professor
Denise Cruz

May 2021

There is not a single bad, not even mediocre, thing I can say about this woman or her class. You absolutely have to take it. The readings were a pleasure to read and just overall great, her lectures were short and so fun, and we spent the last 25 mins of each class meeting in discussion groups to participate since it's a pretty large lecture. One time, she stopped her lecture to tell us that we all deserved to be here and mattered at this university. She even teared up during the last lecture of the class. The course is divided into thematic modules. You read works of Asian American lit and you learn some critical theory alongside it to help analyze the works meaningfully. She invited 3 authors from the syllabus to speak for our class! It was such a great experience and my favorite class at Columbia, bar none. I met with my TA and Prof Cruz in an office hour appointment before each paper and the final project, which was super helpful during the writing process. Their feedback on my thesis/idea helped shape my essay as I wrote it. I emerged a better writer from the class for sure. There's a reason this class is the most-registered-for English department class. Take it and I promise you won't regret it.

Jan 2021

I have never written a CULPA review before but Prof. Cruz was such an amazing professor that I HAD to come on here and write one. She is literally THE BEST PROFESSOR I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. Not only was she really creative with her assignment types (creative projects, take-home quizzes, papers, other multimedia options), she was also super understanding about personal circumstances (if you actually show that you have legitimate needs/extenuating circumstances), and she was also so extremely organized with how she presented the course material. Everything was organized on CourseWorks in a really accessible and clear manner, and she also uploaded materials in advance and always made her expectations for each assignment/aspect of the course very clear. She was very available for office hours and made sure to even incorporate students' discussion board posts into her lectures. The course was creative in so many ways (I guess why it's a specially funded course) and she was clearly a very passionate and knowledgeable lecturer. She is an overall lovely person, and taking this course not only reignited my love for learning amidst a shitty semester, but also made me excited to come to class everyday. If you are a serious and good student, taking this course will be like a walk in the park, and it'll be fun too. Her selection of works on the syllabus were immaculate. Overall HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS COURSE, ESPECIALLY for people who are Asian-American themselves and want to learn about their culture/history. This course was amazing, period.

Dec 2020

GIVE THIS HUMAN A GOLDEN NUGGET. Has to be the BEST professor I have had at this school, even though it was completely virtual. Really, I don't know how to do justice to Professor Cruz or this class in a review other than to tell you she is absolutely phenomenal as a scholar and instructor of Asian-American Literature and Culture AND just as a person. I never realized an English class could be so amazing (I'm by no means against English classes as a humanities person myself, I just mean that the arguments she made from texts were on another level when it comes to analyzing and taking cultural context into effect). She has so much empathy for students, especially in pandemic times; she made it so lectures were shorter and every once in a while we had discussion, which helped so much with zoom fatigue but also just made the class engaging. Whenever we had assignments like essays, she would give us lighter reading like short stories and poems - right now we are at the end of the semester and she is giving us lighter readings as well because she knows how overwhelming this time period is. She holds so many office hours and tries to get to know us all even though it is a large lecture (she grades assignments as well, not just your TA!). The material is amazing and so diverse, she doesn't just do one destination and we read all kinds of lit from poems to plays to short stories. She also brought in authors of texts we read to speak to us! What gets me the most is the effort she puts into helping her students and their well-being. To put it simply, she knows that life happens and that there is more to one class. She also records readings and makes helpful video walkthroughs for assignments. All I can say is, if you want to restore your faith in humanity, take a class with Professor Cruz. I also understand how dramatic this must sound but during this awful year that is 2020, she is such a bright spot. The world needs more people like her, period.

Dec 2020

There are not enough words in the English language to describe how amazing the legend that is Denise Cruz is. Oh my god. The most amazing human and an absolutely brilliant lecturer. I am so amazed at the way she analyzes literature, I can't describe it but it's unlike anything I've seen, and it makes arguments that are so complex yet sensible. In addition to her fantastic lecturing, she is the most kind professor I have ever had. I took this class Fall 2020 (online) and she did so much to help us - she recorded lectures, gave lighter readings when there were assignments due, invited us all to show our pets. Nothing I say will do her justice, so bottom line, take this class. She also makes herself super available for office hours and makes little video guides on how to write essays that I have found so helpful, and if you prefer listening she records herself reading the lectures! I'm not an English major or anything but it honestly gave me a whole new perspective of what literature can do. And we had authors of texts we read come to class and read such a variety - poems, short stories, plays, you name it.

Oct 2020

I'm writing this less than halfway through the semester because I already know that Professor Cruz is perhaps the best professor I have ever had. Her insight, openness, and care put into each lecture and the course as a whole are truly special. In the virtual space, she has gone out of her way to make the material and lectures accessible across time zones and personal situations, and made me look forward to each class rather than feeling drained. Because of screen drain, she has permanently shortened lectures from 75 minutes to 50, with an additional biweekly discussion section with one fourth of the class so we can discuss the reading from that day.

Apr 2020

Now, I might be biased because I'm incredibly passionate about Asian American literature, but I thought this class and Prof. Cruz were amazing and I can't recommend it enough. Professor Cruz is an incredibly eloquent lecturer and she's able to distill her points in such insightful, thoughtful, and fascinating ways. Each class she offers a variety of critical frameworks and theories/historical context to understand Asian American history & literature as well as arguments, interpretations, and analyses of the works we read. Everything she says is purposeful and important; there's no rambling. You can definitely tell how passionate she is on the subject. She's also incredibly kind, helpful, and approachable; she offers numerous office hours, especially before major papers are due.

Mar 2020

This is the first culpa review I'm writing but I feel so strongly about Prof. Cruz that I needed to write about her-- she is SUCH an amazing professor and an amazing human being. She actually made me want to become an English professor for a hot sec because I wanted to be like her. She's thorough, relatable, and accessible while pushing students to elevate the way they think. She's really organized and competent; she offers numerous office hours for her students and her TAs for this class (I think she reviews the grading as well?) were incredibly fair. It's a wonderful course for both English and non-English majors, as she both lectures and has in-class participation with textual analysis. This makes the lectures, which normally might feel long, go by really quickly (also she knew the names of everyone in my fifty+ person lecture class, isn't that crazy?). She also brought in some of the writers that we read during the semester and integrated plays/media, so it was really cool to hear their perspectives and ask them questions. In an interview when they asked me about my favorite course, I unhesitatingly said Intro to Asian American Lit because of Prof. Cruz. I actually teared up in her final lecture-- she's so so amazing, please take her! One of my biggest regrets in college is that I won't be able to do a seminar with her.

Dec 2019

Prof. Cruz's course made me re-evaluate my entire college experience and wish I had been an English major instead from the very beginning. Every lecture was such a treat to attend, and not just because of her course playlist. In just a semester, her course developed my writing skills in a deliberate way (made possible by our amazing TA Mia), gave me a primer on what those fancy theory terms actually mean, and left me with a lifelong thirst for more literature like the works we read and discussed in class. I got to interrogate not only the texts themselves, but also think critically about how I read through the lens of my own identity. The readings are so well-curated. They represent a collection of beautiful, heart-wrenching stories that will stay with you forever. This was a course that even as a second-semester senior, I never wanted to miss. Prof. Cruz's lecture style and ability to engage us in thoughtful discussion was so remarkable we would frequently sit in a few incredulous seconds of stunned silence after class wrapped up. And she somehow made a lecture course feel like a seminar, allowing space for everyone to contribute if they wished. She is one of the most authentic professors I have taken a course with: She really cares about developing you as a writer and reader, and gives you clear and actionable feedback through office hours and essay comments. She even went out of her way to procure theatre tickets for a production at the Ma-Yi Theatre for us to attend as a class, and that evening made for such a memorable end to the semester.