Berkeley Connect Sociology students reflect on best classes and best practices

“The goal for today is to think about classes and teaching styles you’ve enjoyed in the past,” Berkeley Connect Sociology mentor Angela Fillingim said as students settled in for their small-group meeting. “It doesn’t have to be a class at Berkeley! But hopefully, through this discussion, we can start exploring how to find great classes and resources here on campus.”

Lively conversations quickly broke out, as small groups of students explored both the best classes they’ve taken and what made them special. When the full group came back together, students found they had some common ground as well as some very different opinions.

For some, their favorite class had a personal connection. “I really enjoyed my Modern Latin American History class because I got to learn about where my mother is from,” one student said. But she also noted that not every class that was personally interesting turned out to be great. “The professor was also really engaging. I’ve taken classes in the past where I was really interested in the subject, but it turned out to be incredibly dull.”

For other students, the accessibility of the professor was most important. One student noted that he particularly enjoyed his English class because of that. “I second that,” another student said. “The support of the professor is really important, especially since it’s so hard to find at such a large university. It’s something I found much more in my community college.” Another added, “I find that lecturers are much more accessible. I have the same kind of relationship with lecturers as I did with my community college professors.”

“It also has a lot to do with size,” one student said. “I took one class that had a hundred people with a professor, and it was okay. But then I took another class with just eighteen people with the same professor, and it became my favorite class. She didn’t change, but I was able to know her much better.”

Angela then asked students which professors were most clear about their expectations and coursework. “Social scientists don’t just give answers, and that can be a hard part of a class–figuring out what’s being asked of you,” Angela said. Lecturer Sonja Ivester came to mind immediately for one student. Professor Cybelle Fox was also named. “She’s incredible. You know exactly what’s going to happen, and the lectures are very clear.”

Finally, the must-take courses and professors? Students say Professor Hatem Bazian (Near Eastern Studies). “Any class you can take with him, you should,” one student said. “He has all the qualities we’ve been talking about.” Other students named Professors Robert Reich (Public Policy), Darren Zook (Political Science), Andrew Barlow (Sociology), and Khalid Kadir (Engineering).

As the class wound down, students started sharing advice to each other. “Has anyone taken this professor?,” one student called out. “What should I expect?” A classmate responded, “She’s great, but she has very high expectations. It makes you grow. Also, she doesn’t like quotes, so try not to use them in your writing.”

“That’s exactly what this class discussion is for,” Angela noted as students continued to swap stories. The student agreed. “There were some bad reviews of the professor online, but others spoke highly of her,” she noted. “That was really helpful!”


posted by Katherine Wang
Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant