Staff Editorial: Our Fall 2024 course recommendations

This week, WashU students are picking their courses for the Fall 2024 semester. While they may be last-minute, we hope that our Student Life editorial staff recommendations can help you make final scheduling decisions. Maybe it will even save you from the emergency course search after not getting your first or second choices in your 10 a.m. registration time (or maybe this is just a humanities/social science major issue…). 

L32 Pol Sci 3326: Topics in Politics: Freedom and Resistance in African American Political Thought

African American Political Thought is for the poli sci majors and minors who are tired of reading quantitative studies (me too) and/or anyone who is interested in political theory, racial justice, and social justice. In the class, you close-read different African American political thinkers, including my personal favorites, ​​W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B Wells, and discuss different texts every class. Each week, you do annotations of the readings and write a reflection. I look forward to every class and thoroughly enjoy every discussion. It is the only class I’ve taken at WashU where nearly everyone in the class will say hi when we see each other on campus. I’d recommend taking any of Dr. Gais’ classes, but this one has been my favorite, with the best discussions and most interesting readings I’ve read in any political science class.

— Sylvie Richards, Managing Forum Editor

L13 Writing 221: Fiction Writing 1

Is there a story you’ve always wanted to write? Do you fill your Notes app with “story ideas” or start writing a piece in a Google Doc, never making it past the first page? If so, Fiction Writing 1 is a great class to take for anyone mildly interested in or deeply passionate about testing out their fiction storytelling skills. You will write two short stories and receive individualized feedback from your teacher and every member of the class. But also, you will expand your literary knowledge, reading incredible short stories from a variety of authors. Since workshops are always limited in size, everyone gets the chance to know one another really well, creating a fun class environment, always filled with lively conversation. 

— Jordan Spector, Senior Forum Editor

L57 RelPol 430 01: Spiritual But Not Religious: The Politics of American Spirituality

Prof. Schmit was in his bag for the duration of this entire course. He is engaging and focused on the content and cares about each one of his students in this small seminar. I will say that the three-hour once-a-week format of this class can be daunting, and it is time-consuming, but each week, it is a guarantee that you are going to have an amazing discussion and that whatever you are thinking about in terms of the reading will get covered during discussion. In terms of content, this class explores what it means to be spiritual but not religious — a bucket of belief that I sometimes identify with and that is becoming increasingly popular among people who are college-age. Prof. Schmidt walks you through what being spiritual but not religious means and why it is so popular. I found the class discussion amazing each week, and the readings — it is one book per week — also moved quickly and were super interesting. I cannot recommend the course enough, and maybe stick around to get a Relpol (Religion and Politics) minor too. 

— Avi Holzman, Editor-In-Chief

L13 Writing 327: Creative Nonfiction: Personal Essay and Memoir

Whether you think you’re a good writer or not, Creative Nonfiction is genuinely a life-changing class. The class is all about learning how to write your own story (don’t be fooled by the “nonfiction” in the name; you aren’t writing about history). I like to call the class group therapy because you write about your life and then talk about it as a group. While Creative Nonfiction 1 has two units (personal essay and literary journalism), this class spends the entire semester on personal essay/memoir. The workload of the class isn’t too intense, just some short readings for each class and a couple of papers. Everything you write is based on your own life experiences, so it makes it really easy to write the papers quickly. Especially for students in other majors, creative nonfiction is such a nice break from other more serious classes in your schedule.

— Bri Nitsberg, Managing Photo Editor

L01 Art-Arch 3815: Rococo to Revolution: Art in Eighteenth-Century Europe 

I took this class as an art history major because I love this time period. I had no idea how fantastic Dr. Gabel would be, and I couldn’t have anticipated how much I would continue to notice things in art that I learned in this class. Now, as a rising senior, this remains one of the best classes I have taken at WashU. This course is the perfect encapsulation of the eighteenth century in Europe. The content starts in the late 1700s with absolute monarchs and ends just as Napoleon steps up to the plate, and Dr. Gabel weaves history, politics, and art together seamlessly. Her lectures are engaging, and the topics change regularly, which keeps the class fresh. The day-to-day work isn’t overwhelming in the slightest. Rococo to Revolution is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a humanities credit. It’ll make you want to go to class — and at every art museum you go to, you’ll know a little something more than you do now.

— Alice Gottesman, Managing Scene Editor

L14 E Lit 3552: Introduction to Literary Theory (Specifically taught by Dr. Windle)

Full transparency, I did only take this class because it’s a requirement for the English major. But I am so glad I did. The content can be applied to pretty much every other course I’ve taken at WashU and has given me lots of smart-sounding things to say in all my other classes this semester. Dr. Windle is also great and fosters a really open class environment where it’s really easy to contribute as long as you do the readings. 

— Amelia Raden, Senior Forum Editor

L61 FYP 207C: First-year Seminar: Modern Political Thought: Text & Traditions

To the incoming Class of 2028: I highly recommend taking Modern Political Thought with Dr. Koellner! Suppose you are interested in political theory, comparative literature, or even something more interdisciplinary. In that case, Modern Political Thought is the perfect class. Dr. Koellner truly cares about her students, and her teaching style facilitates discussion while being fair in grading. MPT teaches you about key, modern thinkers in the political world that you will revisit in other political science or literature classes during your time at WashU. Above all, as a seminar class exclusively for first-year students, you can meet and get to know fellow peers and form closer relations. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at MPT and highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the topic.

— Alan Knight, Multimedia Editor 

L90 AFAS 255: Introduction to Africana Studies

Whether you are considering a major in AFAS or not, this is a great course to take as an introduction to African and Black American history! Dr. Shearer covers so much important and obscured information about African diasporic contributions while centering the lives and thoughts of those with African ancestry. In this discussion-based course, students start by analyzing the origins of Black Studies and the idea of Africa as a “developing nation” and end with a discussion of African futurism. Dr. Shearer does an excellent job of facilitating meaningful conversations about material he is clearly passionate about, and also readily invites students to share alternative or challenging perspectives. Anyone remotely interested in learning about Black history, figures, political thought, literature and so much more should take this class! 

— Jasmine Stone, Senior Forum Editor

L59 CWP 117 03: College Writing: Power & Commodity Culture 

Dr. Slaughter is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my entire life. Her intelligence is indisputable, and her passion for writing is evident. She is incredibly efficient, able to make the most of a 50-minute class period. The work was manageable in my 18-credit schedule, so this class will hopefully slip right into 15 credits. Dr. Slaughter cares so much about her students and sees potential in the roughest of classes. I know everyone wants to take the identity writing class, but, please, take any class with Dr. Slaughter. 

— Dion Hines, Junior Forum Editor

L32 Pol Sci 3172 01: Sports, Policy, and Politics

For sports fans and non-sports fans alike, Dr. Bowersox provides an informative and well-versed perspective on the intersection between athletics and public policy. The class has a flexible structure, and lectures focus on international sporting bodies like the International Olympic Committee and FIFA. Don’t take this class if you are unwilling to engage in debate on hot-button policy issues, including the ethics of authoritarian nations hosting international sporting competitions, payment for college athletes, and the participation of transgender athletes in sports. Writing assignments focus on class readings and policy proposals, and can be submitted in a handful of different formats. The class culminates with an Olympic bid proposal project, where groups pitch a city to hold the 2036 Olympics. 

Ian Heft, Senior Sports Editor

L33 Psych 354: Psychopathology and Mental Health

Whether you are a psychology major, a psychology minor, or are just interested in mental health, I highly recommend taking Psychopathology and Mental Health with Thompson. Originally called Abnormal Psych, the course takes a thorough deep dive into the diagnosis, etiology, and treatment of mental health in a culturally sensitive way. Beyond that, Professor Thompson is a caring professor and tries to make her assignments interesting and interactive for her students. For example, in one assignment, you choose a fictional character and give them a diagnosis using the DSM. Now, a fair warning: Despite the knowledge of the DSM-V that you will learn… don’t try to diagnose your friends. Please don’t be that person.  

— Sydney Tran, Head of Design

L48 Anthro 150: Introduction to Human Evolution

Even if you’re not interested in anthropology (or don’t really understand what it is), Dr. Strait is a wildly engaging lecturer, making the material both enjoyable and digestible. It’s hard to strike a balance between information and banter, but Strait has perfected the craft. While in most classes, I often find myself counting down the minutes until I can leave, 50 minutes with Strait flew by. Attendance was never required, but the lecture hall always stayed pretty full. Near the end of the semester, it did get very primate-intensive, but to make up for it, Strait always played tons of cute monkey videos in class!

— Sanchali Pothuru, Managing Multimedia Editor

If you end up hating one of our class recommendations, remember not to resent us at StudLife. If you love it, though, you should totally join our staff in gratitude.

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