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Staff Picks: The Best Penn State Gen Eds We Actually Enjoyed

No matter what you study at Penn State, you’re literally required to branch out and take some general education classes on the way to your degree.

Luckily, Penn State offers hundreds and hundreds of gen eds to satisfy your requirements. Before enrolling, though, the course catalog can appear overwhelming. On one hand, you’re probably searching for an easy A to lighten your course load. On the other, you’d likely want to pick a class that’s fun, or maybe one you’ll actually learn a thing or two with.

To ease your scheduling dilemmas, our staffers reflected on some of their favorite gen eds that they actually enjoyed.

Frankie Marzano: KINES 29B

If you want to take a fun GHW class, take this class. For the first half of the fall semester (or the second half of spring), you get to play golf and get three credits for it. Tuesdays are days on the course, and you play nine holes on the Penn State Blue or White courses. On Thursdays, the professors of the class, who are the director of golf and head PGA pro at the Penn State courses, help you with your swing as you focus on a different area of your game every week. The best part is that it’s open to golfers of all skill levels. If you like golf or want to start playing, this is the course for you.

Alex Pepe: ASTRO 7N

Out of all the gen eds I’ve taken, Astro 7N is easily the best. It’s a web class where you pretty much just play a video game on your computer. It is a cool course that’s much different than any other class I’ve taken. There are one or two projects a semester, but they are really easy and honestly kind of fun. It is also an interdomain course, so it could fill either a GA or GN spot on your schedule.

Annie Kubiak: THEA 112

I am currently taking THEA 112, and it is by far the best gen ed I have taken so far. THEA 112 goes over the history of musical theatre, and you learn about a bunch of shows from throughout the years, including “Oklahoma” and “Rent.” I am in an online section of this class, so I just need to watch videos, take notes, and then take a quiz that is based entirely on the notes. The only due date is the end of the semester when you have to finish all of the quizzes, midterm, and final, so I can work entirely at my own pace. I am a huge theatre nerd, and learning about something that I love is very interesting. Even if you are not as obsessed with Broadway as I am, I highly recommend THEA 112 because it is an easy, low-stress class that will get you a GA credit.

Dana Nunemacher: BISCI 3

If you’re looking for a class that’s a nice break from your typical day, take BISCI 3. The class does not have tests or quizzes. Instead, students are expected to turn in thoughtful, well-done journal entries every two weeks. Sometimes, the class can get weird, but it really taught me to find my voice and my place in nature. I even went on to TA for the class last fall.

Michael Tauriello: AFAM 207N

While I am not completely finished with this class, it’s one I’ve really come to enjoy over the past few weeks. It’s an interdomain class that combines arts with social and behavioral sciences. It also offers a United States cultures credit. When it comes to class content, I should note that my dad knows a decent amount about jazz music, so I grew up listening to snippets of it. It’s a lot of fun to learn about musicians like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington and think about where I might’ve heard their music before.

Through the class, you also get to read and listen about the period of history that all this music was coming out and interpret the influence that the events had on the music at the time. It’s really interesting stuff! When it comes to class structure, it’s quite simple. There are weekly quizzes, a few tests, a few discussion boards, and a few papers about your interpretation of a certain list of topics. It sounds like a lot, but considering that it’s an asynchronous class, you get to work at your own pace. Dr. Stephen Hopkins, while you never may meet him in person, is also really kind. He created the class, and, seven weeks in, I’d recommend it to just about anyone.

David Beck: MUSIC 109

MUSIC 109 covers the entire existence of the Beatles and their discography. It is a really fascinating course that goes over their origin, rise to fame, and eventual breakup. If you’re a big music buff, the class also discusses the science and theory behind their music, as well as any thematic meaning behind a given song or album. It’s not a particularly difficult course, and it satisfies any GA requirements you may have.

Tobey Prime: ANTH 140

This is by far the best course I have taken at Penn State. Why? You literally spend a whole semester learning about booze. What could possibly be better than that? You also have the opportunity to learn about the origins of certain types of liquors, history, and even how to make different kinds of alcohol. Kirk French teaches this class and is just an overall great guy, so you’ll never be bored. I took this class remotely, but Kirk still recorded his lectures at a bar to add a nice online touch. So, if you need to fulfill your GS, IL, or U.S. culture credit, you won’t regret this one.

Haylee Yocum: PSYCH 100

Along with ASTRO 7N, PSYCH 100 may be one of the most generic and popular gen ed courses that Penn State students take. However, I am absolutely in love with this one. PSYCH 100 covers a little bit of every aspect of psychology, from developmental psychology to states of consciousness (think sleep or being under the influence of drugs) and everything in between. Since there are multiple professors, I can only speak for Gerace, whose class I’m in this semester. But I will say that so far, the homework has been fairly light and straightforward. Midterms come with a study guide that makes the exam incredibly simple as long as you’re thorough about completing it.

Even in Forum, my class is able to share stories and ask questions relating to the material and give it real-life application. Part of your final grade comes from participating in research studies (usually online) throughout the semester that the psychology department here at Penn State is conducting. They’re usually really simple, like answering survey-style questions or interacting with stimuli on your computer screen. Some studies are literally almost like playing a game…The easiest A you’ll ever get on an assignment. I’m not saying that PSYCH 100 is going to be a breeze, because it definitely takes a little bit of studying. But the material is interesting enough that you won’t get bored out of your mind after five minutes, which is a rare thing.

Jordan Manberger: PHIL 119

I never really thought that I would enjoy a philosophy course, but this one was awesome. While it was not that much of an overbearing class, it was one that I actually looked forward to three times a week. It really helps give you a new perspective on what is ethical and right versus wrong and how some famous philosophers sought to answer these questions. It will also always hold a special place in my heart because Antonio Brown retweeted me when I posted that I was writing my paper on ethical leadership on him for PHIL 119. Long story short, I was being sarcastic, and he took the bait. It is my finest troll job to date.

Mackenna Yount: INTAG 100

If you’re looking for a class that can cover all the bases, INTAG 100 is for you. Plus, it easily holds your interest. INTAG 100: Everyone Eats: Hunger, Food Security & Global Agriculture covers everything from food insecurity to climate change, going to the grocery store, and farming across the world. The class is web-based, so it was easy to fit in my schedule, and I could dive in whenever worked best for me. Dr. Habashy is super responsive, makes the content interesting, and cares about his students even though the class is asynchronous. I’d highly recommend this class to anyone who is interested in science, human rights, and sustainability. It covers an international credit and will count as a GS/IL interdomain.

Mira DiBattiste: SOC 119N

OK, I know that it feels like everybody at Penn State has at least heard of SOC 119N, and it’s because it really is an amazing course. Taught by Sam Richards, SOC 119N: Race Ethnicity and Culture gets students thinking about these topics in ways that most likely haven’t considered before. These are important in a time when we are striving to become a more inclusive society, and the way Richards goes about teaching ensures that students stay engaged throughout the semester.

It’s less lecture-dominant and more discussion-based, as students in a large classroom are able to voice their opinions and talk about the subject matter. Case studies using student volunteers further elaborate on the course content. This class really got me thinking about important information in a way that was fun and engaging and left me with a newfound understanding of these ideas, which is something that I feel we could all benefit from.

Nicole Oronzio: KINES 77

KINES 77: Yoga for a Lifetime was the first GHW class I’ve taken at Penn State. It satisfies 1.5 credits and took me only six weeks. It’s also an online class, and we never met on Zoom. I took the class in the summer to get it out of the way, and the assignments barely took up any time in my week. The only assignments I had to do were a weekly discussion post and a weekly journal entry. I would go to a local coffee shop once a week and finish these assignments in less than an hour. This even included the time it took me to order my coffee and find a table.

By far, this class was the easiest and most enjoyable one I’ve taken here. Kristen Boccumini was my professor, and I could tell that she actually cared about what she was teaching. She always gave thoughtful feedback on my journal entries as well. I definitely recommend taking this course in the summer if you have the time. It’s an easy way to knock out a gen ed and not need to worry about it when you’re taking a full course load in the fall and spring.

Caitlin Burns: GEOG 1N

Truthfully, I really hate science classes.

However, GEOG 1N with Smithwick was one of the best gen eds I’ve taken. She didn’t take it too seriously as some professors do, but she still cared. It was also a really interesting class about climate change and not too difficult in terms of reading amount. Plus, it had only quizzes, no exams. It had one group project about national parks that you worked on over the semester and was really easy with the number of people per group. Overall, it was interesting, relatively easy, and had a really amazing professor along with it.

Mackenzie Cullen: THEA 102

As someone who loves theatre, I’d been dying to take a theatre class during my time at Penn State. So, when I found out about THEA 102, I knew I had to take it. It’s an acting class for non-theatre majors, but you don’t need to have any previous experience in theatre. I can honestly say that it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever taken because it pushes people to get outside of their comfort zones and not take themselves too seriously. I’m also lucky that the people in my class are really into the acting exercises we do, and my professor (shoutout to Malena Ramirez) is so encouraging, which makes it more fun to have a good time. You perform a few short scenes throughout the semester and one scene from a film, TV show, or play of your choosing. As long as you’re open to putting yourself out there, it’s an amazing class to take.

Charles Reinert: CAMS 45

Listen, I’m a bit of a nerd, so taking this class was really cool. If you didn’t know, CAMS 45 is Classical Mythology, and it talks a lot about how people in the past viewed the world. But more interestingly, the class I took discussed different famous stories like Star Wars and Harry Potter and how they relate to classical mythology and the hero’s tale. It’s also a big plus that I was an avid Percy Jackson fan as a kid and loved learning about different gods and mythologies, and this class covered those topics at length.

Sydney Burns: ENT 222N

Honeybees and Humans with Dr. Patch and Dr. Grozinger made a class about bees incredibly entertaining. With field trips to the Arboretum to see the Pollinator Garden and trips to the apiary for beekeeping, I can’t imagine a better way to get my science and interdomain gen ed in. Taking this class has allowed me to appreciate honey bees so that I don’t run away screaming every time I see one.

Matt DiSanto: MUSIC 004

Just like MUSIC 109, this course is easy, entertaining, and pretty fun, too. MUSIC 004 covers film music. That’s right — movies! In class, you get to watch full films like “Casablanca,” “Psycho,” and even “The Empire Strikes Back.” You’re literally getting credit to learn about the music that makes Hollywood’s greatest films tick. The course is online, so you’re free to work more closely to your own pace with only a few due dates at the end of each week. Each module contains real snippets from films that keep you engaged while learning a lot about film history, music theory, and more. Just cross your fingers and hope you’re able to enroll before every seat is taken.

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