Throughout the application process, I get a lot of questions from prospective students wondering what it is like to take classes at Amherst. As a rising senior, I’ve had the pleasure of taking classes in various departments with amazing professors.
Math - While I’ve only taken two classes in the math department, as part of my pre-medical requirements, those that I did take were incredibly memorable. The first class I took was with a first-time Amherst professor, and his love for teaching was very apparent. His enthusiasm helped me feel both welcome in the classroom and ready to learn. As a first year student, taking a math class with a lot of unfamiliar faces was a little frightening, but Professor Alvarado did an amazing job of teaching the material and creating community. Our classes were mostly held in the Science Center, which was just opened for classes that semester, but his office hours were in the Seeley Mudd (SMUDD). I would frequent his office hours to go over the homework, clarify any questions that I had about the material that was covered in lecture, and just talk about our experiences so far at Amherst and the path I was hoping to take. His genuine desire to help made me *almost* pursue a major in Math, but more than anything I realized that Amherst was the right fit for me.
Chemistry - This is probably the department that I’ve had the bulk of my experience with, since I am on the Pre-Medical Track. The first Chemistry class I took here was with Professor Marshall. The class was designed to acclimate students to the pace of college level STEM courses, and Professor Marshall did a wonderful job of getting me ready for what would lie ahead. I also worked with Dr. Ampiah-Bonney, who would provide help to an intensive section designed to help students work through problem sets and prepare for exams with a professor. As part of most STEM lab courses, there is a discussion component where we review problem sets for the lectures covered in a given week. This is a time designed to work out questions in a smaller setting, with a professor and teaching assistant. Lab was by far my favorite part of class, as we were able to work through cool experiments and apply the material that we covered in lectures to the real world.
Books on the Brain - First Year Seminar - My first year seminar (FYS) was focused on synthesizing and discussing neuroscience and psychology research. During class we would talk about the articles that we had been assigned and we would also think about research we were interested in researching.
My FYS professor emphasized making use of office hours to discuss any confusing concepts, since most of us had never really read research papers of this level before. Additionally, we were encouraged to visit the writing center to think about our writing process so that we could approach our assignments properly and efficiently.
At the end of the semester we had to give a presentation to the whole class about a particular piece of research. This was probably the most daunting part of the entire course, but our professor made sure to bring in a public speaking coach to help us approach this assignment better. The public speaking coach actually works with thesis students that present their thesis and compete in the “three minute thesis” competition, so the advice we were given was incredibly helpful in my approach to presenting.
Luckily my professor was also my advisor, so this class was an incredible opportunity to get to know my advisor better and form a better understanding of what I was looking for as a student here.
Sociology - The sociology class that I took my second semester of my first year was one of the most influential classes I have taken here. The class focused upon the Childhoods and the different stories that people carry with them throughout their life. During class we discussed readings, such as Anthony Jack’s “The Privileged Poor,” which examined the influence of private school education in exacerbating inequality amongst underrepresented groups attending elite schools across the country. His book, our discussion in class, and beyond helped shape my understanding of the experiences that I’ve had as a student both at Amherst and before.
At the end of the semester we wrote a final paper where I interviewed my dad and wrote a little about his life. The paper was incredibly daunting, as it touched sensitive topics, but with the guidance of my professor I gained a deeper sociological understanding of the stories that we read and the stories that I aimed to portray.
My experience with this class ultimately influenced my path at Amherst, both in the classroom and beyond, and is part of the reason I took another sociology class in the January Term earlier this year.