Alyssa Slovin ’22 is an English and marketing double major. Besides her work at The Flat Hat as Opinions Editor and Flat Hat Magazine as Editor-in-Chief, she is involved in The Gallery. Email Alyssa at email@example.com.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own
As a senior here at the College of William and Mary, tomorrow marks my final First Day of Classes, and the idea of that is both terrifying and exciting. Over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed my classes. I’ve had the opportunity to explore new topics with the general education requirements, as well as delve deeper into my special interests through classes in my majors, marketing and English. While I’m in a reflective mood, I wanted to use this time to recommend five different classes, on varying topics, that anyone can take here at the College, whether it’s to fill a requirement or to try something new.
My first recommendation is New Religious Movements in America, and my professor was Dr. Annie Blazer. I chose to take this class for a few reasons, and admittedly, a strong factor in that decision was that it qualified as a COLL 300, so it was the perfect way for me to knock out that requirement. However, I did not just blindly pick a class to fulfill my COLL 300. I wanted to take a Religious Studies class at some point during my time at the College, and this was the perfect class with which I could start because the COLL 300 notation implied that most of the students would be non-Religious Studies majors, and it was a way to get around taking an “Intro to” class as my first instead. In this class, we discussed new religious movements such as Heaven’s Gate, Mormonism and Nation of Islam, religions outsiders often deem “cults,” but we had the opportunity to learn an unbiased history of each religion from multiple sources in order to understand their motives, their beliefs, and what went wrong. Dr. Blazer made the information digestible, and group discussions allowed us to talk through our questions in a judgment-free zone. Although the class was on Zoom when I took it, it’s normally in the Christopher Wren Building, which I know is on so many students’ bucket list.
Next on my list was a dance class I took freshman year, Modern I, with Professor Janelle Smith-Ings. I danced for 15 years before college, but there is no experience required to take any entry-level dance classes. If you do have experience, you can try out to place into a higher level class, but I wanted to avoid a potentially stressful audition process and just enjoy the dance experience. This class was a great source of exercise and creativity with choreography projects, but it was also just hilarious. I think of it like a gym class in high school. Gym was a time when students who would never usually have classes together would be paired up for the first time, and the combined energy is always somehow harmonious and chaotic at once. This class was exactly the same. My class had frat guys, gymnasts, freshmen, upperclassmen, typical nerds, obvious dancers and the people who clearly only took the class to fulfill their Arts Requirement. Watching us all perform the sequences across the floor was oddly wholesome, and I miss the ragtag group. Besides the choreography projects, we were mostly graded on our progress throughout the class, so as long as you improve in some way, you’ll probably do well.
Do you hate Shakespeare? I thought I did until I took Shakespeare’s Late Plays with Dr. Alicia Andrzejewski in my sophomore year, completely skipping the Intro to Shakespeare class (I’m sensing a theme here). So many people told me that I couldn’t be an English major and not enjoy Shakespeare, so in an attempt to redeem my high school experiences, I took a shot on this class. Dr. A’s passion for the plays as well as the engagement from every student actually made me start to realize what was so universally appealing about Shakespeare. Pro tip: if you’re having trouble following the plot, which I often did, either read a short summary before each act so you know what plot points to look out for while reading, or follow along with a recorded stage version of the play while reading. As basically a Shakespeare novice compared to many of the other students in the class, I was still able to succeed in this class, and you totally can, too. It will take some extra time reading and writing in preparation for class, but it’s worth it.
Okay, first I talked up Shakespeare, and now I’m about to do the unthinkable: recommend you take a class called Legal Environment of Business with Professor Iria Giuffrida. Me-from-six-months-ago does not even recognize myself, considering how much I was dreading taking this class, but it’s required for all business majors, so I had to do it. Despite daunting readings and concepts about which I knew nothing, I was able to learn and grow so much after taking this class. The textbook and Professor Giuffrida both make something as complex as our legal system digestible and entertaining. If you are planning on going to law school, I definitely recommend this course because it’s an introduction to so many different concepts that you will cover in more depth later, so you might as well know a little bit about them beforehand. And even if you’re not going to law school, like me, this information will likely come in handy either in your career or in your daily life. While studying and reading take a considerable amount of time, the workload is spread out well and manageable alongside other demanding courses. This course is major restricted for the first week of registration, and considering that it’s required for business majors, I’m not sure how many open seats there are for other students, but it’s definitely something worth looking into.
Finally, I want to recommend African-American Women Writers with Professor Suzette Spencer. The class is cross-listed with Africana Studies, English and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, so it covers a lot of bases. This class is heavily discussion-based, which I always really enjoy because each student contributes something unique to the class discussion. We read authors from Bell Hooks to Toni Morrison to Audre Lorde to Harriet A. Jacobs and several others across a few different genres. Another unique aspect about this class was that our writing assignments for our midterm and final were not traditional essays, but instead a series of 10 general questions each on five readings of our choosing, which makes the writing assignments feel like a discussion itself. They are more casual than an essay, no fluff, purely content and analysis, which I found really helpful in getting to the “so what” of my writing. Also, Professor Spencer bans the word “interesting” in class and in writing because she wants to know why something is interesting instead of just the fact that it is, which can be challenging at first, but makes everyone stronger writers and speakers. This class definitely requires a time investment, but it’s an important class in terms of content and writing skills. Especially now as Glenn Youngkin is challenging and erasing the critical race curriculum in Virginia, you will learn so much pivotal information in this class.
I hope you look into some of these classes in your future studies here at the College, and if you end up taking any of them, feel free to reach out to let me know what you thought of them afterwards.