Sarah Phillips

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jun 2008

To the chorus of effusive praise I just wanted to add a dissenting voice of ambivalence. Sarah Phillips may be a brilliant historian, a world-wide expert on an endlessly compelling topic, but she lacks the abilities to think on her feet or discern the mental processes of a callow undergraduate, both essential attributes of a twice-weekly lecturer. Class consisted of awkwardly phrased superficial rehashings of the previous week's readings, useful for talking points, perhaps, but not for writing the two difficult papers, nor for making points during discussion section - which, by the way, was excellent, filled with highly motivated students and led by a Ph.D. student (April Holm) who exuded competence and exerted just enough control over our ramblings that we could talk about what interested us without getting too off-topic. If only the paper topics had been so laissez-faire: the first was a tough eight-pager on one of three rigidly defined prompts, the second a more free-form 'current event report' that mandated artificial connections to the class's reading. In retrospect, the second paper wasn't so bad - most every book was excellent, and Phillips deserves all the credit for assembling such a syllabus - but if you're looking for a more creative endeavor, this class isn't really it. The final is one of those thankless in-class affairs that stresses the soul, cramps the writing hand, and dulls the intellect, and getting the prompts a week beforehand only exacerbated the angst, as if the students could foresee their own deaths. Fortunately, it's the only class you actually have to show up to. In the end, I felt as if I'd exerted myself rigorously to learn a lot about a topic that interested me, but, a semester later, the knowledge has receded from my memory faster than I had hoped. Recommended for majors or wonkish E3B types that want to save the world and take a worthwhile elective; tentatively recommended for anyone else.

Jan 2008

Professor Phillips is amazing and knows her stuff. Her teaching style is great because not only does she know the material extremely well, she is also able to hold the attention of all 75 students in the classroom. She is very approachable and makes class enjoyable. The grading is done primarily by the TAs who also seemed to know the material and were not too harsh on grading. I would highly recommend this and any other class taught by Professor Phillips.

Jul 2005

I highly recommend this class. Professor Phillips is very well-organized and has created an always-interesting class (I almost never glanced at my watch). During each lecture, she engages students with multimedia: music, video, movie clips, speech recordings, cartoons, and more. The lectures form the core of the class, since there are really no canonical texts on such recent history. The readings, 10 books total, are almost all primary sources. She really does cover a wealth of history from 1960 to the present, focusing mostly on political, social, and cultural history, with forays into economics and the environment. I have one outstanding criticism. She portrayed JFK as a one-dimensional cold-warrior and LBJ as a demi-god. These characterizations ignore the totality of the facts, and I suspect they’re inspired by her personal distaste for the patrician Kennedy and identification with the Southern “man-of-the people” Johnson. I just hope that next time around, she gives more attention to JFK’s movement toward détente and federal intervention on behalf of civil rights, and also lay more of the blame for the Vietnam disaster on LBJ. Nevertheless, America Since 1960 was one of the best classes I’ve taken at Columbia.

May 2005

Professor Phillips' "America Since 1960" history class single-handly revived my faith in liberalism and democracy. This is due to Phillips' excellent and interesting lectures, and the wonderful readings she picked for the class. It was evident from the very first day that Phillips loves history and wants to convey her excitement and interest to her students. I can't say enough good things about this class: before every lecture, Phillips played selections from songs and speeches that connected to the topics to be covered in her lectures; she opened the class up to discussion on several occassions and encouraged students and TAs to disagree with her and take her on; she was always able to meet outside of class during both office hours and other times; she extended the deadline of the final paper as per requests from the class's students. All in all a great class and a must for any history major, especially those specializing in America.

Feb 2005

Awesome! It is conducted as any seminar should be: discussion based. Professor Phillips is directly from Boston U. and her enthusiasm for everything history is almost electric. Her specialty is, of course, environmental politics. The topics included: resource conservation, the wilderness idea, environmental health, water and localism, New Deal changes, environmental justice, agriculture, and some contemporary issues. This is perfect for majors and non-majors. Phillips is everything a student needs and wants in a professor: engaged, interested, prepared, and, perhaps most important, challenging. Though the class was small (about 9), Phillips mediated the dialogue without pedantry, kept our minds thirsting for more and, in the end, quickly distilled decades of history to form answers to questions that seemed elaborate and difficult. She speaks with grace and confidence about topics that may intimidate the unitiated (read non-history majors), yet she always made us feel smart. Phillips allowed my reach to exceed my grasp; she is simply a great teacher. Take any course she offers.

Feb 2005

Professor Phillips is great! Though things were a little awkward at first (it was a seminar course, focusing on discussion), we quickly moved into a comfortable and fascinating discussion, just a few weeks in. I learned a tremendous amount from the readings, but the assignment in particular were great - we were given structure, but also a good deal of choice in selecting our papers and book reviews. Professor Phillips was of great help in developing the paper and in understanding the readings. While not stumping for a particular issue, she made all of our discussions timely, while also studying the history of issues and ideas. I would highly recommend her to anyone - majors and non-majors alike, as she is serious, with expectations, but will work with you to find a comfort in something you may not know much about.

Feb 2005

I registered for this class solely because I thought the reading list in the bookstore looked amazing, and combined with Professor Phillips' insightful comments and energetic teaching style, the class did not dissapoint. The course examines environmental politics in the 20th century, starting with conservationism and preservationism up to the current environmental movement, and what the future holds. Phillips would constantly ask challenging questions and ponder the future of environmental politics with us. Final paper is a topic completely of your choosing, and Phillips was extremely helpful and available to working one on one with you. Great class, great prof.

Feb 2005

Prof. Phillips' enthusiasm and passion for her subject is pretty obvious, and infectious. I looked forward to class every week, where we learned about the politics and history of everything from occupational health to the wilderness movement. This was a seminar, and discussions were always interesting - as long as you do the reading! The readings were interesting and relevant, and were pretty diverse, spanning a range of perspectives and were rarely a waste of time - many of these books will remain on my bookshelf. She's really knowledgeable and no matter what your interest she can help you develop an idea for your paper, and is pretty accessible. Strict on style, which I think is good, so make sure you write well (grammar etc). If you don't try to cruise through her class, and actually do the work, you will get a lot more out of it, and be a little bit sad about the end of the semester.