professor
Wendy McKenna

May 2019

Oh Wendy. I want y'all to buckle in because this is going to be long but I don't want anybody to be unprepared. You may read the other reviews and think you'll be fine. You are wrong. Your hubris has the best of you, my friend. You are Icarus, flying too close to the sun. But you don't have to be. You can heed my warning and avoid this professor. You will have weekly reading notes to turn in. You will not know what is expected of the weekly reading notes. Syllabus stated "You do not have to necessarily include everything assigned for the week [on the weekly reading notes], but what you turn in should indicate that you have done all, or most, of the reading" - the first couple weeks she was just telling us to always do "more" of the readings on our responses. Even if I'd do 6/7 of the readings and have 2 pages (syllabus says "1-2 typed pages") I was told to do more. Eventually I just started responding to all the readings and that got me good feedback, so... I wouldn't be so frustrated if she'd just outright told us that she wanted us to do more. She instead chose to be coy and beat around the bush. That goes for class discussions as well. First class she told us to think of ways we could break the social contract of a teacher-student setup, and she shot down multiple suggestions (i.e. leaving the room, talking over the teacher, not being seated properly, etc) not because they were incorrect but because they weren't whatever she was thinking of. I felt like I was playing charades sometimes just trying to guess what she was getting at - it kind of felt like she just wanted to feel smart over us because she's so frequently shoot down our suggestions or comments in class. also god forbid we start discussing something in the material that we were interested in, or had questions about. There was no flexibility in class discussion to let the students have any sort of ownership over the material. Once she said she "wasn't going to ask" us [the class] about our porn consumption habits (it's a sex class after all) but she did ask if we ever talked about it with our friends and what did they say they watched. Somehow that was an okay question but the other wasn't. Understandably, we were all pretty resistant to talking about this (personally, my friends weren't there so I'm not going to say one way or another whether they've told me about that stuff when they aren't there to speak for themselves) but she continually pushed us to talk about us, saying she didn't believe that we never talked about porn with our friends. There were also times that I felt like she behaved rather unprofessionally. Sometimes other students would be running late, and yeah that sucks, but you don't talk about that to the students who are there. The prof would say things in a snide tone like, "Well we can start that is IF X student decides to show up today. X never emailed me so I guess we'll see." I didn't like that because I didn't need to know about her correspondence with another student - especially when the class was a seminar and she would NAME the student she was talking about so that we all knew who it was. Feedback on assignments was questionable sometimes (see comment about reading notes). We got feedback on our outlines and I used the word "negative" in mine, and when she talked with me she told me she "assumed by the word negative I meant...not positive" and I was enormously confused because that's what negative already means. I brought this up to her and she told me, "well yeah, but you need to be more specific in your words" and I again said that was what negative means. She only said, "yes, but still be more specific" even though I said in the outline that "x was negative because y" so it was already specific - she didn't really give further feedback than that. I haven't ever cried after a class before but I did after that outline review because I felt like I had no idea what to expect on anything. Sorry that this is long and none of this is to say that she's a bad person or anything, I just felt like she was quite uncompromising and always had to be right, to the detriment of the students.

Sep 2017

I actually think people have been pretty unfair to Prof. McKenna. She is a little dry and rather cold, but the content she presents is actually quite interesting and engaging. If you don't take her coldness personally, you may actually find her funny. Fair grader and easy class overall.

Dec 2013

Professor McKenna is pretty bad, but at least her class isn't difficult. Other reviewers covered what is frustrating about having her as a professor: she doesn't like it when people ask questions, gives uncomfortable and unnecessary examples about sexuality, is a bit of a jerk. I would say that, while she does cover material very slowly, if you just role with it and remain engaged, what she says will stick and you won't really need to study for the tests. The tests are very predictable based on what she emphasizes in lecture. Pay attention to what she bothers to write on the board, definitions she repeats, stuff like that. If she tells a story, remember the moral, not the minute details. I don't think people normally put a lot of thought into whether or not to take Intro Psych. Either they're thinking about majoring or they want to take the easiest class fulfilling the science requirement. (And yes, this is the easiest class fulfilling the science requirement. I've every intro science sequence but Astronomy.) But, consider taking something else. You can pick up on basically everything we discuss in the class just by talking to educated people. You're going to talk to a lot of educated people as a student at Barnard or Columbia, and things like the Stanford Prison Experiment and multiple intelligences and whatever else will just come up in conversation. You can read about them on wikipedia. This class is not giving you any deeper knowledge than that.

Oct 2012

i'm actually in this class right now, not actually listening because this woman is just terrible. in every way possible. i write this at the beginning of October, and i am already suffering. i read the CULPA horror stories before taking the course with her, but i had no choice: this section was the only one that fit into my schedule, and i needed to do my science requirement. my friend who is a psych major warned me that this woman is awful. i underestimated this assessment. not only is Professor McKenna a terrible lecturer who wastes a ton of class time by drawing out often creepy examples for an inordinate amount of time. i can't help but be horrified and puzzled when she constantly brings up scenarios, discussed in depth, about weed, masturbation, etc. (we are actually behind now - she told us at the beginning of class, and our midterm has to be pushed back a day. well done, lady.) and these examples aren't even scientific-sounding, in which case i would be a little more forgiving and less weirded out. case in point: "are people who meditate better kissers?" why? of all examples to use when you're first teaching variables. i know this probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but because this woman is also a raging bitch and looks pretty miserable, it feels...disturbing. oh well, at least the workload is light. i wish i could get these wasted hours of my life back, though.

Jan 2011

If you go to every class, take careful notes, memorize definitions and regurgitate them on the exams you will do fine. She is very organized in her lectures, but she is defensive when students ask her simple questions about the material. She gets a lot of terrible reviews, but I don't think she is terrible; she just seems to think she is much better (in every way) than her students. A positive aspect of taking Intro Psych with McKenna is that her classes are typically much smaller than the other intro psych classes, like 40 students smaller.

Jan 2009

Professor McKenna was the most disappointing professor I've had at Columbia to date. She gave dated information in her lectures and was not up to date on current issues in the field, which made her lectures especially impoverished. With a topic as dynamic as the psychology of human sexuality, her archaic approach to the subject was sorely disappointing. Worse, she was extremely narrow-minded and not open to even conisdering competing arguments to her views. McKenna seemed to take personal offense to students questioning her views, becoming very terse, and defensive and without offering any reason for why she would dismiss other arguments, she simply said, "No". Her class was not worth the the three-thousand dollars I paid per credit- not that I am bitter about my loss. McKenna is an insult to academic endeavor and she disgraces the spirit of intellectual curiosity at Columbia.

Dec 2008

Professor McKenna is the least helpful professor I have encountered at Barnard. She is part time, so she has one day of office hours, and refuses to answer any questions after class: she forces you to e-mail her which, if you have questions about your research paper, does nothing for you. She is unsympathetic to any problems you may have, and does not accept any level of criticism (She told me that her lack of office hours wasn't the problem, it was my lack of planning. Which was untrue, because she had given us two and a half weeks for the paper, given the week before thanksgiving and due after break.) Her lectures, and tests, are entirely subjective. Write down everything she says in class, especially definitions, because they often don't match what the book says. It is in your best interest to just regurgitate her definitions in the short answers, because if your answer isn't *perfectly* clear, she'll take points off. Occasionally, she'll say something funny or bring up an interesting tidbit, but for the most part, her lectures are boring and monotonous. You don't have to read the book to follow the lecture, but you should read it before each of the 3 exams. Don't ask questions, because she will either: cut you off, say "I'm not talking about that right now" or say "Ask me at the end of class." She doesn't really respond well to questions. Not that she won't answer them, but she tends to make people feel stupid, even if there question isn't. There are 3 exams, instead of the traditional midterm and final. They aren't bad, about the same difficulty of a high school test. About 45 multiple-choice questions, and then probably 7-10 short answers, which range from definition/explanation to abstracting one topic into real-life examples. Pretty easy to finish in the 90-minute period, unless you're a really slow test-taker. Overall, if you don't have a choice, her class isn't the worst thing that could happen to you, but if you can get into another Intro class, DO IT. Your general self-worthiness will thank you.

Nov 2007

Professor McKenna is a good teacher. She engages the class by asking lots questions and other ways to get us to participate. It is rare that she will lecture the whole time without bringing up some way to get us involved, such as by providing many many examples, whether it's for illusions which she draws on the board, shows us photocopied examples, thinking up examples of experiments and what is wrong with them... If you are interested in psychology, it is a fascinating class. Even just the intro level will change the way you think. She takes attendance every day, so i recommend actually going. Also, her lectures skip a lot of the info in the book, so you are making more work for yourself if you skip class and just read the book. Take notes and study those.

Feb 2007

SO BORING. Need I emphasize that more? Fair grader but also one of those professors who think that a C is average and no one should complain about it.

Jan 2007

Prof. McKenna isn't the greatest lecturer, but she is a really nice lady. Although she has a really unfortunate, droning voice, you can still see that she likes what she teaches. Her lectures are organized and overall I got a pretty good intro to psychology. In response to the other reviews, her tests never seemed unreasonable. The paper was a pretty interesting experience, and easy. Just read the material and pay attention. This class is not half bad.

May 2006

Wendy McKenna is a mediocre professor who teaches an inevitably interesting subject. One suspects she's been teaching the same exact class for the past 25 years (the length of time she'll inform you of with a smug smile). Her lecture oftentimes begins with a list of "shocking" statistics (she doesn't always give a credible source). Then she'll attempt to incite a debate amongst the class about some sex-related topic, which can go on for needlessly long considering the yappy, uninformed nature of your typical Barnard psych student, aided only by her occasional clarifications. At one point, taking this class, you think to yourself "it can't be that bad-- the class is about sex and that will always be interesting." But then you take the test and realize just how vague, biased and subjective McKenna can be with test writing and grading. Two bits of advice: Don't question her logic during a lecture. In my experience, even if she seems to be saying the most stupid thing in the world, she'd rather have you spit it back to her on the exam than give her any reason to think she's wrong. Second, everything she teachers relates back to the Double Standard-- even if you don't think it does.

May 2006

not to be cliche, but DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS WITH THIS WOMAN. if you have any dignity or respect for yourself or the time you have on this earth, and wish not to waste it, do not spend it on this woman. the point of the class is for her to assure herself that she is, in fact, more intelligent than undergraduate students (mostly first-year, as well), for her to do her best to convince you of the same, and for her to test out new modes of tricking her students into getting the wrong answer. now this is only in class; if you are positively desperate for a reasonably easy way through this intro class, go ahead; i rarely took notes, and when i did, they were only useless for her little snippets of information that she put on her tests, no matter how irrelevant they were. the workload is fine, as long as you do the reading at some point, the text book she chose was juvenlie, and she is insufferable.

Nov 2005

Professor McKenna acts like she's doing a favor to her students when she lectures. She doesn't write anything down on the board, she hands out no outlines or guides, makes no courseworks postings (unlike many other social science teachers) and glosses over significant concepts. She takes some questions from the class (which is stupid because we're all first years and listening to our class hypothesize about disorders we don't know about gets old FAST). Her refusal to actually answer student's questions, combined with her ONE office hour make her class hard to do well in (and who wants a B or C in intro pysch?). She canceled class two hours before we were supposed to go (half the class ended up in the room confused), changed the syllabi multiple times and was often late to her own class. Her tests...She might tell you that it's mostly multiple choice and short- answer, but she really means that division is like 30/70 (wayyy more writing, and thus wayyy more subjectively graded). Oh, and by the way, she doesn't curve, as in, not at all, no extra points, no extra credit, etc. The class is mostly first years with a couple sophomores and a postbac here and there. I would recommend switching out of her class if there's anyway possible, especially as all my friends who took psych with other profs (stroessner, mccatskill, stokes, etc) loved it.

Dec 2004

Professor McKenna really is not as bad as everybody on here says she is. She is actually quite nice with grades although her tests are semi-confusing...if you are good with multiple choice though and good at guessing the best answer, the tests will be easy. I think the hardest thing about the tests is that the questions seem too vague or general so several of the multiple choice answers will appear to fit. She's very good with credit on the short answer part. There's really no final exam--we just had three different exams and two easy papers to write. Professor McKenna is actually a sweet lady. I got away with coming in late to every class, not going to several classes, and handing in a test and a paper late, getting the highest grade of an 85 on an exam, had 3 noshows for psychology experiments, and did not complete all the needed credits and still managed to get a B in the class...maybe that's not good for you but that grade is great for me! The only thing is that the class is very boring. She is funny at random times but I felt like a lot of class time was very useless although she did make sure to answer everyone's questions. The only thing I would suggest to her is to research the questions she did not know how to answer in class and come in the next week with them. The book was amazing though! I recommend buying that book just for reading. It was a hundred times more interesting than the lecture.

Jan 2004

Mc Kenna's not that boring. You dont have to do the readings until exam time, and yes, don't rely on your notes (except for the last exam). Little known secret: she likes to switch it up. The first two exams are mostly based on the readings (albeit the seemingly least important facts); on the last test she bases her exams on the notes. Do the experiments on time. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: ask the woman exactly what she wants on the paper lest you be surprised with your grade. Oh, and do attend lectures--she takes attendance and memorizes faces.

Oct 2003

Well, I'm a first year and i'm only a month into her Intro to Psyc class, but it's not too great. She's not a mean professor, but yes, she is boring. Her first exam is coming up in like a week and I'm gonna have trouble studying for that seeing that the previous reviewers said that she'll test us on obscure points in class. Anyways, yes, her class is boring almost all the time. Her workload is not bad at all. You like never have homework. YOur homework is just your reading. Oh, and when you do your psyc experiments, be sure to be on time!!! I didn't take that too seriously and I missed 2. I'm so stupid and now my grade will get lowered. Oh well, enjoy her class if you get it. I'm not enjoying it too much. It's not unbearable, but she's not bringing out the best of what intro to psyc could be. From 1(worst)-10(best), I'd rate her a 5.

May 2003

I really did not like Professor McKenna. First of all, she was the least enthusiastic of any professors I have ever had. During lectures she looked as if she would rather be some place else, some place more interesting. She was bored thus we were bored. I had trouble keeping my eyes open for the entire lecture because she spent most of the time trying to get herself organized and trying to decipher her notes from 1975. The tests were reasonable in difficulty, but if multiple choice is not your thing, do not take this class. Most of the test is on a scantron and the other, smaller part is short answer.

Dec 2002

I don't know what the previous person was talking about with Prof. McKenna being the "model teacher." This woman has the most disorganized lectures in the world, and you might as well not even buy the book because she certainly doesn't use it to write the test. Instead, she based her LONG, ridiculous tests on obscure points she mentioned ONCE in class. She even makes up her own terms for things SHE thinks you should know about. You spend all your time trying to keep up with the reading, only to realize you have two days to prepare for the test she's about to give you. You read over your notes and start scratching your head....why do these notes sound so incoherent.....oh yes, that's right.....because Prof. McKenna's lectures don't follow any logical path! When you're not drooling on your book asleep, you're trying to read over the notes you COULD get down amidst her nasal chatter. Don't even bother.... you won't get it all the simplfied BS written down fast enough anyway. But don't worry guys, the points you don't get down ARE the ones she'll test you on. I also love telling people about the paper she gave us on rating the book's accompanying website! Please.....as if we don't have enough busy work trying to fall out of our desks due to the most immense boredom one could possibly experience. Skip McKenna....or if you are Freshman and wondering why you keep staring at the clock during Intro. Psych....get out of that class fast!

Dec 2001

Professor McKenna is an outstanding example of what a teacher should be. Her enthusiasm for her subject is contagious and her classes so interesting they seem to be over before they begin. She is patience personified, open and willing to discuss the topic at issue until everyone is heard. Professor McKenna forces one to THINK and QUESTION (certainly about the variety of psychological perspectives), creating the kind of mental stimulation one hopes for in an environment designed for learning. Despite the broad range of information and short time in which to present it, she presents a calm and steady demeanor while maintaining a dry wit and quick sense of humor. Professor McKenna is generous in her grading and gives students every opportunity to attain the highest grade possible. Although she seems disorganized at times, this characteristic makes her all the more "human" - a great quality in someone teaching psychology! I certainly hope to take additional classes with Professor McKenna and recommend her to all students who are seeking knowledge, not just high GPAs.

Jan 2000

She's a decent lecturer, except for her nasal and irritating voice. In addition, as a human being, she's obnoxius. You may not enter or exit if she's talking, and there is no way to pre-register. She'll force all the sophomores exit the room on the first day, and automatically kicks them out. The papers she assigns are mostly anonymous and ungraded, so you work your tail off for really nothing (you still have to do them and sign in that you handed it in). She refuses to discuss the exam until it's over. She conducts in-class experiments with surveys that many feel are unethically handled and have questionable ethics. Workload: a slew of anonymous, ungraded papers, an ungraded paper that is not anonymous, a midterm, and a final project for which you must go to some unusual place, such as a strip joint, an abortion clinic, or a meeting of a support group for those who participate in S&M/B&D...and a final.