I absolutely loved Professor Kasara's Introduction to Comparative Politics Class. I have absolutely no idea why all of the other reviews were so negative toward her teaching of this class. She is extremely informed about the topic, her lectures are engaging and interesting, and I left the class with a much stronger understanding of the subject. She has very informative slides and posts them after every class, so you never have to worry about missing any core information. The workload was very manageable and exactly what I would expect for an Intro Poli-Sci class. The tests were not any more challenging than the class would merit. The TAs gave very informative feedback on tests and were more than happy to talk through any questions you had about the class. The tests all cover material that was extensively covered in the lecture. There is only one paper and it is over a very basic, core principle of the class. Professor Kasara was very generous with grades and even changed her entire grading scale when my class was doing worse than her previous classes had done in order to help improve our grades. I would highly highly recommend this class for everyone who is interested in the field of Political Science. I cannot wait to take more classes with Professor Kasara in the future.
Literally the worst class I have ever taken in all my years at Columbia. Avoid this class like the mf PLAGUE. She always arrives late to class but then holds the class over, gives exams that are SO DIFFICULT (which she then comments on how it wasn't her intention to make it that difficult), and messed up the curving in our class. By the time she fixed the curves, most people's grades moved to a whole letter grade. TERRIBLE TERRIBLE DO NOT TAKE
WORST COLUMBIA PROFESSOR Please do not take this class. Professor Kasara is one of the worst professors I have ever been taught by at Columbia. PLEASE wait for any other professor to teach this class. I don't even know where to start but frankly, the class was disorganized and a shambles. Professor Kasara speaks in riddles at the speed of lightning to the point where you cannot take in anything in the lectures. Her slides are ridiculously long but she never explains anything. She turns up to lectures 15-20 minutes late and then questions why we are behind in the syllabus??? The TAs are ridiculously harsh graders and are unhelpful and unresponsive. Only take this class if you class if you want your GPA to plummet.
Terrible professor. Talks way too fast, realized her exams were insane so curved the class at the end of the semester, and overall the class was just not enjoyable. She is sweet and laughs at nearly every sentence, but the cons definitely outweigh the pros. DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS
I don't know why Prof. Kasara's reviews are so bad-- her class was very enjoyable. The reviews that are bashing her probably didn't get the grade they wanted. She is a very nice and bubbly person - it's rare to come across a professor like that. I went to one of her office hours and she definitely has a kind and bright personality. The readings weren't dense at all, and as long as you kept up with the textbook and the slides, you'll do fine. Lectures are a must to go, lots of important material on there. She definitely sticks to the material. A lot of theories covered, but also a lot of case studies as well. You should definitely try to find a good TA for this class, because they'll help you a lot. Make sure to go to the TA review sessions, and pay attention in discussion section. This class wasn't hard at all, just keep up with the lectures and the readings and you'll be more than fine. The final essay prompt was open ended. And the tests were pretty manageable to study towards. I would recommend taking this class.
I really don't know why the reviews of Professor Kasara are so bad. She's one of the better professors I've had at this school - down to earth, an effective communicator, and actually sees her students as intelligent human beings. Based on the frequency of the phrase "speaking in cursive" in multiple posts, this sounds like someone got a sh*tty grade in her class or just didn't like her (or didn't like her TAs, which is a completely separate issue). Personally, I appreciate that she occasionally says something funny or laughs in a lecture - I took her IntroCP course at the same time as an IntroIR course with Bruce Cronin, who was a fucking robot most of the time, and the contrast was quite sharp. For either of the classes I've taken with her, really all I've had to do is show up to lectures (and pay attention, because she does actually cover material in them) and *occasionally* skim the readings to feel prepared for exams and papers. And I do mean only VERY occasionally - more in CAP than IntroCP, but in general she covers reading material pretty thoroughly in her lectures. If you're doing ALL the reading for either of these classes, you're going to be less prepared than if you just paid attention in her lectures and much, much more sleep-deprived. IntroCP exams are consistent with what you'll have to take later if you're a PoliSci major, or even if you're just taking CC or LitHum - they're not easy, but they're also not torture sessions. The paper is not too bad either, imo (the prompt is meant to let you have some fun, I think - based on my experience in PoliSci classes, it's shorter, less rigorous, and lets you be more creative than a lot of assignments, which I think is appropriate for an intro course). The TAs in IntroCP can be rough, boring, or both. I certainly did not have a good one, if there are any. It's unfortunate, but that's what happens with huge intro classes (you'll live). If you're expecting every single aspect of a 1000-level lecture to be non-stop thrills and will be mad if that doesn't happen, I don't know what to tell you. I had the opposite problem in IntroIR (bad professor, good TA), and this worked slightly better for me, but honestly discussion sections are everyone's least favorite part of big lectures (usually including the TAs). I definitely liked CAP better, since it's a smaller class with a tighter subject focus and I happen to personally enjoy classes small enough to have discussions rather than huge lectures. This year was the first year it had a TA, apparently, but there was only one and she did a good job mostly just helping Kasara with random minor tasks. It also covered some topics that align with areas where she's done a lot of research, which I think was exciting for her and seemed to energize her (she even tossed in one or two papers of hers).
Professor Kasara is by far the worst professor I have ever had in my academic career. In terms of her lecturing, she cannot properly articulate ideas, concepts, and vocabulary. She also suffers from poor enunciation where she sounds like she is speaking in cursive, for all her words slur together as she laughs, cackles, chuckles, and snickers mid sentence in almost all her sentences. Because her lecture slides are quite lengthy and filled with information, it is near impossible to jot down and take notes based on her slides during lecture time. What is even worse, is that most of the course information needed for the exams are in er slides but she does not post them on canvas until weeks after we have covered course material. She often times does not upload the slides until near the exam deadline, often adding new lecture slides less than 48 hours before an exam. Although Professor Kasara assigns a text book and a supplementary coursebook, they both are not as heavily used as it may seem in the syllabus. However I would suggest reading the case studies and examples presented as she draws on them the most during the exams and lecture. Lastly, discussion sections are mandatory but they are good because you can at east ask clarifying questions since there is so much course material to sift through. However the worst part of this course is not the lecturer and her poor ability to lecture with slides. There are numerous TAs that help facilitate discussion sections and exams. These TAs all grade the exams as well, choosing a very particular and rather peculiar way of grading. For each exam, each TA is assigned to a set of 2 or 3 questions that they grade. For an example, TA #1 would be responsible for grading questions #2 and #3 of everyone's exam in the course. This caused great discrepancy in grading, especially since there is so much course material to sift through in each exam and on top of that the TAs were difficult and unyielding graders.
Class was very interesting. I learnt a lot from it and was a perfect intro class. A lot (but fair) of work if you want an A though. The one thing that was frustrating was that Professor Kasara talks to fast which makes it hard to understand/follow the lectures.
She has good intentions and seems to try her best, but she speaks in cursive - laughs in the middle of sentences, and is sometimes hard to understand. She's always smiling, which is sweet, but the students are just confused about class material! Grading is weird, there's no percentages that equal any grade it's just a letter grade slapped onto exams, Kasara teaches off slides that seem to come directly from the textbook, and it is hard to understand what is happening during her lectures. Overall, content of the class is good and I learned a lot, but the teaching methods could have been improved.
DO. NOT. TAKE. THIS. CLASS. Kasara is overall just a horrible professor. Her lectures are disorganized, unhelpful, and confusing. The slides are slightly better but they really don't go into depth about concepts. She's so unclear about what is going to be on the exams and whether questions will come from the book or from lecture or both, so trying to productively study the right things is basically impossible. The TAs are actually the minds behind most of this class, which really isn't saying much either. Discussion sections definitely go into more depth but a lot of the concepts we spend an hour a week going over in section don't ever end up on the exam, so why bother even attending. Speaking of the exams, they are graded by the TAs, who for whatever reason seem to have forgotten that this is an intro class and not a senior seminar. They grade WAY too harshly and expect you to know every small detail about a concept, taking off at least 4 points even if you got 99% of the answer. It's so disappointing to study so hard for these arbitrary and subjective exams when you won't get a grade that reflects how much you know. It's also insane to try to answer 5 short answers (which are usually 2 full pages of a bluebook), plus 5 IDs, all in a 75 minute time period (that is, if Kasara actually lets you start the exam on time). I really cannot stress enough to anyone considering taking this class to just wait until it's offered by another professor. If you are at all skeptical of the class TAKE SOMETHING ELSE. Such a waste of time, should be an easy class based on the material but your grades will never reflect how much you actually know. You'd be better off taking Orgo or something.
First of all, she is a sweet woman but here comes the "but". 1) The lecture notes are posted on courseworks and it is hard to justify taking notes in class when you don't have to...? 2) I had Hadas as my TA, she is wonderful and informative but the discussion section did not supplement the lecture. It often times felt like a completely separate class. 3) The exam format is fair because you only have to answer 5 out of the provided questions in each category but the grading process is a mystery to me. On the first exam I basically fact vomited all over the page. I wrote down everything I could remember and put 2-3 examples and ended up with a B+. On the next exam I wrote half as much and got an A. Grading is very subjective compared to Intro to American where I was provided with a rubric that explained why I got the grade I did. 4) The final research paper was absolutely ridiculous. We had to pick a country and fix its problems. #rough TL;DR Not the worst class offered, weird grading, not really recommend
Do not take this class. Kasara is one of the worst professors I have had at this University. Her lecture slides are more helpful than actually listening to her, but unfortunately she posts them to courseworks weeks after the material has been introduced, sometimes mere days before an exam. She is disorganized, and you can tell she relies on her TA's to do most of her teaching for her. The lectures are too hard to follow, and her slides are chock full of the tiniest, faintest text. She is an extremely knowledgeable woman but she is simply not a good professor. And then she has the nerve to get offended when we don't show up to class. I'm upset I bought books for this class, it wasn't worth the money. Most things get summarized on the slides anyway. You can learn a lot from them, but there's no indication of which material will appear on the exam. There is just so much information to sift through that you won't even be tested on it's ridiculous. Also, like 2/3 TA's were unusually hard graders, so they were a really fun addition to an overall shitty class.
Kasara is definitely not the most clear of lecturers and she goes incredibly quickly through her slides which are often packed with text - I would sometimes just give up trying to copy things down because there was no way I would get it all. She mumbles and often seems a bit disengaged with the people in the room while she lectures, so if you can't handle that than this isn't the course for you.While she clearly knows what she is talking about she isn't great at communicating it. That being said, I learned a ton in this course and overall I really enjoyed it. She has dense lectures and she often expects you to know about the situation or event that she is lecturing on, but if you have done the readings you will have a pretty good understanding and should be prepared. The reading is pretty textbook and dense, but it definitely helps you understand the course - you can often skim to find the key points and she will fill in the details in class. I thought that my TA held great discussion sections and was incredibly helpful - he went over anything we didn't understand and made sure to cover all of the tough topics in an engaging way. The TA's also hold review sessions before all of the exams which are really helpful. The exams required quite a bit of studying but if you have good notes and can determine the key concepts you should be fine (she also uploads all of her powerpoints online so you can review from there before exams).
I really would not recommend taking this class. Kasara assumes everyone knows everything about all of these political regimes, which is pretty unlikely considering its an intro class. The reading was dry and annoying and way too long, and the weekly discussion sections did more hindrance than help. Kasara often mumbled during lectures and did not explain the concepts clearly. I assume you could do okay if you did all the readings, but considering they are so long it just doesn't seem worth it.
Although Prof. Kasara is not a natural lecturer, I learned more in her class than I have in any other class at columbia. The course was incredibly challenging, but the readings and lectures were always interesting. Although at times throughout the course I felt very confused and overwhelmed, by the end of the semester I realized that I had begun to truly understand some of the most difficult and challenging political issues plaguing Africa. Prof. Kasara challenges you to think about complex and difficult issues. If you work your butt off you will get a lot out of the class.
Kasara means well, and it was her first time teaching, but that doesn't all the things wrong with this class. There was a really large amount of dense reading, especially for an intro course, and she tried to cram tons of different topics into one semester. She was also very disorganized, emailing the class about changes to the reading so often that it almost was more to figure out what to read than the reading itself. The two 3-page papers unfortunately required large amounts of work because of how much extra research was necessary, and the topics were so broad (i.e. "To what extent is Turkey a democracy?") that it is nearly impossible to appropriately answer the question in the space allotted. Because there was always something you didn't manage to include, points were inevitably lost and the 39 or 40/40 needed for an A was rarely attainable. The grading system was a wreck, with Kasara applying various curves throughout the semester, and no one really ever knew where they stood. Though the lectures were terrible, boring, and worthless, the topics were often interesting and the discussion sections (with much more interesting and involved TAs) were usually great. The midterm and final were totally based on the readings, and were impossible to finish on time; the final had literally double the ID's, short answers, and essays than the final of another 3000-level poli sci course I took.
LECTURES: Professor Kasara isn't a natural lecturer. She stumbles and repeats herself and is generally somewhat confusing. However, she does cover interesting topics and tries to tie in theory with her own experience. She posted powerpoint slides online, but they were only a skeleton of the lecture itself, don't rely on reading them and skipping class. READING: A ton. I ended up with a two inch+ stack of double sided printouts. Most of it is pretty interesting, but it's hard to keep everything sorted in your head after a while. PAPERS: Two short 3-4 pagers, which you have to cram a lot of material into. It was hard to cover everything expected in that space. You have to do some independent research, but don't sweat it. TA's grade them and I thought the assignments were relatively easy although others disagreed. EXAMS: Midterm and Final were my big complaints. The exams were long enough that it was hard to even finish in the time given, much less put serious thought into answers. It was stated that the exams were to ensure you read and understood the readings and arguments, except there was so many often similar readings that it was impossible to really demonstrate your knowledge. I studied a lot for both, and did worse than I thought I would. There's just too much to keep straight in your head and regurgitate on paper in such a short time. GRADING: I though the grading criteria was strange. Before the final she explained that 35% of the class would be getting As, 55% Bs, and the rest Cs. This might be standard procedure for large classes, but it makes no sense to me. Judging by the previous distributions (Prof. posted them after midterm and essays), this artificially raised the % of As. How can you decide that 35% of the class will do well before the final is even taken?
This class was unnecessarily complicated for an introductory course. While the material is interesting, the manner in which Professor Kasara presents it makes it difficult. The midterm and final were a mix of IDs, short answers and essays --- basically for these you just needed to have a good grasp on all the readings and review the main concepts on the powerpoints she posts online. The papers were the most difficult part of the class. She asks you to answer 5-6 questions in 3 pages and each person has to do a different country. There is definitely extra research required. She tries hard but she lecturing does not come naturally to her and eventually many people just stopped going to class. I would recommend staying away from this course -- the work you put in probably wont be reflected in the grade you get and there are much easier ways to fulfill the requirement.
She is simply a HORRIBLE lecturer. Horrible-- the worst I've ever had (by FAR). She closes her eyes the entire time that she speaks which is weird enough, but she also tends to stutter or have nervous speech habits that make it really horribly annoying and painful to listen to her. It takes her years to finally spit out what she wants to say, but then when she finally gets going she speaks a thousand words a second and there is absolutely no way to take everything down. She has no idea how to use powerpoint effectively-- some of her slides are literally covered in size 9 text and others have a completely unexplained photo on them. She posts her lectures but unless you go and fruitlessly try to record what she says they're of little use. It's REALLY annoying having to take notes to her speak because first she can't form a single word for 5 min and then suddenly a hundred come out and you have no idea what to write down. She also really uselessly tries to get the class to participate and seems to be personally offended when nobody's done the readings yet or doesn't feel like raising your hand... That being said the class isn't terribly hard and if you do the readings and go to your section, like somebody else said it's an easy A-. The exams are REALLY long-- the midterm was so long that most people didn't finish and the final was only shorter because we all complained, but even then, it was something like 10 IDs, 2 short answers (which are actually quite long, 3 paragraphs each), then 2 more full essays. Kind of painful. However I would STRONGLY discourage anybody from taking this course. It is too painful for an intro class and there are way better professors teaching it anyway.
An introductory course with complex readings and average lectures. Kasara makes clear powerpoints, but the readings are often dense and don't seem entirely appropriate for a 1500-level course. The information, however, is interesting and thought-provoking, and if you both attend section with any of the excellent TAs and work to complete all of the reading/teach yourself, you stand to gain a lot from this class. Not difficult to get a good grade, but note that Kasara will curve exams and papers in order to limit the number of students who get As in her class - a B is relatively easy to get, but an A will be somewhat difficult.
This class was by far the worst I've taken in two years at Columbia and three at various other institutions. I'll just tick off the list of things that were clearly wrong, in my opinion, and we'll see what kind of a picture develops. First, she was barely ever on time for class, and also cancelled several classes without much (if any) warning. Second, she lectures off powerpoint slides, as mentioned below. What isn't mentioned below is that 75% of the slides are filled with random graphs of internet-downloadable data that you will not need to know. The other 25% will be densely packed with necessary terms and concepts, but since they are interspersed with the 75% useless filler slides, it's often hard to know which are which, and Professor Kasara offers no hints. Third, she speaks quietly and nervously, which I wouldn't mind except it seems to actually distract her and keep her analysis of the concepts both shallow and erratic. Fourth, to fill space and time, she often puts the most mundane questions to the class for discussion, and lets an awkward silence hang over the room until one or two of the same students answer. Often those two will have decided that sleeping was more valuable and therefore Professor Kasara will have to answer the question herself. Fifth, she did not follow the pace of the syllabus from which she expects you to have figured out what readings will be discussed in class. Often lectures would be two weeks ahead of the syllabus, while at other times we were a week behind. To fix this problem, readings were dropped left and right, and for the first time in my college experience a new, significantly altered syllabus was distributed towards the end of class. Now, all this may make you shrug and some decide to just take her class and learn from a good T.A. The following problems relate to that approach, which I and most of the rest of the class took. Sixth, grading was incredibly arbitrary. The tests were too compact for the time given, leading to a generous curve which was never announced until long after the midterm was over. The reason was that more people ended up with a C and below and very few got A's. This same curve was then taken and used for the final, which was much easier due to the extended time period and ended up being a net loss for students. As a result of those two curves, I pretty much know the grade distribution of the class, and while it's a little harsh and b range heavy, the larger point is that it made up as the class went along based on an ever-changing and flawed set of procedures, a major mistake for a so-called political scientist to be making.. This leads to my seventh point: the T.A.'s complained as much as the students about not knowing what the rules were. If T.A.'s are known to be a bit arbitrary in their grading at times, try giving them carte blanche, or for a better metaphor, a loaded machine gun with no practice. They were left in a difficult position by the lack of any clear rules, and each reacted in their own way, which is natural. Some became more strict, others less so. Professor Kasara showed no signs of awareness of this or any other "facts" of college lecturing. There is much more to criticize here. She appears to have borrowed another professor's syllabus. That professor teaches here, and is supposed to be much better. It's a tease having his name scrawled across the front page of most readings. Those readings are quite interesting, but all very technical, even for political science. So expect to labor over them for hours upon hours each week if you hope to get anything out of this class. The last point I'll make is that even if the information did get through to you, as it did to me, through doing the painstaking readings of painstaking studies of different constitutions, electoral systems, etc., there was never any evidence that Professor Kasara was grading or influencing the grading of the papers, which is an unsettling though in a relatively steeply curved, lord-of-the-flies style class where even the T.A.'s have clearly lost all signs of hope. I would highly recommend the department disallow professor Kasara from teaching lectures on any fundamental topics until she has about fifteen years more experience.
Prof. Kasara was simply terrible. The problem was that she didn't seem to know where to take the class. Although we understand that it was her first time teaching this class, throughout the entire semester there was no progress and the class just kept getting more and more boring. The format of the class was basically staring at a power point presentation for 90 min (most of the times even less since she usually ran out of material), analyzing graphs and data from 1997, and fighting an uncontrollable need to sleep. The content of the class was fine, for some of us the TA's really made a difference since lectures were useless.
This class is an easy A-. You don't have to go to any of the lectures. Just do the reading, go to sections, study for a couple hours and you should do well. I would actually suggest not going to lecture. She shows about 10 slides a class and rambles about most of them. She also this annoying tick that she won't look at students. I didn't this until a couple of weeks into the class, but she literally will not open her eyes to look at students. She lectures with her eyes closed. One day I went up to ask her a question, and she answered my question with her eyes closed! It is one of the weirdest things I've ever seen from a teacher. If you are a go-getter, this class is not for you. This is not much to be learned in this class, and if you do want to learn, you won't be learning from Kimuli's lectures. If you are an athlete and like easy grades for a small amount of work, this is a class made for you.
This class was not easy, but it was not impossible either. Kimuli is really fair. If you do the work honestly and try to give her what she wants you should do well. Its kind of hard to figure out what she wants on the response papers, so go talk to her about it before you hand yours in. Also, form a group in class to study together, it will be really helpful for the midterm and final.
Look, here's all that matters: Go to the first class, ask her if the final is going to be the same as last year, and if she says yes, get up and leave. Don't wait til class is over. Just leave. Now, I know what you're thinking ... How can one day ruin an entire class? ... but you have no freaking clue how horrible this was. This was the absolute worst idea I have ever heard of. It was as if she said to herself, "What's the worst possible assignment I can think of? Oh, I know, how about three 3-pg essays where the students have to reference a dozen readings in 24 hours right in the middle of finals week." Are you kidding me? Does anyone think this is a good idea? Now, if this were a great class to begin with, which it wasn't (but I'll get to that), then maybe I could stomach a standard 8-10pg paper or something in 24 hours. It would be painful but I could do it, and the entire class wouldn't be ruined. But this thing was pure Charles Manson Brand (TM) insanity. You want me to do what? Go through about 10,000 pages of reading to write three 3-page papers? 3 pages on how colonial legacies affected ALL OF AFRICA? How does that possibly make sense to anyone? Ok, now that I'm done ranting about the final (I would keep going, because it was so dumb that it's been 3 months and I am STILL legitimately pissed off when someone mentions this class), I can talk about the class, which presumably is what you care about because you did what I said at the beginning and the worst final ever is no longer in play (if this is the case, and you get a REAL final or something ... I hate you all, you lucky bastards). If you don't already know a lot about African history and politics - which is insane because Africa is huge and has like 50 different countries with different histories - you probably will spend the entire time trying to figure out what the hell is going on because you have no idea who any of the people she is talking about are. Oh, by the way, she provides you with no historical background. At all. To make matters worse, she doesn't choose to talk about certain countries, so your welath of knowledge had better be pretty damned good, because she seriously tried to impart more information than an encylopedia has, and did a pretty poor job of distilling it. Ok, so after reading this, you probably think I hated this class, or got a bad grade, or hate the professor. No, no, and no. The actual stuff we learn is super freaking interesting. It's just super freaking weird. You will not learn events. "This is political science, not history!" I was always reminded. (Which, by the way, is complete crap; take Shannon O'Neil's Latin American Politics class for proof.) You will learn theories about things either unbelieavably narrow (the social interactions of a few tribes in Eastern Uganda, for example) or unbelievably broad (AIDS). This basically is another way of saying you will learn a butt load, and learn nothing, all at the same time. As for the professor herself, she is an enigma. She seemed totally FREAKED OUT about teaching. She closed her eyes every time she answered a question, which to me seemed really creepy. I don't quite know how to explain it. It was just creepy. Her lecture style is mediocre at best. It was organized, which was good, but powerpoint (read: boring) which was not so good. After all of this, here comes the kicker: it was essentially a grad class. About half of the students were grad students, and there was no separation between undergrads and grads in terms of grading. That's fair. Riiiiiiiiggghhhttt.
This was Professor Kasara's first semester at Columbia and first time teaching a lecture class ever. I think the anxiety and nerves clearly showed as a result. She was well prepared for lectures and had printouts of the lecture slides (ugh powerpoints) for each class. At the beginning of the semester she did little but read the slides verbatim (with her eyes closed- nerves?, so she had them memorized I guess) but as time went on she was a bit better on her feet (but still kept her eyes closed...). I think she can only get better.