My All-Time Favorite Vandy Classes
I chose to study in the United States and not in my home country, India, because I wanted to pursue a liberal arts education. Now that I am graduating in a few short weeks, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my Vanderbilt journey, and I’m very happy to say that I have accomplished my goal of taking classes in multiple subjects. Vanderbilt’s liberal arts curriculum, AXLE, and the College Scholars program have been instrumental in helping me learn about a wide range of subjects and issues. But some courses continue to make an impact in my life long after they have ended. From improving my writing skills to helping me become a better critical thinker, these are the classes that are my all-time Vandy favorites:
- World War 2 (HIST 2720): Professor Bess is one of the best professors I’ve had the pleasure of learning from, and his WWII course is number one on my otherwise unranked list. This class helped me learn about not just military strategies but also the moral intricacies of the war. Professor Bess also challenges his students to get out of their comfort zones and examine multiple sides of the same (and controversial) issue. Through this class, I also got to interview Professor Bell, who was just a little boy during WWII, and interviewing him has been one of the highlights of my Vanderbilt experience. Professor Bess is one of the smartest and most passionate lecturers, and even if you’re not a History major, I highly recommend taking ANY class with him!
- Construction of Reality (HONS 1850W): This honors seminar is a very close second to WWII. Professor Blake is one of the kindest and most open-minded professors I’ve met, and he is amazing at guiding discussions and encouraging students to explore complex issues by stepping into other people’s shoes. This class helped me examine topics such as the existence of free will (no, it doesn’t really exist in the purest sense IMHO), of God (I argued yes), and the Matrix (I argued yes again). I also got to interview a close friend of mine who has different beliefs than I do to learn about other people’s different constructions of reality. For a fun final project, I presented my research on magic and tricks of the mind to show how reality can be manipulated. Multiple Harry Potter GIFs were used, I promise.
- The New Negro (HONS 1840W): This is another honors seminar that I really enjoyed. I didn’t know much about racial issues in America, and I realized that I needed a more academic background to critically think about race in America apart from media narratives. So I took this class with Professor Briggs, whose interests include the Harlem Renaissance. This class helped me dig deep into America’s racial past through the literary works of Sutton Griggs and Nella Larsen among others. Professor Briggs also helped me improve my writing skills with his frequent writing workshops and reviews. Professor Briggs offers a non-honors English class which mirrors this honors seminar. I recommend taking Professor Briggs even if you’re not an English major!
- Principles of Economics (ECON 1010/1020): I took this sequence of classes with Professor Buckles. I came to Vandy with some prior knowledge of Economics, but these classes helped me dive deeper into the study of introductory concepts. While these classes were not the easy-As I was expecting, they helped me become a more meticulous student of Economics. Professor Buckles is one of the most famous lecturers on campus and deservedly so. He often uses engaging techniques in class to demonstrate economic concepts, including magic tricks! He also makes sure to connect his classes to current economic and public policy issues. Professor Buckles is a fantastic mentor (he spent all of last year helping me with graduate school applications), and he is the Vandy professor I’m going to miss the most.
- Health Care Policy (ECON 2350): This class is perfect if you want to learn about important economic issues in healthcare policy. With so much political rhetoric in the media about healthcare, I realized that I needed a more rigorous education in healthcare economics. This class is a gentle introduction to complex issues in the American healthcare system. Professor Rennhoff, who teaches this course, made this 8 a.m. class something I looked forward to even during brutal winter mornings! If you’re looking for a lower-level and not-so intimidating Econ elective, THIS is the class to take.
- Introduction to Econometrics (ECON 3050): This class introduced me to more rigorous research tools in Economics, more specifically regression and Python. Econometrics wasn’t a “fun” class, but it helped me develop quantitative skills no Economics major should graduate without — this is why it is one of my favorite classes. The tools I picked up from this class and from Professor Sahakyan have helped me in my other Economics and Finance classes, so it’s definitely proved useful long after it ended!
- Financial Management (FNEC 3705): This is another one of those classes that aren’t fun in the traditional sense, but Financial Management is the most useful undergraduate business/finance class by far. This class helped me develop better Excel skills, and I finally learned how to do financial modeling. Professor Kimball, who teaches this course, is probably the smartest person I know in finance. He also goes above and beyond to help his students. If you’re serious about a career in business, this is one class you should absolutely take.
- The 19th Century Criminal (HONS 1810W): This is the class that taught me how to write college-level research papers. Professor Teukolsky helped me develop better writing skills by posting detailed writing guides, and I refer to them even today. As for the actual class, I had the opportunity of studying Victorian classics such as Oliver Twist, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m a big fan of British literature, so this was the perfect course for me. Professor Teukolsky also offers non-honors classes that cover similar topics, so if you want to take an English class, Professor Teukolsky comes highly recommended!
- Science Fiction (HONS 1820W): I took this class with Professor Clayton and Professor Scherrer, the only class I’ve taken that has been taught by two professors! Professor Clayton’s knowledge of English perfectly complemented Professor Scherrer’s expertise in Physics in this science fiction class. While we read classic sci-fi tales, we also looked at contemporary sci-fi works like The Martian and Ex Machina. It was so much fun learning about the traditions as well as new developments in the science fiction genre!
- Introduction to American Government (PSCI 1100): I took this class during Fall 2016, right in the middle of the absolutely crazy and exciting election season. This class was a great introduction to the complexities of American government. I also appreciated that Professor Globetti encouraged the whole class to participate, even when some people’s political ideologies were clearly in the minority. We experienced the 2016 election together as a class, and while this was a time of heightened political discord, it was a lot of fun to learn about different perspectives about the same issue through class discussions and opinion polls.
- Public Finance (ECON 3200): I am taking this class right now. In this course, we are examining important policy programs such as tax reforms, trade agreements, the ACA, and Social Security through an economic lens. Professor So encourages students with different political views to discuss and debate the intricacies of public policy reforms, and while I don’t always agree with my classmates, I find it very refreshing to look at issues from the other side of the political spectrum. Professor So ties esoteric concepts to real-world issues, and she frequently assigns readings from both liberal (a.k.a. NYT) and conservative (a.k.a. WSJ) sources so that we get a broad range of perspectives on issues such as Medicare-for-all and the privatization of Social Security. This class has helped me a learn a lot about large-scale policies that dominate the news, and if you’re the kind of person who likes the practical side of Economics more than the theoretical, this is the class for you.
There are many more classes that I’ve enjoyed taking — and some that I wouldn’t take again (!) — but these are my all-time favorites. If you have any questions about these courses, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com!