professor
Stephanie Pfirman

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Apr 2016

This class is is a little obscure, but that being said I also feel it really does represent what a first year seminar should be. It is extremely interdisciplinary, with different aspects of the class falling under the purviews of environmental science and policy, sociology, psychology, women's studies, and education. The one area this class really doesn't fall (and probably should) is English. I didn't choose Exploring the Poles, I was placed in it after not getting any of my other FYS choices, and I'm so glad I was. Though the actual topic is strange at times, Stephanie is incredible and so accomplished, she knows all these cool people she gets to come in as guest speakers, the class is interesting, the workload is extremely manageable, and I actually feel like I learned.

May 2015

Her Exploring the Poles class this semester seemed fairly basic. I expected to be challenged a lot more in the class, especially considering how obviously brilliant she is, but I felt like the class was redundant more than not. When I was done with the final project/paper I had a moment of shock where I was literally like "wait... is this is?" There are certain ways that she set the class up that I feel like could have been better---for example, the readings could have been more cohesive/tied together. Instead of doing three distinct phases of reading themes, I feel like they could have been interwoven, for example. She's very kind---although kind of aloof. My male professors show more emotion/affinity than she does. Many students look up to her and kind of idolize her, however once you get past the fact that she is literally brilliant in every sense, it's easy to see past that. I feel like I would look up to her if I was able to actually relate to her in some way as a person---I wanted to identify with her but I couldn't. Seemed brusque during office hours. Very good lecturer though. Very good communication skills. Good readings. Enthusiastic. I feel like she would be better at teaching upper-div courses. 8.2/10 overall. Additional readings: apolitical feminism, corporate feminism, the book D Spar wrote

Jul 2013

Professor Pfirman was one of my favorite professors from my first year at Barnard. She is a genuinely kind, sweet, and caring person who treats all of her students with respect—no egomaniacal behavior here! She tried to create an open, fun class atmosphere (my class wasn't too receptive, but she tried!) She loves the theory behind education, so she incorporates creative approaches, application, synthesis, multiple intelligence-type stuff to her assignments and usually tells you why she's doing it. Can be a little meta at times, but I generally appreciated the effort. Pfirman has casually had unbelievable life experiences in science, politics and travel. Ask her questions about her life—she is such a great resource, especially for advice about being the only woman in a male-dominated field. I also appreciated her effort to connect the class with the real world: potential career opportunities, obstacles to women in leadership positions. At the end of the semester, she offered to write us recommendations, should we need them, which was a nice gesture. The class was very unique. It is impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it. When people asked me what I did in my seminar, I'd just say, "I'm exploring the poles!" The breakdown of the class: 1/3 history of polar exploration (Nansen, Shackleton, Amundsen etc.), 1/3 leadership and psychology (Harvard business school articles, women in leadership, group psychology), 1/3 environmental science. The class dragged a bit mid-semester when Pfirman replaced class discussion with dull lectures. This is supposed to be a seminar, after all; but overall, the class was interesting and enjoyable. A strange collection of disciplines and topics that you won't get anywhere else. There's a little something for everyone.

Apr 2010

I have learned more in this class than any other class I've taken at Barnard thus far. Because the readings aren't sparknotes-able, you actually need to do the reading to write the journal entries for every class. However, I am so glad I took this class because I know so much more about the Poles now. Stephanie herself is very sweet, even though she is a pretty tough grader. She's a scientist, but she grades like an English professor. That being said, we went on so many fun outings - several times to the American Museum of Natural History, walked to the Hudson River, went to Dinosaur BBQ together. We also got the chance to present our ideas for the South Pole exhibit that is opening in June 2010 to the exhibition designing board at the American Museum of Natural History. All in all, a lot of work, but an amazing class that I would highly recommend

May 2007

This was an amazing class, though there is alot of work involved. The thing is, when you are learning about things you enjoy then you actually want to do the work. I didn't have a science background apart from high school chem and physics coming into this class, but I didn't find it a problem. The emphasis of this course was on the big picture and we weren't really required to memorize alot of formulas or do alot of computation (there were 2 or 3 homeworks with some computation - non on the exams). If you get the concepts and how they relate to each other then you will be fine. The first half of the course is harder than the second, but you come out of that class feeling like you really learned alot and have a good working knowledge of the climate system. I had Mingfang Tang, Peter Schlosser and Pfirman as teachers, and they were all great. The labs were sometimes frustrating, with vague or redundant questions, but overall they were helpful. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in the subject.

Apr 2006

This was one of the best classes i have taken at barnard. The Proffesors are experts in their field, and they are really approachable not to mention smart. As part of the class we got to go cross country skiing,snow shoeing, build and stay in a tent, and go kayaking.If you are looking for an interesting and fun first year seminar this would be the one to take.

Aug 2004

This was by far the best class I have ever taken. While I didn't really know what I was getting into at first, the class turned out to be so much fun!!!!!!!!!!!! They took us skiing, to a super cool museam, and there were talks of kayaking and dog sledding (although neither of them actually happened). The books we read took you to a different time and place, of something you could never imagin. Plus, they intergrated other materials (videos, newspaper articles, art, etc), which made class more interesting. If you can, take this class. It will be the best, and most memorable of your first year here at Barnard. Oh, and by the way, it was co-taught by Robin Bell.

May 2003

What an awesome class! I was skeptical at first but I really got into it. This is an extremely layed back yet informative class. Prof. Pfirman is really nice and has a lot of interesting information and stories to share. We had a second teacher, Prof. Bell. She was a lot of fun as well. If you are dreading taking first year seminar...take this class and you WON'T regret it.

Feb 2003

This class was one of the most interesting, not to mention unusual, classes I've ever taken. Prof. Pfirman is an expert in her field and has held numerous important positions -though you'd never know it, except through light comments when she's explaining something. This may not have anything to do with it, but I was very impressed by the fact that she speaks like 3 or 4 languages. I'd recommend this class to everyone, it's so unique from the other first-year seminars. She shares her experiences in the field (ie the North Pole) and really enlightens her students on a topic not too many people are usually interested in.

Sep 2001

She's interested in the subject and very knowledgable. She might seem cold at first, but she's really cool if you make an effort to get to know her. A fair grader, very well organized. The course will dominate your life, but you will learn things you never thought you needed to know (but you do).