professor
Nicole Callahan

Dec 2020

I'm honestly completely stunned to see how Prof Callahan is getting such negative reviews... She is far and away an excellent professor and a wonderful person. Her classes are engaging, she makes a real effort to facilitate the feeling of a community, she's hilarious and sarcastic, and I can't speak for life pre-COVID, but she's been super kind and accommodating during the pandemic. Many people have claimed that you have to kiss up to her; that's total nonsense. What she values in a student is that they actually care about learning and discussing the philosophy. I admit Prof Callahan is not perfect, as none of us is. My biggest qualm is probably the amount of time it takes to get back any assignment (in one case, months). But I think we all need to give each other a bit of leeway and the benefit of the doubt, now more than ever, and she did extend a number of deadlines to give us time to incorporate feedback in certain assignments. Ultimately, it's overwhelming clear how deeply Prof Callahan cares for both her students and the texts. She actually loves to engage in the philosophy, and as someone not expecting to feel the same, her enthusiasm and excitement about the content and the class itself meant everything and enabled me to really enjoy the course. With her grading, as others have mentioned, this class is not the easiest A, but if you want a lively, hilarious, caring, and knowledgable professor, I highly recommend.

Dec 2020

Worst professor I had in college by a long shot. I'm not even sure where to begin... but I'll try my best to paint a picture of what being stuck in her class for four hours a week is like. 1. Texts were not discussed much in comparison to how much we were pushed to tie the texts to real-world examples and what not. That's fine in moderation, but I left the class not feeling like I knew much more about the texts than I did before the course began. 2. Assignments are graded very, very harshly. I did pretty well on them (though, as you'll see in point three, that only counts for so much), but I know that she really tore into some people's work that, to my eyes, would have earned an A in a section run by just about anyone else. 3. She assigns way too much work. There is no reason why I should have had more to do in this four-credit class than in the other classes I was taking the semester I had her COMBINED (fourteen other credits!), but that's the way it was. Burnout was par for the course. 4. As others have noted, she reallyyyyyyyyy likes to place a lot of focus when it comes time to grade on participation, and her definition of the term is unorthodox. I participated in dicussions plenty, but my grade was still docked for... I'm not sure, really. When it came to assignments/tests/etc., I earned an A in the class. But because I didn't "participate" in a satisfactory manner, I didn't earn an A in the class. The central problem here is that it is VERY, VERY OBVIOUS that she picks favorites. Wanna succeed in the class? You need to get down and kiss her ass. She spends a lot of time talking about wanting to make the class "like a family," but the environment she fostered when I had her was toxic, toxic, toxic. But hey, at least she baked cookies sometimes! I had some fantastic professors at Columbia that I will remember for the rest of my days. I'll remember Nicole for quite some time, too... but for the opposite reason.

Aug 2020

My experience in Nicole's CC has not aged well on me. At first, I was thrilled to have a professor who was young and dressed casually, who cared about criminal justice reform, who welcomed pop culture parallels and creativity in discussion posts, who hosted interesting field trips, who wanted to build community with jokes and snacks. But her class' upsides obscured a toxic dynamic. She monopolized discussion, overshared, and then graded with a lack of clarity, a rigidity, and honestly, a cruelty that demeaned our effort and felt dissonant with what she supposedly stood for as a pedagogue. (I was close to dropping her section since she entered my first term grade as less than .1% below a higher one. She changed it a day before our first class of the spring, so I stayed, but that was a mistake. Her teaching just does not merit the stress from grading that breaks down to the hundredths-place.) She dwelled on the Aristotelian concept of the grammarian (someone whose actions are good because their intent is pure) yet created a classroom in which all desire to learn was clouded by grading politics and her desire for a cult of personality. I felt like I was kind of out of my mind and disempowered as a learner. Looking back, Nicole's broken theory and practice was not just frustrating but irresponsible: it undermined what makes CC essential to Columbia students who want to find a way to live their values, not have to sacrifice their integrity for accolades.

Dec 2019

I switched out right after fall sem and that is probably the BEST choice I have made during my entire college experience. All this time, I haven't made a review just because there's too much to write about Nicole (as you can probably tell by the reviews below). The one benefit I HAVE taken from being in her class was, thanks to her INSISTENCE on making the class feel like home, meeting some other students who I still say hi to every now and then a whole year later. Everything everyone below said is true. These are all things I've experienced as part of the class during that semester or things I've heard from classmates I still hung out with afterwards who stayed in the class for the spring. This confirmation is for anyone who doubts the reviews because they've heard "great things" about Nicole (and I've had multiple underclassmen ask me about her and they'd be skeptical when I said she's not so great. Why do people have such a hard time believing it? Idk.). I can pretty easily guess who exactly wrote the reviews based on some of the incidents described and they are so valid. Disclaimer: I was not so f over like many of the other reviewers grade wise, but my life was sure f-ed over by the expectations she put on us in terms of reading, the dreaded participation grading, etc. You can think, "I'll just do well! It's fine!" ... nope. You wanna spend your sophomore year stressing over discussion posts, calculating when you need to participate, and reading a sh*t ton, just to get a grade that's going to make you feel like all your effort was utterly wasted while your friends are all smoothly skating by with light readings and A+'s, go ahead. You'll see what we all meant after you actually take her class for at least a whole semester, and you'll kick yourself for not listening to us. I went to her office hours to talk about my participation grade (like many others). I brought up a random detail about myself during casual discussion (as you know she LOVES to do.) She told me I should have told her and the class more about my PERSONAL life, but I didn't and so she couldn't raise my participation grade. In my mind I thought, CC is a class not a therapy circle. In her mind I had been useless in making our class- yes you guessed it- a HOME. Okay. I am not trying to personally be too critical of Nicole but Nicole, this is what you allow to happen when you 1. insist that your students participate in therapy circle every M/W and then punish them with bad grades when you don't think they've opened up enough 2. blabber on and on about your and your partner's lives, and your niece baby (we reviewers sound mean when we say this but trust me after a few weeks of hearing about it you get pretty tired of it) I really hope that Nicole takes a break from teaching and begins again when she is less lonely. I'm not going to reveal details as to why because that would just be revealing parts of her life (which I, a student, should not have even known but do know because she tells her students about herself). And Nicole, before you think "how can you all say this about me online when I was vulnerable to all of you?" 1. We did not ask you to be. We were your STUDENTS. You were there because we paid you to teach us. We did not pay thousands of dollars to be ears for your personal stories. Yes you also taught us philosophy, but right now what I remember vividly about that semester is not details about Aristotle and Plato but details about your partner and you. 2. I, and most of the other classmates aren't trying to be insensitive. We tried to be sensitive to you but when we realize our thousands of dollars are spent on becoming chit chat vassals for you, we have become angry. Pay us back. Please, if you're unable to switch out of her class, just push CC off for a year. You deserve better than Nicole, who is quite toxic to be honest. And Nicole I sincerely wish for you the best in your home and work, and I believe you'd be a great teacher if you step away for a bit and just take all of the personal stuff out of teaching CC and be professional in teaching.

Dec 2018

I know that everyone has said, especially in previous years, that Nicole has been a great teacher who has helped everyone grow and learn from CC. However, her class in Fall 2018 was special in the sense that she said nothing but nonsense in class and never actually taught the texts in the curriculum. She frequently spoke of outside matters that sometimes had nothing to do with the books and then handed out extremely hard midterms or impossible essays where she deducted as she pleased. I've heard of numerous people already trying to switch out of her class now because of her immense workload and intense grading style. DO NOT take her. She is not the grand teacher everyone had spoken about in years prior. Do take another teacher that seems nicer and easier than her.

Jun 2018

Nicole is a great professor. You will definitely learn a lot (she focuses on the applications of the text which is definitely better than just memorizing the content) and class is engaging. Definitely one of the more fun, young, and useful CC professors out there. She also regularly brings food and runs class in a casual manner. However, despite all this I am not 100% sure I would be able to recommend the class. If you are looking for a fun and useful class then this is definitely the best you're going to get. However, her grading style is terrible. She takes a ridiculously long time to grade and often just gives back an arbitrary harsh grade with very little to know justification for why you got that grade. She heavily weights participation but you could easily end up with an 80% for participation for absolutely no reason (despite actively participating) and just messes up your grade completely. She also often makes mistakes and gives wildly incorrect scores where she did the counting wrong and it often is a hassle to get fixed. Sometimes she does not even respond to emails asking about the reasoning behind the grade and at that point it may be after the semester has ended so there is nothing you can do to try to get it change. This kind of organization and lack of a more rigid and sensible grading system makes the class very frustrating and makes me wonder if I would have just been better off taking the class with an easier teacher even if I learned slightly less. If you are fine getting a B+/A- when you probably would have gotten an A-/ A with another teacher than I'd say it's still worth it.

Jun 2018

Nicole is a great professor. You will definitely learn a lot (she focuses on the applications of the text which is definitely better than just memorizing the content) and class is engaging. Definitely one of the more fun, young, and useful CC professors out there. She also regularly brings food and runs class in a casual manner. However, despite all this I am not 100% sure I would be able to recommend the class. If you are looking for a fun and useful class then this is definitely the best you're going to get. However, her grading style is terrible. She takes a ridiculously long time to grade and often just gives back an arbitrary harsh grade with very little to know justification for why you got that grade. She heavily weights participation but you could easily end up with an 80% for participation for absolutely no reason (despite actively participating) and just messes up your grade completely. She also often makes mistakes and gives wildly incorrect scores where she did the counting wrong and it often is a hassle to get fixed. Sometimes she does not even respond to emails asking about the reasoning behind the grade and at that point it may be after the semester has ended so there is nothing you can do to try to get it change. This kind of organization and lack of a more rigid and sensible grading system makes the class very frustrating and makes me wonder if I would have just been better off taking the class with an easier teacher even if I learned slightly less. If you are fine getting a B+/A- when you probably would have gotten an A-/ A with another teacher than I'd say it's still worth it.

Jun 2018

Nicole is a great professor. You will definitely learn a lot (she focuses on the applications of the text which is definitely better than just memorizing the content) and class is engaging. Definitely one of the more fun, young, and useful CC professors out there. She also regularly brings food and runs class in a casual manner. However, despite all this I am not 100% sure I would be able to recommend the class. If you are looking for a fun and useful class then this is definitely the best you're going to get. However, her grading style is terrible. She takes a ridiculously long time to grade and often just gives back an arbitrary harsh grade with very little to know justification for why you got that grade. She heavily weights participation but you could easily end up with an 80% for participation for absolutely no reason (despite actively participating) and just messes up your grade completely. She also often makes mistakes and gives wildly incorrect scores where she did the counting wrong and it often is a hassle to get fixed. Sometimes she does not even respond to emails asking about the reasoning behind the grade and at that point it may be after the semester has ended so there is nothing you can do to try to get it change. This kind of organization and lack of a more rigid and sensible grading system makes the class very frustrating and makes me wonder if I would have just been better off taking the class with an easier teacher even if I learned slightly less. If you are fine getting a B+/A- when you probably would have gotten an A-/ A with another teacher than I'd say it's still worth it.

Jun 2018

Nicole is a great professor. You will definitely learn a lot (she focuses on the applications of the text which is definitely better than just memorizing the content) and class is engaging. Definitely one of the more fun, young, and useful CC professors out there. She also regularly brings food and runs class in a casual manner. However, despite all this I am not 100% sure I would be able to recommend the class. If you are looking for a fun and useful class then this is definitely the best you're going to get. However, her grading style is terrible. She takes a ridiculously long time to grade and often just gives back an arbitrary harsh grade with very little to know justification for why you got that grade. She heavily weights participation but you could easily end up with an 80% for participation for absolutely no reason (despite actively participating) and just messes up your grade completely. She also often makes mistakes and gives wildly incorrect scores where she did the counting wrong and it often is a hassle to get fixed. Sometimes she does not even respond to emails asking about the reasoning behind the grade and at that point it may be after the semester has ended so there is nothing you can do to try to get it change. This kind of organization and lack of a more rigid and sensible grading system makes the class very frustrating and makes me wonder if I would have just been better off taking the class with an easier teacher even if I learned slightly less. If you are fine getting a B+/A- when you probably would have gotten an A-/ A with another teacher than I'd say it's still worth it.

May 2018

Writing a review here because I forgot to to the course evals! Nicole is a very kind, fun person who's very well-intentioned. That said, I did not think that she was the greatest of CC professors. Her classes are rarely ever discussion based, but rather led like a high school English class in which Nicole goes through important passages in the book and we are expected to nod along. Any questions we ask are answered by her in a clear yes/no way, and there is little room for discussion by the students on the actual ideas presented in the readings. Her workload is pretty light, and the only thing you will have to really do is the bi-weekly commentaries. However, the problem with her assignments is that she is unbelievably late with the feedback--for the spring semester, we got our only long paper back the day before our final, which was a paper of the same format. All in all, she's a sweet person to take CC is, but I'm not sure it's the best class if you want to actually engage with the material and get fair grades that are reflective of your performance and improvement in the class.

May 2018

While Nicole is an engaging and relatable professor, her many downfalls and shortcomings outweigh her praise-worthy qualities. She begins the year by making the content of the works relatable and interesting, but her constant interjections of her personal life, although applicable to the matter at hand, blur the line between professor and friend. She emphasizes that, with the midterm, she does not intend to "trick you," but her grading of the written portion of the exam negates the ease of the passage ID's. Although there is only one real paper per semester, she hands it back the day before the final exam (which is the same format - an in-class application essay) and grades them so much harder than she has made her standards out to be in class. This is on top her inappropriately close (friendly) relationships with some of her students which creates blatant favoritism and an unclear dynamic between herself and the entire class. For the whole year, we were kept guessing how she would grade us and on what scale because, in class, we spent time talking about the history and lives of the philosophers and relating shallow versions of their ideas to whatever was going on in Nicole's life at the moment, but on exams and paper, she would expect the utmost and deepest understanding of the texts. When we had questions about papers and exams, she would either take a week to email back or just never do so. All in all, I began to dislike Nicole and her "teaching" style very early on. She has clear favorites and blurs the line between professor and friend.

Jun 2016

You're a lucky student if you get Nicole Callahan as your CC teacher. She made CC incredibly interesting and entertaining. She really understands her students and tries to relate the texts to situations that we might face so that we can understand the texts better. Most text discussions would start out as little group discussions and if we got stuck on an idea she would steer us in the right direction. She also made the class feel very familiar with each other so you were very comfortable sharing your ideas every time you stepped into the class. Furthermore, she usually baked us something! Nicole bakes some of the best banana bread and chocolate chip cookies i've ever had. All in all, it's been the greatest class I've taken at Columbia and I wouldn't hesitate to take it again if I could.

May 2016

Nicole is honestly awesome. She's a friend to all of her students, looks out for everyone in her class. She is engaging and makes even the driest parts of CC interesting and applicable. She is very fair with her grading and if you go to her office hours and reach out for help she definitely appreciates it and is more than happy to help. She will push you and challenge you with some difficult assignments and papers, but she is always looking out for her students and doing whats in their best interest. Highly recommend for anybody looking to have a positive CC experience.

Apr 2015

Loved CC with Nicole! She made excellent additions to the syllabus second semester including Foucault, MLK, and Animal Farm. We even delved into Baldwin and contemporary texts and explored the relevance of philosophic texts in light of recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, Paris (Charlie Hebdo), etc. She also prompts us to make connections between authors, to modern events, and to our own lives in our weekly commentaries and long essays. Nicole is a fair grader and a kind soul who bakes us muffins and cookies on a weekly basis. She is kind and attentive in office hours and the passages she chooses for the midterm and the final are ones we have discussed in class at length. I highly recommend taking CC with her if you can.

Apr 2015

Best CC teacher at the school. Very helpful with students and bakes muffins or cookies for a lot of the classes. Can't ask for much more.