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Staff Picks: Classes Seniors Recommend Most

As this very weird and challenging school year winds down (remotely, of course), underclassmen are busy making their schedules for next semester, while seniors struggle to accept the harsh reality that there is no “next semester” for them.

Because they’re always a welcome resource for advices to our younger members, some of our senior staffers took some time to look back on their last four years and what classes had the biggest impacts on them. Some recalled courses within their major that helped solidify their career plans, while others noted gen eds that turned out being so much more than fulfilled requirements.

Here are the classes they’re most glad they took and recommend to anyone lucky enough to have more time left at Penn State.

Anthony Colucci: GEOG 20

I took GEOG 20, Intro to Human Geography, during my first semester, and four years later, it remains my favorite class of college. Roger Downs is unlike any other professor I’ve met, and his passion for geography (Trust me on this) conveyed how important all these seemingly mundane topics truly are.

When I took GEOG 20, each lecture covered a different issue and ranged from how maps could be designed strategically to how garbage is disposed to how the postal system operates. The assignments were even more intriguing. They were all open-ended and challenged me to think in ways I never had before coming to college. Two of my favorites included creating a map of State College based on a sense other than vision and charting the spread of cholera in different eras and explaining its diffusion and what may’ve caused it (I can’t tell you how often I’ve thought of this assignment during the last month.).

Unfortunately, after taking this class, I assumed every semester of college would be equally eye-opening. That wasn’t the case. However, GEOG 20 was the perfect way for me to start college and learn to do so much more than memorize information for exams. I think that’s one of the most valuable lessons you can learn as a freshman, so take this class if you’re up for the challenge to get out of your comfort zone academically and see how far your curiosity goes.

Mitch Stewart: SOC 119

Both SOC 119 and BiSci 3 always get a lot of love at Penn State as interesting classes to take, but I took this famous sociology course during the first semester of my freshman year. Coming from a smaller area in southwestern Virginia, I can’t begin to explain how big of a culture shock I received by taking this class and actively participating in the small group conversations each week.

Sam Richards always has something up his sleeve to surprise you and keep all of the students on their toes with each class, and it’s probably the only class outside of my major courses that I ever genuinely looked forward to attending. I would definitely recommend other Penn Staters to find out more about SOC 119 or BiSci 3, and to seriously commit to entering the class with an open-mind.

Emma Dieter: Literally Any Philosophy Class

I didn’t find philosophy until the end of my junior year when I took a course that was a minor requirement. The class itself was PHIL 119, and it was a perfect introduction to philosophy. We covered all of the basics from Plato to Nietzche. I’ve always liked reading, but I didn’t realize how much I would like conceptualizing those readings in a way that was beyond myself. Since then, I’ve tried to incorporate a philosophy class into at least one of my courses each semester. Plus, the best part is that a lot of the reading and concepts you learn about in philosophy translate to other classes as well. It’s the best of all worlds.

Matt Ogden: THEA 102

THEA 102 is an intro to acting class for non-acting majors that I took last spring to satisfy my GA requirement. You don’t need any acting or theater experience whatsoever in order to learn from and enjoy this class. In this class, you will learn a ton of basing acting principles as well as a lot of fun improv and practice exercises. The final project usually consists of re-enacting any scene from a movie or TV show that your heart desires.

I had this class in the middle of the day during a semester where I had a very busy Tuesday/Thursday schedule. For me, it was a much needed change of pace to my hectic day.

Jim Davidson: ENGL 50

I took ENGL 50, an introductory creative writing course, as a first-semester freshman. Learning to share writing that was more personal than an analytical essay or a news story was difficult for me at first, but my professor made our class a welcoming place to share ideas and feedback. We read poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction and discussed what we’d read before going off to write our own pieces. It felt good to use writing as a way to process my own thoughts, especially as a new college student, and I’ve often put the techniques I learned to use throughout my time at Penn State. ENGL 50 was an excellent relaxed, first-semester class that I’d recommend to anyone looking to learn a uniquely useful and enjoyable skill.

Andy Mollenauer: COMM 462

COMM 462, Feature Writing, is my favorite class by far that I’ve taken at Penn State. This class helped me discover what I believe to be my calling and my talent as a journalist, and my professor, Russ Eshleman, is the best Comm professor I’ve had at Penn State. This class teaches you the art of journalistic storytelling, and I think it is a great choice for anyone who is interested in journalism or simply becoming a sharper writer. I definitely recommend that all Comm majors take this class.

Mikey Mandarino: COMM 476

I waited until my last semester as a student to take it, but COMM 476 is just an awesome class offered at Penn State. It’s Sports Writing with John Affleck, and you learn the basics and fundamentals of reporting on sports. Although in-person classes were cut short for this semester’s class, we still got a half-semester’s worth of awesome experiences.

The semester begins with the COMM 476 Open — an institution as sacred as the Rose Bowl that doubles as a day out at the bowling alley for the entire class. We also got to cover Penn State sporting events like basketball games in the class, which is insanely cool and unbelievably valuable for somebody who might not work for a student media outlet. If you’re studying journalism at Penn State, I’d highly recommend taking COMM 476 — even if you aren’t interested in sports. As Affleck said at the start of the semester, knowing how to write about sports sets you up to know how to write literally anything. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

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