I hope you all are doing well! Now that the fall semester comes to a close, I reflect on my experience with classes and the open curriculum. The open curriculum means that Amherst College has no required or core classes. Essentially, if you wish to never take math again, you truly never have to! If you always wanted to take in a class in geology but you also want to maintain mostly humanities based classes, you can do this! The open curriculum truly has the most flexibility imaginable. As someone who did not arrive at Amherst with a specific major in mind, the open curriculum truly helped me explore so much already! Personally, I do not like stem classes, so I was happy that I could completely drop math!
As someone looking into a field concerning human rights, I wondered how I could start taking classes surrounding that career path. The broad subject of human rights can practically mean anything, I know! Yet, I feel as though my classes have allowed me to comprehend that topic a little better, and taking a look at my classes and schedule this past semester may help you see the uniqueness of Amherst's academics, too.
Note: For each class and major, I include links to each class description that includes its professor, level, etc. You can also view the Course Catalog online.
1. Law and Disorder
In the Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought (LJST) major, the class Law and Disorder straightforwardly centers its material around its title. In this class, we explore the relationship between law, culture, and order, while reading books, watching films, and viewing documentaries that revolve around the complexity of law within different types of society.
Located in the Cole Assembly Room of Converse Hall, this class relies on deep discussions surrouding our readings. The professor always welcomes student's commentaries, thought-provoking questions, and I love how easily I can book an appointment to meet with her during office hours. Professors at Amherst offer many times to meet with them outside of class, and it makes it so easy to ask questions and get a better grasp of the material.
2. Global Valley
This class almost spends an equal amount of time outside of the classroom as it does within our room in Chapin Hall. Focusing on the history surrounding the town of Amherst and its surrouding cities, Global Valley, a class within the American Studies major, often takes field trips both in and outside of class to see the places, people, and historical sites we study.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this class revolves around the fact that we often meet the authors we read from! For example, we read Spider in a Tree by Susan Stinson, who then came to talk to us more about her vision surrounding the book and to answer our questions! Furthermore, we often read research done by our very own professors here at Amherst. It blows my mind how incredibly priviledged I am to meet with the people who compose the material we read in class. Amazing!
3. Owning the Bilingual Self
As someone who grew up biculturally in a Latinx and American household, I spoke English and Spanish at home and still continue to do so. Some of my family members speak both languages, while some only speak one. Thus, I have always felt intertwined between my Latinx, specifically Dominican and Colombian culture, and my American identity, often causing me confusion as to what racial and cultural identity I fully embody. This class has helped me unravel what it means to speak two languages in this country and the complexities of being bilingual, although it does have its advantages, as well.
Conducted in only Spanish, Owning the Bilingual Self has not only improved my Spanish and expanded its vocabulary within the academic realm but it has also allowed me to come to peace with my bicultural identity. Whereas I felt obliged to pick one or other, I see how my English and Speak can coexist, even within my everday conversations.
4. Keywords in American Culture
The college requires each freshman to take a First Year Seminar, a class comprised only of freshman and centers around writing in some variation. Freshman pick this seminar over the summer, and these seminars range in all different subjects, from English to understanding language, to even one purely about olive oil! My Keywords in American Culture seminar practically epitomizes what I hope to study here at Amherst. We talk about keywords, such as guns, LGBTQIA+, race, prisons, etc. within the United States history, and read interesting books and discuss them. I love the books we read for this class! Check them out right now!
At the very end of the semester, the members of the class present research surrouding one keyword within American history. I currently work with two other group members; we research various topics surrouding the word citizenship. Although this research will not be published, in the sense that this research is merely for class, we get to investigate and consult primary sources, such as the Amherst Achives located in Frost Library, which truly makes me feel like such an official researcher. Although it admittedly brings a rather large workload, I feel excited and optimistic about this project!
I hope this post gave you some background and a glimpse of the Open Curriculum and Amherst's amazing academics and professors. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! My email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week!
Pictures, top to bottom: my fall 2019 schedule, a view from Memorial Hill, one of my Global Valley fieldtrips to Mount Sugarloaf, and me studying at Amherst Coffee!
November 25th, 2019