One of the most intense classes i've taken at columbia, meaning you had to constantly keep up to date on the readings, the quizzes (there are 8 or so over the semester) and the midterm and final were really really hard and required massive studying efforts. if i hadn't taken this second semester senior year when i was taking only one other class for a grade and one pass/fail i do'nt how the hell i would have juggled this along with another class with even a mdoerate workload. i personally didn't find the material that interesting but you can decide for yourself before registering if you think ancient civilizations are something you'd like to study. taking notes in class isn't really necessary since he just repeats the stuff exactly as it appears in the readings, and he's also a really nice guy generally but a little aloof, so get in good with your TA early on cause you will need their help
Professor Maca is knowledgeable and extremely fair. If you are into Mayan culture (and particularly the site at Copan), you've struck gold. Slides everyday AND intense notetaking was required. The quizzes are easy if you study the terms. (Easy to ace if you put the time. ) Professor "Mac" is passionate and was always available. Gave opportunities for making up credits by writing extra papers, working in the lab, or attending guest lectures. Professor Maca's greatest quality is his sincerity. Take his class if he comes back to Columbia!
The weekly readings were lengthy and dense and the quizzes were challenging. That being said, I have to say that Professor Maca was one of the most enthusiastic and interesting professors I've had. His lectures done a la powerpoint style can seem daunting at first, but if you take down just the salient dates and sites, it's not difficult at all. Contrary to previous reviewers, this is definitely not one of those classes where you can just not show up and expect to get the same out of the course. (and make sure he does the howler monkey imitation for the class for when he covers the section on Mesoamerica! ) He was extremely knowledgeable of not just the site that he studies in Mesoamerica, but all the other major ancient civilizations we covered in class. His talk on his study of Copan was brilliant, and concise. (which is unlike some other professors who tend to drone on when it comes to talking about their own academia sphere). All in all, he was one professor who definitely wants everyone to do well, with exhaustive opportunities for extra credit. The only drawback to this course was the way in which the recitation sections were organized. I lucked out and got a really great TA, who used the recitations to help us prepare for our quizzes and tests, and overall was a very fair grader. Some people were not as lucky and it definitely could result in a big difference when it comes to grading of papers and exams.
Allan is really a great guy. If I had known how cool he was from the start, I would have come to lecture a lot more often (out of respect). He knows his material and is really, sincerely interested in your doing well in his course and actually learning something. There are no tricks. This is a great way to get part of the major cultures requirement out of the way.
He is the best teacher I have ever had in my 19 year life. He is funny, interesting, accesable, amiable, smart, and most of all a great teacher. I was one of the lucky few to have him as my recition teacher as well. He takes the trouble to remeber as many of the 70 odd students names as possible. It is impossible not to get excited about the material when you see a professor who is so interested in it and in teaching it. It is true that his quizes were hard at first, but he went to great lengths to see that people understood how they were to be approached. His inputs make the quizzes much easier than they first appear and also give them meaning. The other reviewers clearly didn't bother going to lecture or paying attention to him or they would have seen this as well. Follow this man to every class he teaches!!
This introductory course was one of the worst I have ever taken in my three years at Columbia. Prof. Maca's lectures, while delivered in a boyish, engaging style, weren't particularly informative and consisted mostly of slides with too much information on them, such as 5x8 cell tables impossible to copy down in the 2 minutes he spends on them, or slides with nice landscapy pictures on them depicting modern China, modern Egypt, etc. These, while nice, had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the material the class has to learn. In my year, people basically stopped coming to class when they realized their lectures were going to be mostly vapid and ultimately useless in the face of the 10% quizzes given at the beginning of every unit. The mandatory recitations were similarly useless, and the information provided by the TAs was often extremely vague. They might as well have said, "Well, everything I know about this unit comes from your readings, so you might as well check the book if you want answers. I can't clarify what the book says because I don't know anything more than what it says. Can't you go online or something?" I'm sure the recitations would've been as empty as the lectures had they not been worth 10% of the overall grade. The quizzes themselves required the study of 50 or so vocabulary words which seemed to have been chosen mostly at random from our readings. Often, they were mentioned only once or twice in the text, and sometimes they were utterly irrelevant to the subject at hand. In addition, we were often asked to provide dates for terms like "The Yellow River." What in the hell were we supposed to answer for that? Precambrian on? Geologically speaking, I'm sure that knowledge would be significant, but it had very little relevance in a course on archaeology. In sum, the quizzes did not test the material that was presented in lectures and in recitations, and many students just gave up trying to do well on them. If you have to take this course, try not to take it with Prof. Maca. He's the kind of professor who knows there are three different systems used to spell Chinese names, and yet gives us a map with names in Wade-Giles while asking us to identify places spelled using Pinyin. Many of the places he told us to know were not even marked on the map given us. You can imagine for yourself the kind of confusion this created in class.
Prf. Maca we can tell is new at this. He makes lecture intriguing, and the readings are quite interesting, but his quizzes are ridiculous. How are we supposed to read 50+pgs and define and memorize 90+ words in like a week in a half? And thw worst part of it all is that he chooses only a handful of these words for us to define on the quiz, as well as maps for us to memorize and pinpoint important geographic spots. Did I mention these quizzes are worth only 5% of the total grade?
Allan Maca is best teacher I have encountered. Even if you have no previous experience with archeology, anthropology or mesoamerica he makes the information accessible and interesting. Going to class never felt like a waste of my time. He is extremely helpful and willing to work with students during office hours. If you can fit one of his classes into your schedule, do it! You won't regret it.
Allan is really great! The topic of the course seemed a bit daunting, spanning the history of Mexico and Central America from about 8BC to today (or the most recent newpaper article he can find), but Allan made it really accessible using slides and good readings. What I liked most about this class was the discussion, everyone offered up their opinion and Allan definitly helped us figure things out when were were confused. The course is really interesting, and ranges from archaeological concepts to political and economic situations in Central America and Mexico. Perfect for the Latin American studies student or an anthropologist. Or anyone who wants a cool professor and a really engaging class. Don't miss out.
If you have the opportunity to take a class with Prof Maca, you should jump at it. He puts a lot of work into his classes, and is always well prepared. He has an engaging lecture style, and provokes a lot of very interesting and insightful discussion. Student participation is important to Prof Maca, and it is important to stay on top of the readings. The breadth of information that you will cover, and the depth with which you will be expected to know it was, at times (midterm and final times), rather daunting, but Prof Maca is one of those rare teachers whose main ambitions in teaching a class is actually TEACHING it. He is very concerned with helping his students learn, and he will give you every opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. For instance, I bombed my midterm--lowest grade I have ever received--but he worked with me, and made my final and paper worth more in his final calculation of my grade (A-). This description doesn't do any justice to how highly I think of him, so I will stop by saying: Allan Maca is the kind of professor that most of us probably had expected to find at Columbia. Take his class!