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Davis, California

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Five courses to add to a Winter Quarter schedule

Through these classes, students can gain knowledge on current political and environmental issues

2020 has been a year full of calls for social change including more holistic education, such as ethnic studies. With Winter Quarter pass times coming out, students have the opportunity to sign up for a class that could provide valuable social knowledge, not just textbook knowledge. As students undoubtedly scramble to find that extra general education class for their schedule or meet their unit cap, here are five courses taught by professors that aim to teach lessons that go far beyond the classroom. 

ESP 10: Current Climate Issues

ESP 10 is a course offered yearly at UC Davis that teaches the science of the climate issues we are facing as a nation and a world today. Professor Steven Sadro, who will be teaching the course, said that it always covers climate change, but the students also have a say in what topics they are most interested in. Issues he foresees covering this year are forest management and wildfires, agricultural issues and waste generation. 

“In that sense I think there’s an immense value in taking the course because we deal with a lot of issues that are very topical to people, whether you’re just a citizen of California, or a citizen of the world,” Sadro said. 

POL 163: Group Politics

Professor Rachel Bernhard, who teaches this class, explained that she uses the frame of group politics to focus on identity and discrimination within groups in society. 

“We’ll be thinking about different kinds of groups, both historical and modern, in the US, and how both that group’s sense of themselves […] has evolved over time and also how those groups have been marginalized and countered that marginalization in politics over time,” Bernhard said. 

She expects to focus specifically on racial and ethnic groups, sexual orientation and religious identity. She also teaches a separate course on women in politics (POL166), generally available in the fall. 

“[The class is] a forum to educate ourselves and to have a space to learn and talk about it that is not just the social media sphere, nor is it just a history class that’s in the past and doesn’t really connect to what’s going on right now,” Bernhard said.

WMS 50: Introduction to Gender Studies

This course is a lower division class that focuses on feminist and LGBTQ history and activism, as well as all of the ways that these topics intersect. Isabel Alvarez, a fourth-year art history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies double major, recalled thinking that this was a course that students in many different majors would benefit from. 

“I remember being in the class and thinking that students who are pre-med should take classes on gender studies and race studies because a lot of STEM majors are not required to take classes that look at how what they study is influenced by things like racism and patriarchy,” Alvarez said. 

Alvarez also believes that this course provides important baseline education for students socially, apart from their degrees.

“For folks who are not marginalized in certain ways, it can be hard to understand why some people feel the way they feel about government policies, incarceration,” Alvarez said. “Through the readings, through the lectures, through the queer and feminist activism, [the course] helps to explain how other peoples’ lives are lived and have been lived throughout history. It makes it a little bit easier for other people to understand where people who are involved in a lot of different activism are coming from.”

ENL 165: Topics in Poetry

This Winter Quarter, the special topics in this poetry course will focus specifically on environmental poetry. This course aims to educate students about the climate crises going on in our world today through the subgenre of ecopoetics, including work by Craig Santos Perez, Rita Wong and Kathy Jitnil-Kijiner. These authors generally write about activist movements and the impact of climate change in their lives and their experience as activists. Professor Margaret Ronda, who will be teaching the course, has specialized in environmental literature, and she expressed that her choice to focus the class on the environment this year was extremely important. 

“It feels more and more urgent to talk about these issues with students and to think about the ways that […] poetry offers a means of thinking about and responding to global ecological crisis,” Ronda said. “Poetry might help us have more ethical relationships to our environments and […] a poem might actually show us something that we can’t see in a news story. So many of us are aware now of climate issues […] and yet there’s still a desire for poetry to show us something that empirical knowledge can’t provide.”

SOC 5: Global Social Change

This course, taught by Professor David McCourt, focuses on showing the connection between economics and social change over time across the world. McCourt said that throughout the course, students gain a better understanding of the “world system” and how the interaction between countries affects the patterns and pace of social change within their system. McCourt emphasized the relevance of this course for all people, not just sociology majors. 

“When it comes to engaged citizenship and just people who are trying to get a better sense of our world, I think it’s a really fantastic course because it shows you how […] you can’t just look at American politics, you have to look at the whole global system,” McCourt said. “[This course is for] anyone wanting to understand American life, American politics, American economics.”

Written by: Katie DeBenedetti — features@theaggie.org


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