a group therapy session than a college seminar. He has a tendency to go on long tangents, usually delivered in monologue form for minutes on end but I think as he gets more teaching experience he will grow out of it. His specialty is Buddhism, so be prepared to hear a lot about it. (This isn't too much of a drawback, it provides a welcome relief from some of the more dry required readings). Overall, great prof, great class!
i agree that prescott is extremely knowledgeable- she is certainly a scholar in the field of renaissance lit, but that does not mean that she is always able to organize herself- prescott came to class each week having forgotten at least one thing- sometimes that was which book we were supposed to be covering. i was also put off somewhat by prescott's CONSTANT sexual inneundo and bawdy jokes , especially coming from someone grandmother-age. lastly, beware: although she gives few assignments, she can be a picky grader.
Don't take a class with her if you can avoid it. Unfortunately I had to for a major requirement. This lady pretty much doesn't teach at all and relies on student's often shitty presentations, sitting there nodding insightfully. She's so boring, going to a two hour class with maybe fifteen students was actually painful. If a student doesn't get something right, she makes it clear that she's not right, but won't necessarily make clear what is right. She just sucks. She's not nice, she's not approachable during office hours, always on her way to a meeting, constantly rushing you. You don't know what she's looking for in the papers at all, totally arbitrary grading. I probably regret being a sociology major most because of this woman.
In response to the other review on Jaanus - it is a love hate thing. She is incredibly knowledgable about the renaissance and equally incredibly disorganized about the class. While she knows what she's tlaking about her subjects don't seem at all connected and she does not leave room or time for discussion which is the point of a seminar/colloquium class. Also she is a bit too into the dead white male thing for a female professor - its downright weird. Take her if you are interested in random knowledge about the renaissance but be weary if youu expect her class to be understandable and the requirments straightfoward.
She has a great reputation in New York politics but she is an AWFUL professor. Very self-absorbed. Always talked about her community board and how much they did, and also her losing campaign for city council. She might be a good person to know to get you a job or something but she didn't carea bout the class.