Getting the Most out of Gen-Eds
Biological Sciences Senior
As a student in science, choosing gen-eds can be a risky business. On top of dense textbook readings, never-ending practice problems to tackle, and lengthy lab reports, no one is looking to spend their free time stressing over gen-ed classes. However, gen-ed courses can often turn into some of the best classes you will take at Pitt! And what’s better? If you choose wisely, you can maximize the reward you get from a course while still directing most of your focus on your science courses.
The obvious advice I can give with regard to choosing gen-eds is to choose something that interests you! However, if you are really stumped as to what to take, look no further! These are some of the best courses that I and other friends have taken to fulfill gen-eds.
Course: ENGLIT 0310: The Dramatic Imagination
Instructor: Dr. Curtis Breight
Gen-eds: BOTH Literature (LIT) and Writing-Intensive (W)
The dreaded W requirement. I think I speak for many in saying that very few people are thrilled about taking a W course. Any W course is going to require a substantial amount of work, however, the Dramatic Imagination was a very painless way to check off this requirement! Every instructor likely has a slightly different take on the course, however, I really enjoyed this course with Dr. Breight. The class consisted of reading five total plays: 2 Shakespearian plays, “Henry VI Parts 2 and 3”, “The Rover” by Aphra Behn, and 2 plays by Pittsburgh-native August Wilson, “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. There were three 7-page papers analyzing different aspects of plays that fulfilled the 21 page requirement for W courses.
The course was primarily discussion-based and focused on analysis of the plays. There are also classes where you watch movies which is a perk in my book! The best part about this course is the opportunity to gain an appreciation for literature from Pittsburgh. August Wilson is one of the best-known modern playwrights and, from the Hill District of Pittsburgh, sets many of his plays in Pittsburgh with a focus on life as an African American in different decades of the 1900s. Pittsburgh is rich with culture and history and the opportunity to see some of that history in this course can embellish your education in the city!
Course: HPS 0613: Morality and Medicine
Instructor: Haixin Dang
Gen-Ed: Philosophy (PH)
This course has been one of the most interesting and thought-provoking classes I have taken at Pitt, possibly my favorite ever! This course draws many students interested in medicine and focuses primarily on bioethical arguments in medicine. The course consists of one 4-page paper, a short presentation, a few short-answer quizzes, and an essay-based midterm and final. Each week a different topic in bioethics is covered and students present different ethically rich cases in each of these subjects.
The greatest part about this course is that it challenges you to form your own opinions about difficult topics. An argument for and against each bioethical concern is presented, allowing you to really analyze which aspects of an arguments you agree with and which you disagree. Additionally, the material is presented apolitically, avoiding any biases. This course is also very helpful for students planning to take the MCAT, as some of the critical reading passages on the exam focus on ethics, and having a background in general ethical frameworks can help to more thoroughly grasp the material presented in the passages. All-in-all, I highly recommend Morality and Medicine to anyone looking for a philosophy gen-ed, you won’t regret taking this course!
Bonus: this course counts as one of the requirements for the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine Certificate.
Course: PSY 0105: Social Psychology
Instructor: Edward Orehek
Gen-Ed: Social Science (SS)
Note: this class has a pre-requisite of PSY 0010: Introduction to Psychology
Social psych was another very enjoyable course! Dr. Orehek presented the material in a way that was very interesting, relevant, and made it very easy to learn. This course is the ideal gen-ed, as there is minimal assignments and work outside of class, however, the material is very interesting and even applicable! The course consisted of 3 multiple choice exams (no final!), one 1-page essay, and an optional extra credit assignment. Most of the exams were based on material covered in class - and paying attention in class was the best way to prepare!
This is another great course for students thinking about taking the MCAT, as the class introduces many of the concepts that are sure to show up on the psychology and sociology sections of the test. Even if the MCAT is not in your future, the class is still great and worth taking! You’ll learn a lot about social interactions as it pertains to learning, identity formation, prejudice, and even love and relationships. So if you’re wondering how to ask your lab partner out to dinner, this is the class for you! ;)
Course: MUSIC 1340/AFRCNA 1334: Music in Africa
Instructor: Dr. Eric Beeko
Gen-Eds: International Foreign Culture Non-Western (IFN) & IFC Regional
I have always been very involved with music, so this class was of particular interest to me as I was eager to gain exposure to non-western music through this course. More than simply music, however, this course focuses on African culture and the ways that music is engrained in their life styles. It requires NO prior background in music, so if you aren’t a piano prodigy, no worries, you are still welcome! The class consists of 1 presentation, a multiple choice midterm and final, and an 8-page final paper. Participation is also a large chunk of the grade, and you can get a lot of extra credit by participating in African drumming during class!
Dr. Beeko is very passionate about African culture and music, and his passion makes the class very engaging. Overall, the course is a great opportunity to learn something new and experience the lifestyle of another culture. This course is a great way to get a taste of Africana studies and the course counts as an elective in the Africana studies certificate. After taking this course, some students will go on to pursue this certificate which gives students the opportunity to learn an African foreign language and even study abroad in Ghana, Tanzania, or South Africa! You can learn more about this certificate here.
Check back next semester for more gen-ed recommendations in our blog, or stop by the bio peer advising office hours for questions about scheduling gen-eds that can maximize your experience at Pitt and minimize your workload!
You can check if a course satisfies a specific gen-ed on the Course Descriptions page!
There are (slightly) new gen-ed requirements for students starting Fall 2018 or after – check here.
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