professor
Alexandra Watson

Apr 2021

Either most of Professor Watson's past students have sticks up their butts, or she really changed her teaching style in the past few years, cause this woman is one of the most amazing professors I've ever had at Barnard. Not only did she make her class the most intimate and personable class I've had during Zoom school, but she takes time to get to know her students, and genuinely cares about each and every one. For our last class, she let every person read excerpts from their best work, and even took the time to write an introduction for every reader. She is AWESOME and I am sure everyone from my class would agree with that statement. Please disregard old reviews and take a class with her -- you won't regret it. Also, she's a pretty lenient grader as long as you meet with her and show that you care about the work (it's a personal essay workshop, so it's quite easy to be invested in your work).

Dec 2020

Professor Watson was an amazing instructor for online learning, more specifically FYW: Resisting the Single Story. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to teach this semester (fall 2020) but she adapted in such a great way. Each class was guided by the same google doc, so you could look back at the notes from each class. Coming from high school where I had virtually no education on the writing process, Watson personally helped each student develop a writing process that worked for me. We also started each class with a different meditation (honestly so refreshing from my other Zoom classes). Because FYW was ungraded this semester, I thought I wouldn't be motivated to work hard. Because it was an ungraded class, though, Prof could spend a lot more time making meaningful quantitative comments that motivated me to do well in the class. I would recommend taking a course from prof. Watson because she is honestly such a sweetheart.

Sep 2018

Alexandra Watson was easily the worst professor I've ever had at this institution. Her grading system seems like that of a native of Jupiter. She is hinderance to good writing and to the general atmosphere of the class. 10/10 do not recommend. Do everything in your power to avoid her for "The Americas".

Jul 2018

I had First Year Writing: The Americas with Watson. While all of the other students' experiences with Watson are valid, I had a more positive experience with her. I came to Barnard having little to no writing skills under my belt from high school, so Watson basically taught me most everything I know about writing college level papers. She completely changed my view of the writing process. Before, I thought the writing process was writing the essay and then checking it once for grammar mistakes. Watson taught me that revising an essay may be completely transforming original ideas to make room for more mature, coherent claims. In her class I didn't stop editing an essay until I thought it was perfect, and I have never done that in my life simply because I was too lazy. I now have the type of work ethic that not only transferred into my other classes but into my lifestyle. Also the books we read in class were absolutely fascinating and Watson always offered new ways to interpret the books which really opened my eyes to what literature can be. While not everyone liked her, my writing skills vastly improved because of her brilliance and I will be forever grateful to her.

May 2018

I disagree with the other comments about her being a harsh grader; I didn't do jack shit in this class and my final grade was a B. That being said, Watson is boring and I only took her class because I had a bad registration time and had to take FYW. The books we read were great, but she only assigns busywork and isn't helpful with feedback. I tuned out on my computer most of the time. Never did most of the reading. She treats you a bit like a fourth grader. All and all, 2/10.

May 2018

Professor Watson is really nice and you can tell she enjoys being an English professor. Even though The Americas was my last choice, I am very glad I took that class because we read very interesting books like Passing and Jazz and Love Medicine and had important discussions. The class taught me a lot, especially with how to close read a text, and the three essays we did were very helpful. However, she is a harsh grader. When I got a B+ on my essay, she told me there wasn't much wrong with it and it was one of the highest grades in the class- she just gives A's to published work. Although I was one of the very few students that had a high grade in her class (96%), I still got an A- overall because a 97% and above is an A which is impossible to get if she doesn't give A's on the essays. My biggest advice is to actually spend a lot of time on the drafts because that's the only thing she comments on and the more developed it is, the more you can get out of her on how to improve it. Go to office hours and talk through every comment. Good luck!

May 2018

As an English major, Alexandra Watson's class was the best I had in the entirety of my first year at Barnard. She really focuses on teaching writing, which I thought was a nearly impossible until taking this class, but she manages to get you to think about organization, sentence structure, and beauty in your own writing, and to improve on it. This makes it a difficult class, but if you put in the work, its 100% worth it. She limits the number of books, so you spend a lot of time with everything you read. The readings in Barnard English are very weighted towards white men, something many students have criticized-if this is you, again, take this class: we read Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende, Nella Larsen, and Jamaica Kincaid (along with Walt Whitman and Jose Marti). Don't listen to reviews saying her grading is random: its not, its just harsh. She wants you to have a strong thesis, to spend real time with the book, and to prioritize depth over breadth in your analysis. She pushes you to write without a single superfluous paragraph, to eliminate confusing verbal embellishments in favor of clear, well thought out writing. She also expects you to spend an equivalent amount of time editing as you do writing your first draft. No, I did not get an A on every essay, but when I did badly, it was because I spent less time on my rough draft, and more importantly, very little time editing. English majors, absolutely take this class. Students who want to improve their writing, and would like to put time and work into it, take this class. Only avoid it if you're after an easy A. Also to the Barnard/Columbia English department: Alexandra Watson should be teaching upper division English, she will change kids lives.

May 2018

Here's the deal with Prof. Watson. She's incredibly sweet and helpful *if* you go to her. Go to office hours or ask her after class if you're uncertain of anything and she will do her best to talk it through with you. But you have to put in that effort. She won't take pity on you if you don't make an effort. She's a very no-nonsense sort of logical person. You can't fool her with fluffy papers, not having read the books. Watson is a recently graduated Grad student. She knows when you're BSing a paper. Do the readings and put something thoughtful down and you'll be okay. She can be considered a harsh grader, but she also curves the class extremely to ensure that people don't get C's. This makes getting an A nearly impossible, but you're pretty much guaranteed a grade between B and A-. Plus, there are a lot of extra credit opportunities. This grading scale + extra credit would be unnecessary if she were to grade a little easier, but all in all, I think she's a fair grader. I say this because she tells us exactly what she wants via a million, surprisingly helpful handouts and comments on drafts. Pay attention to these comments; they are what she's grading based on. If you're uncertain of her comments and you talk to her, she'll tell you exactly what she means. Implement whatever that is in your paper, and voila, instantly good grade. Again, it's about you paying attention and putting in a little effort. I'm not saying her class is easy. It isn't. But it is fun. There are lots of random class activities like a paragraph puzzle and watching TED talks, and the readings were very enjoyable (Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, etc). And I personally learned a lot from her as a professor. My writing has improved substantially via this class, and that's honestly the point of these first-year classes. If you're looking for an easy fluff FYW, Watson isn't your best choice. BUT if you want to learn and enjoy literature, she's a really good professor to have. I feel much more confident as a writer after this class.

Feb 2018

This class was incredibly mediocre. To be honest, most all the FYW classes are as well. Professor Watson however treats her students like they are incapable of writing, giving them worksheets to identify the subjects and claims of sentences. This approach works for some, but if you consider yourself a good writer, don't take this class. As well, she never entertains radical and in-depth readings of texts. This class is surface level in all respects. I can confidently say I was not intellectually stimulated in this class once. It did not once excite me to think of attending class, and it almost always does in other circumstances. That being said, it is not a bad class, just not a good one. Choose FYW wisely.

Jan 2018

Honestly, Professor Watson is super cool and knows her shit. She's not just going to give you an A for handing your paper in- she really demands that you spend a long time revising and discussing your paper with her but don't be frightened. She's really great about making meeting times for you if needed outside of OH and gives great feed back. It is very important that you take her feed back 100% but if you have questions about it don't be afraid to ask her. She likes to see you're working and thinking about your papers. If people don't like her its probably because they just didn't do the work...

Jun 2017

Taking her class is the BIGGEST mistake since I got to Columbia. She herself has quite a stellar record (a Brown undergrad and a Columbia graduate, chief editor of a publisher), but she does not know how to teach. Her description of each assignment is quite "fluffing," lack of detailed, down-to-earth explanation. Office hour was usually not busy in the beginning of the semester, but later on, she limited the times you can go. Usually, it was 15mins per person. They weren't helpful mainly because she gave some random advice and sometimes even contradictory. She might say the draft was good in OH and later on in the final draft took points off. BUT, GO TO HER OFFICE HOUR. More importantly, make sure she understands and "likes" your argument. If she is not familiar with your paper beforehand, good luck with her random grading style. FYI, she is a big fan of justice, so no extra office hour or extra help, not even extra email.

May 2017

Nice person, subpar professor, harsh grader. Professor Watson's comments are deceptive in that compliments on first draft can quickly turn into bad grades for final draft. All in all, avoid.

Feb 2017

Professor Watson is a nice person. That being said, she is a harsh grader and her comments on the first drafts can be deceptive. It was a lot better if she could have harshly criticized my first drafts rather than leaving possitive comments only to find out that I have received a terrible grade.

Apr 2015

Professor Watson is an incredibly nice woman who is very approachable and receptive to helping students. That being said, I didn't think she was a great professor. I wanted to get a lot out of uwriting and develop into a better writer. However, I don't think Professor Watson is the best teacher in terms of helping students grow as writers. Professor Watson will rarely/never edit your grammar, so if you aren't good at that, then this may be the class for you. She is much more focused on bigger ideas and the content than on the style of your writing. Perhaps the biggest flaw I found in Professor Watson was the randomness in giving out grades. Each time I thought I wrote an excellent paper, I received a B, and each time I thought my paper was below average, I somehow conjured an A. She does provide an extra credit opportunity at the end of the semester, but in general, her grading is totally subjective and random. I recommend going to her office hours and talking through her comments with you.