Mini opinions: The best classes at UVM

November 8, 2022

Looking for a class to add to your schedule next semester? Look no further—the Cynics of opinion have you covered.

With course registration season upon us, the opinion writers wanted to share the best classes they have taken at UVM.

Izzy Pipa

Mary Kueser CDAE 113: Activist Journalism

Activist Journalism is the most hands-on, real-world experience-based class I’ve ever taken.

I went into the class not knowing what to expect—I just knew it was one of the few journalism-specific classes at UVM and therefore I was definitely going to take it. I was met with a semester of writing, interviewing, editing, workshopping and a new favorite professor.

Throughout the class, we created multimedia content that focused on social justice causes we cared about. We produced video, audio and written content as well as social media content to help spread what we made.

Professor Benjamin Dangl led us through the process of creating media that would affect change, and encouraged each and every student to use the voices we were cultivating for good.

I use skills from that class almost every day, and I am so excited to take more classes with Dangl as soon as I can.

Izzy Pipa

Grace Visco DNCE 060: Movement & Improvisation

Movement & Improv was everything I needed, exactly when I needed it. 

In this course, we learned to connect with others, be open to new perspectives, take risks and value ourselves, our bodies and our experiences. 

Improv dance requires a certain amount of vulnerability. You have to be open to connecting with other humans with your body, words and emotions. 

My class was composed of some of UVM’s greatest humans. We all walked in as strangers and left as friends. I gained an entirely new support system. Anytime I see someone from my class out and about, it is the greatest reunion. 

Every class was challenging but I always left with a smile on my face. This class taught me more than any other UVM course has. 

Throughout the semester, I watched in awe as my confidence grew and noticed myself becoming more assertive and creative. 

I learned that, sometimes, you just have to throw yourself in the middle of the dance circle with no idea of what you’re doing. You’ll figure it out along the way. 

Izzy Pipa

Petra Zucker ENGS 005: Harry Potter

If there was a spell that made everyone take this course, I would use it. 

This three-credit class, taught by professor Holly Painter, is reminiscent of a book club and is by far my favorite. 

As we read each book from the Harry Potter series, we have discussions about how certain characters are portrayed, our likes and dislikes and the book in general. The class is divided into discussion groups of about five people, and each class we split up to talk about the assigned chapters. 

Halfway through and at the end of each book, we do “Trivia Night,” where the groups work together to remember the tiniest details about the series. Additionally, after completing every two books, there is a movie night showing of one of the films. 

Not only does it fulfill the general literacy requirement for all UVM students, but it is a fun, engaging class that I would recommend to anyone.

Izzy Pipa 

Sophia Balunek HST 067/ENVS 167: Global Environmental History

This was the course that inspired my trajectory of study at UVM. 

Global Environmental History takes a historical approach, starting from the origin of Homo sapiens and exploring the ways human societies have always impacted environments across the globe and vice versa. 

Professor Andrew Buchanan’s lectures are engaging, well-paced and have a story to each of them. The comprehensible narrative of the course filled many gaps in my understanding of human history. 

The course discusses the different ways humans have lived on this planet, including hunter-gatherer times, the creation of agriculture and the subsequent move to sedentary lifestyles, colonialism, industrialization and urbanization, and modern global capitalism. 

My entire class applauded at the end of the final lecture—it was the perfect closing to a wonderful semester. It left me with hope in the ability of our planet to recover and the role of humans in that process. 

Izzy Pipa

Olivia Langlan SOC 001: Intro to Sociology 

We need to understand the social world in order to make a change. 

Sociology, the study of how human society works, has both practical and personal uses. 

I am definitely someone who learns by example, and professor KC Williams has plenty of real-life stories that display sociology. 

The curriculum includes both modern-day events and deeply-rooted history in the subjects of race, gender, family and inequality. It looks at the social world from both a small-scale, more individual perspective, and a global one. 

In addition to the curriculum, class time is full of life stories—from Williams’ college years to her adorable dog Watson—and videos that depict aspects of society from all over the world, from the Black Eyed Peas to non-traditional weddings.  

Catamounts: take your requirement of Intro to Sociology with professor Williams. 

Izzy Pipa

Aditi Saleh – BIOL 095: Climate Change Genetics

Previously, if I thought about climate change for more than one minute, I started to sweat. 

While this is still somewhat true, taking Climate Change Genetics has helped alleviate this stress. 

In class, we explore scientific databases and read articles that shed light on studies about genetic work, endangered animals and environmental changes.

While we learn about the prominent climate issues occurring, we also get the opportunity to explore smaller issues and discoveries that may go unnoticed.

Not only do I get to learn about a current and important issue, I get to explore the exciting subject of genetics: how animals form new traits, how an environment can alter development and how genes can be edited. 

Climate change can be a very gloomy and distressing topic to think about but this class has helped me learn about potential solutions and the science behind them. 

Izzy Pipa

Emma Dinsmore DNCE 016: Pilates

Pilates is the perfect one-credit class to end my week.

Although the class does not fulfill a requirement for me, it has become the most relaxing hour of my week and is well worth the early Friday mornings.

Each week, we do exercises that build our flexibility and strength as well as focus our minds and breathing. 

Whether we are doing a more challenging workout or relaxing with blankets doing yoga nidra, a form of guided meditation, I always leave with my mind clear and relaxed, feeling refreshed for the weekend ahead.

Pilates is designed for all ability levels, so it isn’t too difficult. Many people in the class are beginners.

Plus, the lack of homework is an added bonus. It’s really just a weekly workout class included in your tuition.

Pilates is the ultimate stress-relieving class for any anxious college student.

Izzy Pipa

Christophe Meunier PHIL 196: Social and Political Philosophy

For me, the best class at UVM is literally any class with professor Don Loeb, but to be more specific, I’ll pick my favorite class he teaches.

As a person studying political science and philosophy, this class was, by definition, the most topical course I could possibly ever take.

The aesthetic vibes were immaculate, meeting on the outskirts of campus in the philosophy department building on South Williams Street instead of in a traditional classroom, giving it a cool off-campus and distinguished feel.

The class is structured into three main units, each covering a different philosopher’s take on what the ideal system of political structure looks like.

From Thomas Hobbes to John Locke to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, there is never a dull moment of learning. Loeb’s many interesting personal anecdotes add the cherry on top to an overall great course.

If you study philosophy, or find the subject interesting, PHIL 196 is a must-take.

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