Dartmouth’s Finest Classes

DARTMOUTH HALL: The symbol of education at the College on the Hill

DARTMOUTH HALL: The symbol of education at the College on the Hill (image courtesy of Dartmouth Communications)

ECON 26 – The Economics of Financial Intermediaries and Markets – Professor Meir Kohn

B. Webb Harrington

Econ 26 with Professor Kohn is more like evolutionary biology or detective work than it is like any other economics class. Rather than simply studying a new model and trying to memorize the exact motions on a graph that are caused by a change in inflation, Professor Kohn askes the simple question, why? Why does securitization work for mortgages but not for small business loans? Why does America use more credit cards than Europe? As students scramble to answer these questions and cope with Kohn’s feared Socratic, he remains completely composed, only pausing to interject a joke about big government or correct a student’s mistake. After teaching the class for decades, Kohn manages to maintain interest in the subject material and add, slowly but surely, recent developments such as bitcoin to the curriculum. More than just maintaining interest in the material, however, Kohn connects with each new student. He insists that every student that enters his classroom must come to see him during his office hours. All this does not do the class justice however. The simplest way to describe Economics 26 with Professor Kohn is this: Professor Kohn teaching this class is the greatest academic treasures that Dartmouth currently possesses.

PBPL 42 – Ethics and Public Policy – Professor Lucas Swaine

Scotch Cara

Ethics and Public Policy with Professor Lucas Swaine is by far the most interesting, engaging, and pertinent class I’ve taken at Dartmouth. Not only does Professor Swaine care about the wellbeing and future successes of his students, he has a deep appreciation of the nuances of the intersection between ethics and policy. While some professors might say that they’re open to new ideas besides their own, Professor Swaine truly recognizes the validity of views that he disagrees with. Accordingly, he gives all justified arguments due diligence. In a class that deals with what can often be considered a murky gray zone—the morality of large-scale political decisions—the notion that a student could respectfully disagree with not only his or her peers, but also the professor, led to a welcoming classroom environment. Apart from the wondrous marvel of Professor Swaine, the class itself is something truly special. The class focuses on allowing students to explore their own views on the normative backings of government action— or, in some cases, inaction. Governments are fundamentally different from individuals by virtue of their structure and obligations. As such, the study of how they ought to behave can sometimes feel needlessly complex and overwhelming. The structure of the class was such that everything from the basics of moral inquiry to the intricacies of different frameworks for developing an understanding of policies like immigration reform made the class manageable for people from all academic backgrounds. The assigned readings were always pertinent and engaging, and, unlike some readings for other classes, directly contributed to in-class discussions. All of the faculty in the Political Theory section of the Government Department are amazing. Taking this class with any of them would be more than worthwhile. Governments have absolute power to do whatever they wish— oftentimes, it is only a series of moral norms (albeit with different enforcement mechanisms that depend on the structure of different government) that prevent them from doing something they ought not.

HIST 58 / JWST 37.01 –History of the Holocaust – Dr. Samuel Kassow

Jack Mourouzis

This was a one-time class offered only during the fall of 2016 and was taught by a visiting professor, Dr. Samuel Kassow (of Trinity College), one of the United States’ leading experts on the Holocaust. It met during the 3A slot, and used the Monday X-hour while ignoring the Thursday period, resulting in a marathon three-hour lecture once a week. Despite the format not being conducive to discussion – or, for many, even staying awake without a cigarette during the fifteen minute break – I was utterly captivated by Professor Kassow’s comprehensive knowledge and captivating commentary on an admittedly dark topic. I will never forget the long, arduous Saturday night spent reading the entirety of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, nor the breadth of fascinating knowledge Kassow imparted upon us throughout the term. My final paper – dealing with underground newspapers of the Theresienstadt ghetto – earned the highest praise I’ve ever received on a paper: “You should write more on this topic.”

WRIT 5 – Debates in International Politics – Professor David Rezvani

Alexander Rauda

Although I have not taken many classes at Dartmouth, I can confidently say that Professor David Rezvani’s Debates in International Politics is one of the best classes I have taken so far. Whether we were discussing the benefits of war in Africa or the future of the Sino-American relationship, Professor Rezvani made sure that our work was based on both the theoretical and the practical aspects of international affairs. This literature on international affairs has expanded my knowledge on the topics of sovereignty, intervention, and cooperation. The class stripped away the ‘pop’ rhetoric that the media uses when discussing international affairs, especially when it concerns modern wars. Furthermore, the class reaffirmed my view on America’s important role on the global stage. In a day and age where the United States is constantly antagonized, Debates in International Politics is a class not to be missed by the most ardent defenders of America’s leadership position in the world.

GOVT 20.02 – Foundations of Political Economy – Professor Bernard Avishai

Marcus J. Thompson

Foundations of Political Economy with Professor Bernard Avishai is the most important course I’ve taken at Dartmouth. Not only is Professor Avishai a highly engaging and dynamic professor, but the content of this course revolutionized the way I thought about politics and history. Professor Avishai takes his class through seminal texts in Western political thought including Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx, deconstructing the intricacies and differences in these works through a mixture of lectures and discussion. The best aspect of this course was writing the final paper, which prompted students to apply Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to political economy. Kuhn theorized that the scientific process was not linear, as previously thought, but a cyclical pattern of paradigm shifts that led to upheavals in science. Professor Avishai not only imparted the theory of nearly a dozen critical political philosophers, but changed the way I think about politics and history. He has impacted every subsequent class I’ve taken.

ENGL 52.04 – American Renaissance at Dartmouth – Professors Donald Pease and Jed Dobson

Robert Y. Sayegh

American Literature with Professors Donald Pease and Jed Dobson is without a doubt among the best classes I’ve taken at Dartmouth. Covering some of the most influential writers of the 19th and 20th centuries, like Frederick Douglas, Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, this occasionally-offered, 14-person seminar is a must-take for every Dartmouth student. Both Pease and Dobson promote an exceptionally engaging classroom environment, casting a contemporary light on classic American philosophy by giving current issues meaningful historical context. Pease and Dobson are without a doubt two of the most prolific lecturers at Dartmouth, bringing an energy to the classroom that captivates students of all disciplines. They teach two other classes together: American Drama and Game of Thrones, neither of which I’ve had the opportunity to take, but would nevertheless recommend them on the merit of these professors alone. Perhaps most importantly, they completely and unequivocally support freedom of thought in the classroom and out, encouraging students from all walks of life and all schools of thought to express themselves freely in their everyday lives. They are truly a unique pair who bring alternate perspective to a sometimes-banal Dartmouth. Be it this seminar or one of their other classes, every student would be remiss to neglect the Pease/Dobson duo.

COLT 64.02 – Writing at the Extreme: Jewish and Japanese Responses to Crisis and Catastrophe – Professors Alan Lelchuk and Dennis Washburn

Michal J. Perkins

Choosing “the best class I’ve taken” at Dartmouth is difficult because my motivation for enrolling in particular classes varies greatly. You could ask me which class has been my most interesting, most rewarding, or most enjoyable and receive a different answer each time. For the purpose of answering this prompt, I’ve selected the class I found most enjoyable at Dartmouth. That class would be COLT 64.02, Writing at the Extreme: Jewish and Japanese Responses to Crisis and Catastrophe. I could recommend this class for the unique blend of cultures it offers, masterfully portrayed by its two professors Alan Lelchuk and Dennis Washburn, or its engaging and enriching readings, but ultimately, this class stands out in my memory for the sheer excitement I harbored before each of our meetings. The round-table style classroom allowed for an open discussion that was the highlight of my week throughout the term. There are many classes that could be labelled unmissable in the Dartmouth course catalogue, but as I can only recommend one, this class receives my endorsement.

ENGS 21 – Introduction to Engineering – Professor Ulrike Wegst

John S. Stahel

As the resident engineer of The Review, obligation dictates that I give an alternative to the preceding accounts of liberal arts courses. ENGS 21, although primarily taken by engineers, also includes students from every major imaginable seeking to better understand problem solving and design. The objective of the course is deceptively simple: “Identify a problem, examine possible solutions, develop a prototype”. Daunting at first, the project becomes exciting as group chemistry develops and students realize the potential of their Ivy League brain. Tutorials across the fields of engineering teach valuable technical skills and highlight the capabilities of the magnificent Thayer complex. Theoretical exercises in production under the assumption that you take your product to market awakens the inner entrepreneur in everyone while the final presentation to the design board serves as great professional experience and the course in general is known to impress interviewers. Many groups even file for patents at the end of the project signifying the attachment to their creations. For any brave students seeking a rewarding, yet challenging course, ENGS 21 should be at the top of their shortlist.

CLST 11.11 – War Stories – Professor Roberta Stewart

Devon M. Kurtz

Beginning in antiquity, and continuing through the major epochs of war, Stewart’s “War Stories” course explores the horrors of warfare, the camaraderie of soldiers, and the difficulties of homecoming. Taught by a Classical historian and U.S. military veteran TA’s, this course challenges one’s mental toughness as much as intellectual ability. While the coursework is fascinating — ranging from the Trojan war to the American Civil War to the War on Terror —there is a unique final project that differentiates this course from any other: an interview of a veteran and analysis of his story. I will never forget the hours I spent talking with a veteran from the White River Junction area. His stories about his service in Vietnam were inspiring, terrifying, and unsettling. Analyzing his story as though it were a work of literature was as uncomfortable as it was rewarding. This course, and this project especially, develops skills that are not commonly prioritized at Dartmouth. Upon finishing the course — after reading and listening to dozens of war stories — the course reminded me of a great quote: “War never changes.”

TUCK 3 – Business Strategy and Management – Professor Giovanni Gavetti

Joshua D. Kotran

One of the most transformative classes I’ve taken at Dartmouth was Business Strategy and Management with Professor Giovanni Gavetti from Tuck. Taught in the “case-method”, each class walks through a real-world business scenario and allows students to put themselves in the shoes of a company’s management.  The course challenged me to think critically, broadly, and creatively about competitive analysis, industry dynamics, pricing strategy, and segmentation. 

Strategy as a subject comprises a blend of marketing, game theory, psychology, and managerial economics. It is in some ways the liberal-arts equivalent of business education, and fit in nicely with my other coursework. On a practical level, the exercises we did in class often closely mirrored the work of a consultant, and went a long way in helping to determine what I wanted to do after graduation. Dartmouth only allows you to take three Tuck courses, but they sure made this one count.