"Hidden Gem" Courses: Part One
When I arrived at Dartmouth as a first-year, I was adamant that I wanted to major in Environmental Studies and minor in Spanish. I jumped right into those areas of study, attended study abroad programs in both departments, and I'm almost done with the major and minor. However, over the course of my three years, I have also explored classes in diverse departments. Although some may view the distributive requirements as a hoop to jump through, I love how they encourage students to take advantage of the breadth of the curriculum offered at Dartmouth. They also ensure that, by graduation, students have a solid foundation in a variety of subjects, and will therefore approach their respective careers with a more nuanced understanding of the world around them.
Whether through distributive requirements, word-of-mouth, or a combination of the two, I have discovered some hidden gem classes, which broadened my academic perspective and even helped to ignite a new passion. I have too many of these courses for only one post, so let's just call this "Part One."
The first class that I want to discuss is called Gender Identities and Politics in Africa. I took this class because I had heard great things about the professor, it was one of numerous prerequisite options for the Environmental Studies FSP, and it fulfilled both the International/Comparative Study and World Culture (Culture and Identity) requirements. The course is cross-listed between the African and African American Studies Program and Program in Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. I had never taken a class in either of these programs and because it was a higher level course, I was initially nervous that I was in over my head. Small classes are the norm at Dartmouth–this class had only six other students–so we were able to rapidly develop a sense of personal connection. Utilizing interdisciplinary mediums, including documentary films and fictional novels, this class explored the construction of gender identities in diverse contexts, from pre- and post-colonial to urban and rural. While much of this material was brand new to me, our professor supported our learning process through rigorous readings and stimulating in-class discussion– fostering a collective intellectual curiosity through this shared learning experience. She never gave us the "answers," but rather encouraged us to set aside our preconceptions and guided us through the process of developing new queries. I discovered the importance of critically evaluating the inherent biases in my sources of information, and learned how those lenses inform my conclusions.
Of course, at Dartmouth you can expect to learn alongside professors who are global experts in the field you're already passionate about, but you will most certainly be inspired by professors in other departments too. A Dartmouth education is interdisciplinary; exploring classes outside your comfort zone will broaden your thinking and provide skills that serve you in surprising ways.