Karen Barkey

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Feb 2013

Professor Barkey (or Karen as she liked to be called) is absolutely outstanding—in fact, she’s the best professor I had at Columbia. I took her Historical Sociology course a while ago, in 2010. Karen has several unique and remarkable qualities. First, she is brilliant. She is able to explain and analyze ideas and readings in a wonderfully clear way. She talked about her own research in the class, which was highly impressive. And she is able dissect and improve students' writing by providing invaluable feedback. Second, she takes a high personal interest in all of her students, something that is unusual among most Columbia faculty but especially for someone of her status. She sought for all students to be active participants in our course. She even had our class over to her apartment for dinner one night. She is an incredibly supportive and committed professor. Third, her classes appeal to students from a large array of disciplines and are invariably fascinating. This is partly because she assigns excellent readings on interesting topics like religion and fundamentalism, classic works by Foucault, Weber and other great thinkers, and combines theory and history with current events. But it's also because she really works with students so that they select research paper topics most interesting to them. She is really flexible and clearly wants students to learn and enjoy what they're working on. I learned so much in her course, which benefited me in other courses and beyond. And knowing how much she cared truly had a major impact on my college experience. Karen truly is an incredible professor and I cannot recommend her highly enough.

Nov 2011

I am shocked that Professor Barkey does not have a gold nugget. Her classed "religion and politics" and "political sociology" were huge influences on my decision to concentrate in sociology. Bravo Columbia sociology department for finally hiring an accomplished teacher who is not self-obsessed and arrogant, or dull (as is typical of the Political Science department). If you are someone interested in both theory and current events you should take this class because Karen has a great balance between the two, in both the readings and lectures. Her classes are also small lectures, not seminars, but everyone seemed to participate. She new everyones name and by the end of the semester the whole class was engaged in the discussions. Definitely not a lecture class that you think is empty until the final comes around.

Jun 2011

What so I see here? I see a silver nugget. Prof. Barkey does deserve a golden nugget. She is by far the most engaging and compassionate teacher I had last semester. She is an astute intellectual, but doesn’t care to wear it on her sleeve by detaching from her students and casting them to the TA’s. If you would like a professor who prides herself in making one eye contact and who possesses pleasant demeanor and way of speaking, then take a Prof. Barkey class. She is sharp and knows her materials. Though appears to be lecturing off the cuff at times, she has a class outline and presents the material in “fresh-mode” with such finesse in her cool and collected manner that she makes it extremely comfortable for a student to sit back, listen and take notes. If you use a laptop, don’t be rude and surf then net or check your FB and Gmail. It’s distracting to others and she will call you out on it. She is very open to discussion and sometimes allows students to run on tangents, but that’s part of the deal with a professor who nurtures limitless borders of inquiry. She admires and respects all of her students and their positions. I will tell you if you are in the minority or way off base, it is not the professor who may recognize your unpopular position, but your fellow classmates who may debate you with intellectual prowess. Her classes do attract the vivacious types of thinkers who do not hesitate to come down on idiotic statements that come from uniformed or ignorant places. If you want to speak in any academic environment, it’s fine to be in the minority or have your own individual position that may isolate you, but be prepared to defend your position and respect others as well. Prof. Barkey is a breath of fresh air in the Columbia majority pool of professors that simply do not take the time to meet with students, or individually read papers. She will sit down with you and help you to draft your paper outlines. The TA was fabulous and I was impressed with all of his written feedback on the midterm and during class. Writing a final paper is very manageable if you start at the top of the semester to do your research and reading, and get your outline done as soon as possible. Drafts need to progress throughout the semester as you go through the course materials and read your own selections. If you present Prof. Barkey with your final paper, she will read it, grade it, and give you the appropriate grade you deserve. I highly recommend her to students who are seeking to have more than just a superficial relationship with prima donna Profs and TA’s. Prof. Barkey is a great asset to the department and to Columbia University. I hope they realize what a jewel they have in her presence and dedication to her students.

Apr 2011

Karen Barkey is hands down the best professor I have ever had. She has the unique qualities of being both extremely intelligent and still humble. She is caring, thoughtful, passionate and will push you to do your best work. The curriculum she designs could not be better. The work load is just the right amount to help you learn a lot without burning you out. Professor Barkey has taught me more in one semester than any other professor at Columbia. She is OUTSTANDING and it would be a waste of your tuition not to take a class from her, whether you are a sociology major or not.

Jan 2011

Professor Barkey is really wonderful. She is probably one of the most caring, approachable, and animated teachers I've encountered at Columbia. She encourages students to come see her during office hours despite the fact that she's commuting to Amherst for weekends and a very active academic. The class was very interesting, albeit a tad disjointed with the beginning covering classical sociological theory about religion and the second half covering fundamentalism in the Abrahamic religions. The class got pretty heated over some issues (re: Israel-Palestine; relativism), and the professor - for better or for worse - came down strongly and stated her opinion rather emphatically on said points. The class dynamic was a bit strange (sometimes lecture took the entire class, other times one student would dominate and/or derail the entire conversation), but more often than not, dialogue was fruitful and challenging. Tolga, the TA, was also very willing to help and eager to interject in class.

Dec 2010

Topics in Religion and Politics is a new class that Karen Berkey introduced to the department this year. Barkey is a fantastic teacher. She is passionate about her lessons, and she wants to hear what the students have to say. Most classes begin as lectures and then evolve into class discussions, with a clear demonstration of whether or not you have done the reading, however she does highlight the important parts of the readings at the beginning of each class. She expects a lot from her students- definitely a lot of reading, but because the material is interesting, almost everyone does it for the sake of the conversations. She is willing to talk to you at office her office hours, as well as via email correspondence. She is genuinely interested in what the students have to say, and this class definitely fosters a positive student-teacher relationship, which is great for sociology majors because she is the head of the undergrad sociology department. I would recommend this class to anyone who is interested in political theory, religion, or an engaging class with a fantastic teacher.

Dec 2010

Karen Barkey IS THE BEST. The class itself is very interesting, her lecture is clear and she makes funny comments. She gives you interesting reading, and breaks them down in class so everyone understands what they're reading about. She encourages classroom discussion a lot- in-class performance is 20%. However, you will never feel any pressure speaking out your voice. She does not put any personal comment and review on people's opinion, at any time she shows full respect to your words. Very understanding professor, when she heard some people in our class talking about having many finals and papers due on the same day, she offered us extension without we asking for it. She's very sweet in person, answers all of your question and gives you best help during office hour. As the undergraduate director she helped me in planning my major courses. Our TA, Tolga, is also a wonderful TA. Very helpful, very nice, he works with Prof.Barkey very well, in class he participates in the discussion a lot and his explanation of abstract concepts is always clear. Religion and Politics is a new class, but also the most fascinating class I've ever taken. It is the class that let you really think, I learned alot.

Dec 2008

Karen Barkey is one of the few truly great teachers in the sociology department. Both her Political and Historical Sociology courses are excellent. She does not deliver brilliant, pre-planned lectures, and often she will pursue tangents related to current events, politics and world affairs, but these are almost always interesting and insightful. More importantly, behind the Turkish accent she is a very serious scholar who really truly cares about her students. Writing papers and doing research in her classes is a great way to explore your interests as she will be supportive of almost any project or interest, but she will always add in her own perspective as a historical sociologist. If you are a sociology, political science, or history major Barkey's courses are must-takes. She is a wonderful professor and teacher, and one of the few professors at Columbia who is always willing to take time for her students and really take the seriously.

Dec 2007

This is my third course in the Sociology at Columbia, and the most disappointing to date. There was no way to measure how well you were doing in the class, because nothing, NOTHING, was graded!! Instead, your grade was determined by one twenty page paper. That's it, nothing else. I met with the TA, and with the Prof., and was told that my paper, a topic you choose, was right on track. In fact, I was told that I was one of the best in the class. However, this was not reflected in my grade. I was shocked, and surprised considering I never missed a class, did all assignments on time, participated, and was told that I should consider being a sociology major. Needless to say, I will not after this experience. I agree with the other reviewer who stated that Prof. Barkey does not like interpretations that differ from hers. You must stay inside the box, which I learned early on. However, other opinions are valid, and can be substantiated, but it is best to keep your mouth shut. Hardly what one expects from an Ivy League education. I'm sorry I took this class, and would never recommend Barkey to anyone!

May 2006

Excellent class. Barkey is engaging but more than that she actually cares about her students. She has extremely flexible office hours and is always ready to lend a hand before papers and exams. Participate in class and she will love you forever.

Jan 2006

I am not a sociology major, but took the class as a filler because KB got such good CULPA reviews. The class itself was kind of a snore, the readings so-so, and the discussions full of the requisite pretentious yakking. That said, I would reccommend taking the class just for the experience of being taught by someone who knows how to teach. So many times you get a brilliant, well-respected person in the front of the room who can impart precious little because they don't know/care how to reach their audience. Prof. Barkey certainly does, and has plenty to teach. She is friendly, down-to-earth, and flexible. I didn't love the class but I am fully ready to join her well-deserved fan club.

Dec 2005

The Good: Professor Barkey is perhaps one of the most endearing professors I have ever met. She has the most adorable accent and a great sense of humor. When I would go to her office hours to meet with her she was so matronly and sweet. She is truly a very warm woman and I would love to have coffee with her. In addition, she knows everyone's name by the end of the semester. She is SO GOOD with names and creates such a warm environment in a class with 60 people. She really goes out of her way to know your name and know more about you besides the fact that you're her student. Furthermore, she is a great lecturer who really gets her point across in each lecture about the assigned readings. She knows her stuff and has a lot to say about it. The Bad: Despite how warm Professor Barkey is, she is surprisingly very closed to anyone else's opinion. If anyone says anything that contradicts what she was saying, she will harp on them to an unnecessary degree that left one girl crying at the end of her class. Nevertheless, she hides it behind a smile and a sweet accent that I think a lot of people do not catch how antagonistic she can truly be. I took this class solely because Professor Barkey was a gold nugget and it turned out to be a bust. However, if you like sociology, I'm sure you'll find her course interesting. I just found her lectures too one-sided and I really feel like I just left having learned nothing. She's a great person, I just don't think her class is anything special.

Apr 2003

I'm so glad to see Karen on the gold nuggets list. She's such a great teacher and human in general. She's not afraid to show genuine care and respect for her students, but she's not a pushover like some of the other bleeding heart profs. She's professional, but stays real with her students. I wish she taught more undergraduate courses.

Mar 2003

Best professor I've had in my four years here. Take anything she offers. Go to her office hours.

Jan 2003

Karen is AMAZING. She explains complex concepts simply and without leaving out nuiances. She is amazingly helpful during office hours, helping form thesis for papers,ect.

Dec 2002

All I have to say is, "What?!?!" Can a professor really be this amazing? KB gets two sociological thumbs up. Maybe I'm just a soc major, but her class is insanely good, even for those interested in history. Fuck that. Even for those interested in living life. She is amazing. I can't stress this enough. Although there is a 10 and a 20 page paper, if you go to class, it's not really difficult. The first class may scare you away, but stay. After about 4 classes she opens up and BAM! She gets ya. Her lectures are captivating, her syllabus is very well structures, the readings are very well-chosen and informative, and hell she even gets her husband (Poli Sci prof. Richard Marx) to teach the class on his book (which is unbelievably good, by the way). All I can say is take this class. And if you go to her office hours...wait. I hate those kids who go to every professor's office hours. I am not one of them. But if you ever visit one professor, VISIT KB. She loves talking to you and it will increase your participation grade like whoa.

Dec 2002

I took this course Fall 2002. Prof. Barkey was enthusiastic and energetic which makes for great lectures. However, I made the mistake of taking this course as my experience with sociology when I am not interested in sociology as a major and that made the course boring. Do not take this unless you are interested in sociology or have to. If you do...enjoy it because i'm sure it will be wonderful.

Nov 2002

I've rarely met a professor who was as interested in the analysis of each student. She makes comparative studies an art, carefully extracting models and methods from the trenches of history to produce a new idea or brave way of understanding what our world looks like today. She helped me see the difference between those who read history, and those who are scholars of the past.

Sep 2002

Even if she can be a bit moody, she's worth it. I've never learned so much from a single professor. She's amazing. I wish I'd had more time to see her in office hours, as everyone says that that is when she is at her very best.

Aug 2002

Professor Barkey is a challenging and fair professor. She's totally committed to the success of her students, and will help them in any way she can. She's the best scholar in the department.

Jun 2002

Karen is a bright and enthusiastic sociologist. She's not the most organized instructor, in terms of lectures as well as general housekeeping (responding to e-mails, etc.). But, she makes up for it with her one-on-one insight during office hours, which she generously offers as frequently as possible, and even according to your scheduling needs. If you're a History-Sociologist major, you have to take this class, and Karen is a good professor to get. She can be a little moody sometimes, but after a couple of weeks, you realize that it's not a reaction that's personal to you. Overall, she's an A -.

Nov 2001

I agree with the other poster that Professor Barkey is a rare gem. She really does care a lot about her students and about what she teaches. The course is rather methodology focused but it's certainly not a huge flaw. Though the reading can be a little much at times, at least it's fairly interesting.

Nov 2001

Prof. Barkey is wonderful. She is brilliant, first of all. But what makes her class so good is that she is a charismatic, funny, passionate, and careful instructor. The course I took was an intro class. At times I felt like it was too heavily focused on methodology and lacked enough discussion of the case studies that we were reading. However, even the methodology lectures are interesting simply because Prof. Barkey cares so deeply about the subject. There is lots of room for you to study what grabs you. One short paper is a book review and analysis. You get to choose the book from the semester's syllabus, meaning that you can choose when to write your paper according to what fits your schedule or which book interests you the most. For the research paper, you choose your own topic from whatever you are most interested in. Prof. Barkey encouraged me to choose a topic that I had some background knowledge in so that I didn't drown myself in extra reading. Office hours with Prof. Barkey are great. She's very flexible, and always excited to hear questions, comments, and new ideas. Highly recommended. It is so nice to find a professor who loves their job and can share their passion for the subject with their students.