professor
Tara L Gallagher

Apr 2014

Everyone I had talked to before I took this class had told me that uwriting was incredibly tedious and dull. I do agree that the course material and structure were formulaic and pretty boring, but I ended up greatly enjoying this class thanks to Tara!!! She is one of my favorite professors at Columbia so far. Very sweet, intelligent, polite and articulate. Her class discussions were lively and interesting, and I genuinely looked forward to her class. The assignments she gave could a pain, but they were ultimately very helpful when I wrote my essays. She returns each essay draft with two pages of typed comments AND margin notes, which is a huge help. Needless to say, she was incredibly approachable and wanted to help us. Tara is a very fair and methodical grader - each final draft is returned with a percentage grade distribution (so you know exactly what you lost point on, and how many), a letter about your essay and suggestions for improvement. I came in to the class as a moderately good high school-level academic writer (AP English classes came very easily to me), and got an A-. I think my grade was mostly a result of me procrastinating and not putting enough work into my essays. Tara is a great teacher and you do not have to have incredible innate writing talent to do well in her class, but you do have to work a ton. Tara also gave my class a lot of freedom to write about what we wanted and was never a subjective reader.

Jan 2014

Tara is a really great UW professor! She assigned a lot of ungraded assignments, but these assignments helped me a lot when I worked on my essays. She is very approachable and takes teaching seriously. I find her straightforward and sharp comments on my essay drafts the most useful in editing my essays. For the most part, I edited my essays according to her comments and got good grades. In the past, I crafted my essays so that they complied with my teachers' opinions on a specific topic. However, I did not have to do that in Tara's class. She was very open to any sort of arguments as long as I had evidence to back them up. Also, I notice her instructions for each progression appeared to be a lot more clear than those of other UW professors so that I wasn't left confused. UW became my favorite class of the semester and I definitely recommend taking her class!

Jan 2014

Tara does come across as a little uptight. Her syllabus, which she forces you to sign, seems a little over the top given that this is a college course. However, she actually wants you to read it (shocker) because it details her policies for the entire year. She wants people to turn in their homework and attend class. This seems to be a particularly demanding request for some, since attending class must be a foreign concept to them. It got to a point when people weren't showing up or turning in their work, which wasn't graded, that she was forced to be a little stricter. Completely reasonable if you ask me. Tara is not an easy grader. If you want an A, you'll have to work for it. She's an intelligent woman and knows when students b.s. their essays. She expects you to do some honest work. She wants an honest effort. If you're really working, she will help you out (read extensions). Her revisions across the drafts on each paper will help you become a better writer. They weren't petty or "trying to change my writing style"—a common complaint across UWriting. Tara can make you a better writer, if you do the work and accept that she knows more about writing than you—she does. I liked Tara, personally and academically. While UW was the most work I had second semester, I definitely learned from it. Many of the assignments weren't just busy work. They were pretty helpful towards the overall progression. She planned her course well. I've never considered myself to be a great writer. I knew that writing wasn't my strong suit, so I went into the class willing to work. I did learn that I wasn't half as bad as I thought I was. I got an A- in the course. Long story short, if you want to learn something about writing, stick around. If you're looking for an easy grade, move along.

Aug 2013

I would advise switching out of Tara's UW class, if possible. She's not terrible and does start to grow on you, as a person, by the end of the semester, but Tara's a tough grader and a huge stickler for the rules; it makes UW a little extra unpleasant. A lot of people scrambled to switch sections after the first day of class (we had to sign off on some 40 page syllabus/ contract... 'thing") but the class got better as it went along. To start with the pros: Tara is a genuinely nice person, and takes teaching very very seriously; the class was small relative to other sections (some people did switch out) and we bonded a lot. Everything else: The grading policy, as she describes it is C is 'ok,' B is 'good/ well done,' and 'A' is exceptional, and she takes that very literally. Her approach to essay writing and grading is very formulaic. I found myself having to simplify some ideas and pick topic based on what would best fit her format. I scraped by with an A-, which is worse than I've done in any other writing intensive Columbia class. Expect a grade somewhere in the B+/ A- range if you're fairly confident in your writing. Switching instructors could make your life easier. P.S. Attendance policy is quite strict as well, all absences, including illness, are considered unexcused (unless its something drastic) and arriving more than 5 min late/ leaving early count as half an unexcused absence. You get 3 unexcused absences