professor
Elizabeth Scharffenberger

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Dec 2016

If you want your Greek to improve, take a class with Prof Scharffenberger. If you want to feel confident and comfortable translating, digesting, and analyzing 1000+ lines of text per week, take survey with her. She KNOWS her stuff. She is well organized, punctual, fair, and extremely demanding - but in a way that is positive and constructive for the student. My weakest point was having the confidence [and honestly, the skill] to discuss the material, especially in such a small class, but Prof Scharffenberger was kind and did not put anyone on the spot. There were no surprises. She was accommodating with her office hours, offered guidance for writing the two short papers, and in addition to discussing the text, gave some brief grammar and meter lessons. Also, it was great to walk into class and be greeted by her smiling and being excited to start the lesson. Small things like that really change the atmosphere of a classroom.

May 2011

This class was a disappointment. Scharffenberger's seminar model is broken. In a normal class (as I have experienced it), discussion passes from student A to student B and so on. In this class, it passes from student A to Scharffenberger to student B to Scharffenberger and so on. This has several effects. It slows the class down. Since Scharffenberger talks after every student, the class drags slowly. If a student talks for a minute, and Scharffenberber talks for a minute, then it takes twice as long as it should to call on student B after student A is called on. There would regularly be ques of 5 or more students waiting to speak. By the time you are called on your point is obsolete. This is a result of her second problem. She doesn't seem interested in what you have to say. Like most other CC professors, Scharffenberger comes to class with some points prepared. These are her points, and she makes sure to hit them in every one of her responses, regardless of what the student was talking about. Since she was constantly changing the subject back to her own topics, the class couldn't generate any sory of compicated discussion, since the discussion was abandoned by Scharffenberger before it could be expanded upon by the students. This happened every day, multiple times a day, and it leads to the final problem with her seminar system. It makes her seem dumb. Now Scharffenberger is smart in her own way. However, even the smartest person in the world couldn't think of something worthwhile to say every other minute for 2 hours. She takes too much burden of the class' discussion on herself. Is she afraid we will mess it up without her guidance? Does she just really like the sound of her own voice? Does she just not know? I think it is the latter. Scharffenberger is a nice lady, and I have no doubt that the people that wrote these other reviews stand firmly behind them. However, this was my finding and I stand firmly behind it.

Dec 2010

Professor Scharffenberger was absolutely fantastic. I went into the class having not taken Beginning Ancient Greek at Columbia, unlike the majority of my peers, but fortunately I ended up being adequately prepared from my background at my previous school. She is very warm, funny, and knows her material very well. She also made sure that people got any questions in they needed to be answered. She is very good and clear at explaining grammar, and every once in a while we'll contextualize the text and discuss content as well as grammar. She calls on people randomly, and it's a small class, so you won't get away with not doing the homework, although that should be true of most classics classes. I looked forward to going to her classes and learned a lot. The plethora of homeworks and quizzes ensure that you are constantly updated on your status in the class and on what you do and don't understand. Overall, I learned a lot of Greek, and will keep an eye out for her classes in the future.

May 2010

Professor Scharffenberger was a delightful woman teaching a very difficult class. Assigning an absurd number of lines a night, she always had to adjust the readings to more manageable lengths. Given the number of lines expected for each class, it became incredibly time consuming to write out a translation for every assignment - something she may do on purpose since she prefers students to translate from the Latin with prepared notes on vocabulary and grammar instead of translations. Studying for tests and quizzes can be frustrating as they each cover hundreds of lines, and while each quiz is short, if you did not study the two lines out of a hundred that she picked, it feels like you might as well have not studied at all. That being said, if you put in the time and the work, you can do well in this class - Professor Scharffenberger is a fair grader and all the problems I had in this class were with the language Latin and not the professor. If you are a Classics major, take a course with Professor Scharffenberger, if you're taking Latin to fulfill the language requirement you can definitely find an easier professor.

Dec 2008

Prof Scharffenberger is INCREDIBLE. She's first of all the warmest and friendliest person I've met on this campus. She creates a great discussion atmosphere, welcoming all opinions without letting it become too much of a free-for-all. She'll never shoot down your opinion, but she might "challenge" it, especially if it's not well supported. Part of why she's a great facilitator is that she's good at synthesizing everything and articulating the main ideas in a clear, thoughtful manner. She's incredibly humble about her own knowledge and readily acknowledges areas in which she is unfamiliar, but she knows what she's talking about. Class time goes by pretty quickly in this class. Also, even though she teaches other classes, I feel like she just teaches CC because she's always willing to meet with you outside of class and holds extra office hours to work out paper ideas. Overall, the grade is pretty evenly distributed among papers, midterm, final, and participation. She assigns a few written assignments throughout the semester, but they're short (two paragraph responses to specific questions) and ungraded. First semester of CC, we had to write one 5-page paper at the beginning of the course and one 8-page paper at the end. The second one was something of a chore, but again, she does her best to make the process less painless by offering insight into your paper topic and providing you with many different paper topics (that are both interesting and specific). With that said, it's a good idea to go talk to her about your paper topic before you actually write it. Her grading is also VERY fair, though she does make you work. She will add a few authors (outside of the optional choices for CC) to the syllabus, but they're pretty good additions.

Jul 2007

Prof Scharffenberger is one of my favourite teachers in my career as a student. She not only listens to ANYTHING anyone has to say, she also is never condescending...she is very open minded, and is a sweetheart. I would go to her office hours just to chat. She definitely wants to see you push yourself and she sees the potential in you. I would highly recommend her to anyone! She is very knowledgeable, knows ancient greek and some latin. She is open to learning/incite students have. Also, she does not sit and talk the whole 2 hours of class, she promotes CLASS discussions. Definitely go to her office hours to discuss a paper/let her know what you are writing about because she always has that one piece of info that you hadn't thought about, or that one insight you may want to pay a little more attention to, etc...she's really great to brainstorm with :)

Jul 2007

Yes, she is a warm, friendly person, but if she were only that, then classes with her would've probably been bogged down by inane, off-topic comments, and we would've covered nothing in class. However, Scharffenberger is a model professor. The lady gets down to business. Class is made up mostly of discussion amongst her and the students. It was always in-depth, and meaningful. (Of course, your experience in a class-wide discussion will vary depending on your classmates. My classmates happened to contribute often and well to discussion.) Therefore, I'm surprised when one of her other reviewers said that her "Comedy Past and Present" class "devolves into people talking about their personal favorite pets or what they had for breakfast." My experience in her Lit Hum class was the opposite--she always kept things on track, and organized. Yes, there were the 2 or 3 minutes of off-topic chitchat before every class, when people were still coming in, but she always steered things back to coursework when class was scheduled to begin. We read all the books, and covered each one for at least one class period. I have heard of a number of Lit Hum professors who skip over a large number of books, and spend classtime on anything but coursework. So, Scharffenberger seems to be particularly intense for a Lit Hum professor. In short, I always looked forward to going to her class. She has all my respect. Highly recommended. <3

Mar 2007

Prof. Scharffenberger is one of my favorite professors and Columbia. She is incredibly open and engaging as a professor, both in lecture and discussion. She is a very intelligent teacher, cares about her students, and really takes time to give feedback if you ask for it. She makes you want to do the reading so you can participate in discussion.

Feb 2007

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Prof. Scharfenberger really did seem nice, but it quickly became frustrating because of the situaiton below: you want to like a class, you do all the readings and get to class with your little highlighter and post-its, ready to snap up any juicy tidbit of information that might come your way .. and then the lecture devolves into people talking about their personal favorite pets or what they had for breakfast, with the professor acting really "supportive" of this choice to waste everyone's time. truly, did want to like it. but really, it wasn't good.

Jul 2006

Prof Scharffenberger (or Sharffie as we came to call her outside of class) is the warmest professor I have ever had. Her ability to create a comfortable classroom environment is something you don't see at Columbia everyday. Aside from being absolutely brilliant--she is a classicist who is well versed in modern philosophy--Sharffie will work with you to make sure you understand the material. She is also always available outside of class and willing to talk to you about papers and/or problems. If you get her for any class, consider yourself lucky.

Aug 2005

She is as great as she sounds. Elizabeths class in not only interesting but also enjoyable. I was skeptic as first when the class was supposed to focus on the classical writings but as the course progressed we read more and more modern comedy from Woody Allen to John Stewart's America The Book. I was amazed that a book my friends were reading for fun I was reading for a class at Columbia. With out a doubt Elizabeth knows what shes talking about and is willing to help you with whatever you need.

Jan 2005

Professor Scharffenberger is as terrific as her name is long. In addition to being extremely outgoing and kind, she is perhaps the perfect union (along with several other Columbia/Barnard classicists) of a the skills of a brilliant literary mind and a rigorous linguist. She is not only about touchy-feely literary criticism, and not only concerned with nuances of grammar, instead she mixes the two to make a great and varied class. She knows Greek extremely well, and this means that you must know it also in order to succeed on her exams. Another Classics professor once remarked to me, "She is such a good teacher it makes me want to jump out of the window."

Jul 2004

I took Liz's Lit Hum class in Spring 2002 and feel compelled 2 years later to sumbit a review of her because she is one of the few professors at this school that I will search out in the class directory. Other professors should have to sit and observe the way she handles students--never shooting them down, always responding enthusiastically to questions. She almost convinced me in Lit Hum to major in Classics. She has NO ego--none--and that is so refreshing for a professor at this school. It took me until my senior year to realize how rare it is at COLUMBIA to find a teacher who realizes that what she knows is less important than what her students actually learn from her. And on top of that, a lovely lady outside of the classroom--always friendly, but not in a haughty or corny way. She's just a down-to-earth person and a truly excellent teacher.

Jun 2004

Much of what other reviewers have said is correct: Scharffenberger is very nice, extremely approachable, learned everyone's names, and encouraged discussion. She is not, however, a great professor. I learned virtually nothing in her class, which was wasted listening to the often inane comments of students who liked to hear their own voices. Discussion is fine, but not when lecture is sacrificed for it and not when the professor is unwilling or unable to tell someone he or she is wrong. Furthermore, when Scharffenberger did lecture, she offered virtually nothing in the way of in depth analysis and admitted that she had not studied this material for 20 years. While it was fun to read Euripides and Aeschylus, I can do that on my own. If you want an easy A, this is the class for you. If you want to learn something, I've heard that Steiner teaches this class with more scholarly rigor.

Jun 2004

I don't know where to begin. Prof. Scharffenberger is one of those rare instructors that you hear about, but never seem to meet. She learned everyone's name within the first week, never seemed to have any favorites or create any clique-like following that popular teachers sometimes do. She is approachable, extremely helpful and puts a tremendous amount of time into each student. Class discussions are fast, exciting, very respectful, and focused. She is able to have total control and at the same time keep the ideas coming. She never put anyone on the spot if they don't participate in the discussion on a particular day. She is eager to go over papers and exams individually with students, and seems to expect one on one meetings. She is organized, knowledgable, irreverent, funny, outrageous. Professor Scharffenberger is not to be missed. Her energy has got to be seen to be believed. I looked forward to her class so much and found it to be a real tonic to the grind of the semester. The writing assignments kind of piled up at the end. As a result, I was feeling a little punch drunk with that. But, she's so good it was worth it. Because of her, I wish I was a Classics major....

Apr 2004

She rocks! She's an expert in the area who loves interacting with her class and drawing out the best thoughts and analyses she can. She interjects some excellent ideas and has a knack for organizaing material very well. She's a delight to study with - her enthusiasm and sense of humor make class very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

May 2003

The rare teacher who is totally at ease with her students without being condescending or laughingly 'hip.' She doesn't stand on ceremony, and she obviously enjoys the intellectual exchange with her students. Though class discussions sometimes tended to meander along for the majority of the class, Prof. Scharffenberger revels in class discussions, and is not afraid to spend 10 minutes discussing anything that comes up randomly, whether it be Jon Stewart or obscure avant-garde French plays playing in Brooklyn that weekend. She is definitely a student's dream: a warm, engaging, hilarious professor who wants to inform AND be your friend.

Apr 2003

I've sat in on some of Professor Scharffenberger's Comedy Past and Present classes (I've met her outside the classroom) and she has always been very good. As far as grading goes, from what I've seen of graded papers from friends, her insights are helpful and she grades fairly. Recommended.

Nov 2002

she's an inspirational professor. very enthusiastic, very knowledgable without being intimidating or overbearing. her essays are interesting yet challenging and sometimes i felt like i really couldn't figure out what she wanted--i didn't break an A until she let me turn one in over after revising it. her class discussions are fun if you're interested in what we're reading and she gets excited to hear students' thoughts about stuff. i had a lot of fun in her class, and definitely learned a lot. plus she's very nice, so that's never bad. her midterm was a cinch--i didn't study at all and i got an 89. it's the essays that are stressful. overall: she's a fantastic professor who pushes you and i felt really lucky to have her.

Sep 2001

Prof. Scharffenberger makes every class interesting. She takes pleasure in listening to her students' ideas and never grades down for an idea she might not agree with. She grades the first essay down a bit only to ensure that the second one is better. Her midterm is tricky but not any more so than the department final. Sometimes she'll split the students into groups for more focused discussion.