BEST class I have ever taken (or at very least, one of the best). Samuel Roberts is the kind of professor that should be on the list of "professors you should take a class with before you graduate." We learned about topics from tuberculosis all the way up until the current day COVID-19 situation. We studied the healthcare disparities based on race, gender, and sexual orientation that have been all too prevalent in US history. *DISCLAIMER: the content differs slightly from semester to semester so while we had a lengthy reproductive rights unit, another semester might focus more on mental health* There's really no way to explain how much this class broadened my mind. If you have the chance, take this class!! It truly made me reconsider my future career plans... this class and the professor were life changing
I took his seminar last semester and I was really disappointed in his class. His grading and help on the research paper was pretty arbitrary. I showed up to his office hours but he offered almost no help on the paper. The whole seminar is based on harm reduction and no one could criticize the idea, only think of ways to implement harm reduction better in the system. The readings and discussions got pretty repetitive after a while because every week the discussion boils down to the glory of harm reduction. He makes strange comments during discussion and often goes on tangents, ruining potential for a good discussion. His comments on paper is mostly based on fixing grammar or citations and not actual help on content. The class is extremely disorganized. If you ask for an extension he'll say no, but you can submit the assignment in late anyways and not have any points taken off. His contributions during discussion is condescending and meaningless.
I was very surprised when reading Prof. Roberts' other reviews because I thought that his seminar was GREAT. Perhaps he is more effective in seminars than he is in lectures (but I have also seen Prof. Roberts speak for large groups of people, and I think that he can be an organized, effective speaker). First of all, as mentioned in other reviews, Prof. Roberts is brilliant. He has a deep understanding of the history of racial inequality and criminal justice in the United States and always brought his expertise in the history of medical and public health into our discussions. All of the texts that we read for the course were extremely interesting and gave us a good historical foundation for our discussions on current events related to policing and incarceration. Although Prof. Roberts' classes were sometimes not as organized as they could have been, I did not necessarily think that this was a complete loss. The way that he structured the class gave us the space to discuss the parts of the texts that were most relevant and interesting to us and to talk about how the historical framework that the texts provided shaped our understanding of these issues presently. Also, as a professor who is actively working to address the issues that he discusses in his work, Roberts brings his applied experiences and practical knowledge into the classroom. Lastly, Prof. Roberts genuinely cares about his students' growth. He demonstrates this by leaving class time to address students' specific interests, meeting with students one-on-one regularly, and providing detailed feedback on assignments. For example, the big project of the course was to write a 20-page research paper related to the history of criminal justice in the United States (we pick the specific topic). From the first class, Prof. Roberts emphasized that we should meet with him to discuss the paper and so that he would be able to provide resources/show us where to find resources and so that he could get a better understanding of our research interests and career goals. Prof. Roberts' individualized guidance (that was always honest and never sugar-coated) made me a much stronger writer and researcher. It was an honor to learn from a professor who is genuinely dedicated to ensuring that his work in academia has a direct impact on the communities that he centers.
Excellent professor. Friendly, funny, and extremely knowledgeable. My class was on 20th century black urban history and onely had 16 people in it. Class is usually based around small group discussion of the readings and then a full class discussion based on the small groups. Class participation was a large part of the grade. His lectures were thorough but he was also very supportive of student contributions. Fair grader. Kind of obsessed with using different columbia websites like wikispaces and sakai, which created some technical problems throughout the semester.
Sam Roberts was very off-putting and pretty rude most of the time. He spent too much time trying to have us discuss our papers (from 1 month into the class) that we weren't able to ever get deep into any discussion. The syllabus was great, but Roberts has a long way to go to learn how to teach. I'd wait for him. If, on the other hand, you don't get fazed by terrible personalities, you can probably stand him and write an interesting paper for the course!
Sam Roberts is smart, no doubt, and funny, sure. He is not, however, a good teacher. Yet. The syllabus was great, but too full (the other reviewer forgot to mention the additional 100-200 pages of article reading each week), and about 200 pages of text assigned were never discussed...per week. If you're someone who reads, it could be extremely frustrating. If not, then you're in luck. He calls people by their last name, which is cute in a gimmicky way, but a little on the annoying or patronizing side. He strikes me as a young professor trying to earn respect, and, if he didn't forget due dates and assignments, his hard-ass approach to conducting class and assigning written work wouldn't matter as much. He is brilliant intellect-wise, and will probably be a very successful and important academic, and I'm holding on the possibility of him becoming a great teacher too.
This is one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. Prof Roberts is extremly intelligent and funny. Because this was a seminar we really got a chance to discuss the material and throw in our own opinions. The books were very well chosen and were all pretty interesting. Hes always willing to meet outside of class and is a great resource Overall, I think Prof Roberts is a great teacher. I highly recommend taking a class with him!
Don't be deceived by this professor's youth and (painfully deliberate) afro-bohemian chic--he is as aloof, eccentric, and stern as they come. Dr. Roberts is remarkably unfriendly and unreceptive in passing. However, in office hours or personal meetings, he is an excellent source for advice, information, and support. He has a genuine concern for students. Dr. Roberts is also incredibly smart and suprisingly witty. In short, he is pretty wonderful. Catch him if you can.
Professor Roberts, a good guy who means well, has absolutely no teaching ability or people skills whatsoever. The class time is a complete waste; nothing is learned, vital topics are routinely passed over, and discussions are totally undirected. How such an interesting and important topic could be reduced to this is beyond me. The readings are pretty good and thought-provoking, so go pick up a syllabus at the history office and don't even think about actually taking the course. I agree with the other reviewer; Beverly Watkins is the prefered alternative.
Roberts was overly sarcastic, unorganized, uninterested, uninspiring, and insensitive. In my opinion His strengths are playing favorites and sarcasm. Readings were great--but that's about it. If you're interested in this subject try Beverly Watson's course, or just do an independent study. It would be a much better use of your time and energy. If you have time to kill, and like struggling for naught--be my guest. If you want your work valued and work well in an academically nuturing environment, look elsewhere.
Overall, this class was very interesting. However, there were moments during class time when I wondered if there was any organization to our time at all. That being said, Professor Roberts really does care about his students. He does his best to make sure that everyone performs to his expectations. The reading is very interesting and very do-able--about one book or a few articles per week. My only complaint had to do with how our class time was spent.
First and foremost, it should be understood that sometimes , Prof's are forced to teach classes they may not like simply because there is no one else around to do it. They sepcialize in certain areas and they will work the best when they are teaching things they like the most. This might have been the case with some of the other classes this man has taught but as for this class I would have to say it was by far the BEST history class I have ever taken at this school. This man nows his stuff when it comes to historical research and public health. I felt overall his enthusiasm was spectacular. The class was incredibly thought provoking, he does not dictate the class to force you to think a certain way unlike some other professors. I guess because this was a seminar it might have been different but he wants the students to run the class and learn from eachother through active participation. Grant it he is hard to reach through email, but has flexible office hours and is always willing to meet with you and help you with the paper.
OK, just to clear up some misunderstandings that have arisen from the reviews on Roberts. I took his class last spring (yet I had such an unpleasant experience that I still remember it like it was yesterday), and he was a nice enough guy trying to come off as the students' friend by attempting to turn the 1 hour and 15 minute lecture sections into a discussion. What ended up happening was people voicing remarkably stupid comments/questions, and any lectures or information to be taught were hastily thrown at the class in the last 10 minutes. Also, the lectures, when he decided to give them, were horribly dry and boring, making the amazingly interesting topics seem incredibly offputting. (Like one reviewer wrote, even the TA's, who were great by the way, didn't know what the heck he was looking for.) Oh, and don't try and blame my "negative tone'" on not doing the work or cutting class: I went to all the lectures and did every single assingment (although, now I regret having wasted so much precious time). So again, you can overlook this pathetic excuse of a class due to his inexperience, or what have you, yet this does not change that it is a large disappointment, and at over $800 a credit, you deserve much better.
these reviews are a bit ridiculous. i'll tell you what the reason behind their bitter tone is. First the class wasn't held at the greatest time. i think something like 6 to 7:30. naturally, in my experience here, this means that a lot of people end up skipping lecture no matter what the class. to do well on the tests you have to do the readings and the lecture which don't necessarily correspond to each other. he makes this very clear in class. you can't just cite more than one or the other either in your papers. most people in my section obvioiusly hadn't read so it's pretty obvious why they didn't like the class or didn't do well on the tests. lectures are very packed. as one reviewer said i think this is roberts' first year and he'll learn about timing lectures. that's my only complaint. his lecturing is fine but you should participate if you dont want to feel as bored as these other reviewers.
I think the previous reviews are a little harsh. It's true the final was completely unreasonable and that there's disorganization but if you make an effort, you can actually still learn quite a bit. Lots of content. One problem with the lectures is that they're about twice as long as they should be. I chalk this up to Roberts' relative inexperience and think he'll improve
Wow, I am shocked about how bad this class was. While much of the reading was interesting and thought-provoking, I would advise you to read at at your leisure instead of doing about 100 pages a week, none of which have any relationship with lecture. Something should be said for the fact that he tried to answer questions and create discussions in lecture. However, what ended up happening was a pure waste of time, and he rushed through his computer slides (I guess the blackboard is obsolete in today's world) in the last 15 minutes of class, often keeping us after time was up. All potentially interesting and poignant topics were sucked completely dry. Bottom line: Avoid this class, or at least wait to see if anyone else is teaching it.
Professor Robert's class looked very intersting, however his lectures were disorganized and I was astonished by his lack of communication with his Teaching Assitants. The class was a disappointment. Professor Roberts was very unenthusiastic and difficult to reach. The readings and subject matter were interesting, however the actual class was hard to follow both intellectually and bureacratically.
This class was one of the most disappointing classes I've taken at Columbia. As a history major, I was looking forward to doing the readings and going to lecture, and Roberts is so unenthusiastic, disorganized and uninspired that I wound up not attending lecture. ever. The times that I was there I kept wondering when he would freach his speciality and get excited, but he looked pretty bored. Even readings that were good were made to look pointless within the context of his lectures. Although discussion sections were interesting, the man did things like show movies and slides while speaking monotone to a lifeless audience. Assignments were pointless and broad not even the TAs understood them. Roberts put about 4 of 15 books on reserve. Anyone with any humanities experience can pull off a B by going to class once a month.