Top 3 Classes I've Taken Outside of My Majors

One of my favourite aspects of my Penn education is the fact that I have essentially free reign to take any classes that catch my eye, provided it fits into my schedule. As a senior, I've accumulated some pretty interesting classes under my belt as I made the best out of the vast and varied academic offerings at Penn. I am an International Relations and Economics double major with a minor in English.

1. Freud (GRMN253), taught by Liliane Weissenberg

Many people write off Freud for being essentially, a hack of a scientist. This class instead examines the life, cultural influences and societal impact of Sigmund Freud. This was one of the first classes where I was consistently engaged in lecture and recitation, delving into not only the cultural phenomenon that was fin-de-siècle Vienna but the philosophies of Freud and his contemporaries. Liliane Weissenberg made the most esoteric of concepts accessible with a dry sense of humour. I left the class with not only a deeper appreciation for Sigmund Freud and his works, but a greater understanding of European history and psychoanalysis today.

2. Information Strategies and Economics (OPIM469), taught by Lorin Hitt

Despite not being in Wharton, I was able to register for this Operations Management class because of Penn's One School policy, which took down many of the bureaucratic red tape surrounding taking classes outside of your school. Despite the seemingly dry name, this class explored how digital goods (like digital songs, e-books, and streaming) changes the way businesses are fundamentally run (think about how the rise of Uber and Lyft displaced traditional taxis) and how we use economics to price and regulate these information goods. Lorin Hitt is at the top of his field and his work as a private consultant for some of the biggest companies in the world meant that every lecture was filled with relevant cases he's worked on before. This was one of the classes that I saw myself applying the most concepts from in everyday life. 

3. Ancient Roman History (ANCH027), taught by Julia Wilker

I had always been a classics buff and I was very excited in my freshman year spring semester to immerse myself in Roman history. This class spanned the entirety of Roman history, from the myth of Remus and Romulus to the rise and fall of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. This was another class in which the lectures and recitations complemented each other very nicely. I would learn about how Romans borrowed many parts of their culture from the Etruscans and then hear my super cool teaching assistant tell me about how she excavated an Etruscan village in Italy years prior in recitation. I loved classes like this one because you were able to be fully immersed in a topic that you have never delved into before and emerge at the end of a semester with your brain full of new information. Taking this class actually prepared me very well for future political science classes that cited various Roman wars and political thought. 

-Ber Ber X. '16


How to burst the "Penn Bubble": Courses that Take You Beyond the Classroom

Before coming to Penn, I was excited to take advantage of its "campus within a big city". I wanted to see the PMA, watch Broadway shows at the Kimmel Center, enjoy the perks of Restaurant Week, and frequent Phillies and Eagles games.

However, upon arrival, I was instantaneously swept up into the maelstrom that is NSO and the piece of jargon known by Quakers as the "Penn Bubble". But perhaps more importantly, I soon came to appreciate the classes that transported us outside of the classroom and into the wilderness city. Often times, I've found that in such classes, I've learned more than a textbook or a slideshow could ever teach me (and far more interestingly at that), and I've been able to explore and appreciate the city better. My favorite Penn-bubble-bursting classes? I’ve described a few of them below:

ENGL 157 -- Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing About Food with Rick Nichols

A class that not only teaches how to think and write critically, but how to think and write critically about food (...and the people, the trends, and the experiences, of course). Frequent field trips took us to restaurants around town, where we could profile famous chefs or prominent members of the Philadelphia food scene and hang out with them for a day before writing a piece on them for a final project. Not only a nice break from Penn, but also a nice break from Penn dining halls!

ARTH 106 -- Architect and History with Professor Haselberger

What better way to learn about architecture than to walk in the shadows of one of America's most culturally diverse and historically rich cities? Professor Haselberger is famous for teaching this course every fall, which attracts majors and non-majors alike. Almost every Friday afternoon, we would take the SEPTA into the city proper and look at a different building inspired by whatever time period we had been looking at earlier that week—Greek, Post-modern, Rococo, etc. A bonus? I learned how to better navigate the city for outings to come.

FNAR 222/URBS 322 -- Big Pictures: Mural Arts with Shira Walinsky and Jane Golden

This class is taught by two wonderful women—Shira Walinksy and Jane Golden, the founder of the prolific Mural Arts program that has created thousands of murals all around Philadelphia and given employment opportunities to hundreds of inmates of Graterford Prison. It’s a community-service based course in which you learn about the ways in which public art shapes the socio-economic development of an area and changes the people who inhabit it. The final project involved creating a mural with a community that was eventually installed at a school in West Philadelphia—an unconventional solution to a common problem.

The Penn bubble is, in my opinion, absolutely real. We get sucked into our textbooks and laptops and papers. And while the resources that we have here on campus are beyond wonderful, sometimes you really cannot beat learning from the real thing. There’s so much of Philadelphia to be explored, and luckily Penn provides the courses to do so.

-Helen Nie (C’18)