Reacting to the Past - First Year Seminar

Dec 2020

Professor Worth is literally the sweetest person in existence. She is so kind, helpful, and will do anything to help you, you just need to ask! She genuinely cares about your wellbeing and hates giving grades because she wants everyone to do well so badly! This class was so much fun, we played two games, (Athens and Chicago) both of which were super entertaining and I learned a lot. I would suggest this class to literally anyone considering taking it because both the professor and the content are so incredible!

Dec 2020

I don't even know where to start with Professor Carnes! He's definitely a gold-rated professor for a reason. I've genuinely recommended this class to anyone who asked (and plenty of people who didn't). In a semester where students' hopes had been crushed over and over, Carnes' class brought us together and brought us joy. He humbly complains that his dog Ruffy (who he proudly showed to the class) is a better lecturer than he is, but that is simply not the case! Professor Carnes will communicate with you any time of night (sometimes concerningly late for an old man), will give you practical, helpful constructive writing advice, and illuminate the many ways that history relates to modern politics. I could not laud this class enough. That being said, don't pick a Carnes class if you don't want to dedicate the time. I devoted hours to researching ancient Athens, writing papers, and performing speeches, all because the class was a fun game that I wanted to win. You'll end up so absorbed in the game that you spend ten hours a week on it. If you don't have the time in your schedule to do that, save your spot in the class for someone else who will.

Dec 2020

Professor Worth is truly my favorite human I have met thus far at Barnard. She is incredibly understanding, her teaching style is casual and interactive, and facilitates a wonderful student-teacher dynamic. I had never done any sort of acting or public speaking elective before taking Reacting to the Past, but Professor Worth made the games much less daunting than they initially appeared. Anyone who enjoys history and participating often in class should take Reacting to the Past.

Jan 2020

Gamemaster Laurie, as she has us call her, is awesome, as is this class. At first, I was afraid about what I signed up for when we were given a bunch of dense primary source readings about Athens for our first game, which is Athenian Democracy, but once you get through the stage of reading and discussion before the game starts (which is not very long), it's amazing. Anyone who likes arguing and debating will like this class, and there are all kinds of fun things thrown in to lighten up debates when things get tense, such as snacks, and random tasks like wearing a certain outfit or writing a poem. The last game, which is Greenwich Village 1913 during the suffrage and labor movements, is personally my favorite unit, since the characters are often people you have heard of and you can talk about interesting issues. Being that it's a small class, you also get to work with people and get to know them, something I could not get in any lectures. GM Laurie is very kind and also has a good sense of humor, and really makes an effort in working with her students by encouraging one-on-one meetings. The class is quite a bit of work at some points in the semester - the Athens game, for instance, has a lot of reading and a strict format for speeches, and sometimes you'll have a speech and a writing assignment close together, but it's one of those rare classes where it is still manageable and working hard often yields good results. I highly recommend this class for FYS.

Dec 2018

Sweet man with big goals, this class was definitely the most unique class I will take! Carnes places your class into a historic setting and you "play" the characters, reading works from the time and writing speeches and speaking in front of your classmates for votes. A combination of history, philosophy, acting, and a good practice for writing and speaking skills. Sometimes he's a scatterbrain, but you know he has the best intentions. We love Mark!

May 2018

Took Reacting to the Past with him- LOVED IT SO MUCH. This class was literally the highlight of my freshman year and I have never been in a class like it before. Our roles really take over our lives and sometimes things get personal but at the end of the day, it's an amazing experience. I'm a STEM major and this was super super fun. It definitely wasn't an easy workload compared to other Reacting classes- it actually seemed to be much more work. But, an A is possible! If you want to learn like you've never learned before, take this class with Carnes. He's fantastic and will change your experience in the classroom forever. However, you will need to speak in front of the class and embody your character well so if you aren't into public speaking or get super scared of talking in front of people, maybe the class isn't for you.

Jan 2018

I am so glad I took reacting with Professor Stokes! The first day was super confusing and I thought to myself, "oh no," but within the next week I realized just how amazing the class, and Professor stokes, truly was. She taught us how to think critically about the past and how it relates to the present, and contributes so much through her life experience and passion for everything she does. I feel much more confident in my abilities to write, particularly speeches, argue effectively, and take ownership of my opinions and positions. Highly recommended!

Dec 2017

At first I also thought this course with Professor Stokes was HIGHLY overrated, but (thankfully) I wasn't allowed to drop this class so I was forced to stick it out. For the first 2 weeks or so it is very difficult to follow what's going on in class because it's not explained. However you'll soon realize that your classmates feel the exact same way - no one knows what's going on or what's expected of her - but you will eventually figure it out together. I highly recommend taking Reacting To The Past for First-Year Seminar. And of all the Reacting classes, this one is definitely the most chill and enjoyable. You will learn a lot about history and improve your public speaking and writing. And as Professor Stokes will tell you, this is her second career so she truly likes what she does or else she would not do it. Professor Stokes expects effort, attendance, and respect - all reasonable. She genuinely cares for her students to do well and is a very generous grader. One time we were stressed about an assignment because we all had midterms and Professor Stokes said we can just start a rough draft and not worry about it until the following week. Towards the second and third games, the group has bonded and the game sessions become fun. Definitely recommend!!

Dec 2017

Milnor is a really nice person and a great lecturer! I had her for Reacting to the Past. The nature of the class doesn't really call for much professor involvement, as the class is student-run. Sometimes that was frustrating because she would grade me down for something that she never mentioned in class because every class she would just watch us and not say anything. But if you have her, GO TO HER OFFICE HOURS!! She is so great in office hours because she tells you exactly what she expects and then if you do it she will give you an A. Overall she's an incredibly nice person, and this class is SUPER FUN!! I highly recommend.

Dec 2017

Professor Stokes was one of the best professors (let alone teacher) I've had. She was engaging, funny, and so interesting. She really wanted to get to know everyone in the class. Not only was this class one of THE BEST classes, she really helped me with my speech writing and my ability to debate. She put her own twist on the games, which got everyone really into it. Also, she really wants you to do well: she'll meet with you whenever you'd like and you start off the class with an A!

Dec 2017

This is a great class and Professor Worth is awesome! Reacting is really cool because you are a part of historical moments and make major political decisions for that time period. The class gets invested and it's a lot of fun, you really get to bond with your classmates. Prof Worth is fun and really cares about each student's improvement. She takes a backseat throughout the games, but gives helpful feedback and tips for speaking and writing. She also does not care about grades, she just wants her students to put in effort and gain skills. She wants class feedback and is willing to change or make improvements to certain aspects of the class. Highly recommend reacting, especially with Prof Worth!

Dec 2017

Professor Milnor is a really sweet person and professor who is very willing to accommodate you if needed. Although she is very hands-off because that is how the games/the course is structured, she will help and guide you if you ask. This class is very much what you make of it and Milnor will support it either way.

Dec 2017

I just took his class this past semester and I truly enjoyed it! This is not to say it's an easy class, it's not an easy class by no means. However your writing and speaking skills will improve vastly, and if you're looking for a class to challenge you and (kind of) take over your life then this is the class for you. However, if you get extremely anxious when speaking in front of people and/or you take attacks very personally, don't take this class. This class is about embodying a character, and if you can't separate your character from you are in real life then you will cry in this class.

Apr 2017

At first I was nervous for this class because the format is definitely unlike anything I've ever taken before. That said, I am so grateful I took this course, and particularly grateful I took it with Professor Stokes. She brings her life experiences to class in a very valuable way, and facilitated the games and prepared us for them quite well. Reacting to the Past gets a lot of hype, and after taking it I definitely see why.

Dec 2016

She was the absolute best Reacting professor! Very easy going class, but she knew how to facilitate discussion.

Sep 2016

Please please please as a recent graduate I beg you to take a class with this man. He was one of the best parts about my Columbia University education. He tells a story through history, he makes classes tangible and interactive, he will engage you and make you feel like you are part of the past. If you have any love for history at all, Mark Carnes is the professor for you. I had the fortune of taking Reacting to the Past with him my freshman year, a course that has made him famous academically across the world. It is a course that exercises intellectual history, teamwork, public speaking, debate, research and writing all in one-- a game of history, if you will. You embody a character and you become that character for that "game" whether it takes place at the trial of Socrates or the Succession Crisis of the Wan-Li empire. Essentially, you are taught history by becoming history. You are taught to speak and talk through the eyes of others, all while bonding with your classmates. The US 1940-1975 class was a different style of class-- not small seminar but huge lecture. Nevertheless, Carnes riveted us all. The textbook was phenomenal (it made me cry while describing JFK's death and the repercussions that his death had on society) and most of all Carnes was just able to engage the room. I have never been in a lecture where everyone is absolutely engaged. In Carnes's class, people listened to him because he made history not about the past, but about why the past was important for the present and future and how we got to this point in the world. I cannot stress it enough-- take a class with Carnes. If you put in the work and the effort, you'll get an A. Don't take this class if you're looking for an easy class. Take his classes if you're looking for your tuition money to give you an experience that you'll take with you the rest of your life.

Apr 2015

I absolutely loved this class, and Milnor definitely contributed to that. The nature of this class is that the professor doesn't participate in class very much, but she did a great job of introducing the set up of the game and giving us help with our characters and papers. Honestly, this class turned a little cultish and we loved it. We had such a good time that we scheduled a class dinner at Symposium and Milnor came and somehow used a budget to get it all paid for, which was awesome. We got to talk to Milnor and it was so fun. She told us that our class was the best she ever had, sooo that's pretty cool. We all had such a fantastic and ridiculous time arguing and having crazy things happen. I would absolutely recommend this class to students who love participating and debating, like history, and are willing to take some risks. If you are scared or bad at public speaking or dislike being involved, this class will definitely not be as fun for you. Some kids just never participated and they missed out.

Jan 2015

Professor Stokes is a GREAT teacher! The class is never boring. Her Reacting to the Past class is not quite as intense as the other sections seemed to be but it was still enjoyable and informative. She gives a few assignments but is a lenient grader. She gives almost everyone an A unless they "lose" that privilege. She is very understanding and wants her students to succeed and learn as much as possible in their college years. Take ANYTHING she offers - she is th best :D

Nov 2014

Definitely a class I would recommend to anyone. Professor Milnor knows what she is doing and engages everyone into the games. If you're struggling or needing help with anything, she is very, very good with office hours. I would suggest going over each paper with her and running your ideas through her then. She is overly generous with the critiques and is very willing to help. This class was definitely the highlight of my first semester.

Jul 2006

Andy is such a smart and great professor. He's very interested in what he teaches and obviously loves to share his knowledge. He is very relaxed and understanding. Don't have any reservations about him, he's wonderful. Reacting to the Past itself is a very good class, it's informal and really helps your speech-writing and speaking skills as well as your ability to tear one text apart over the course of a few weeks.

Apr 2002

Not recommended... there's nothing wrong with him, I just know that everyone in other sections had a much more enthusiastic time. He's very good if you get behind, but his personality doesn't make the class worth it. Not inspiring. Do something inspiring, it's good for you. You have the power... choose something else, please. If not, remember that this is my personal opinion and you might enjoy his class.