Class Recommendations for First-Year Students from The Spire Editorial Board

On October 24, the Spring 2021 schedule debuted on STAR, presenting students with an abundance of fascinating courses. First-year students have perhaps the greatest variety of possible choices to explore, without the pressure of major requirements and those last few common requirements sophomores, juniors, and seniors have to fulfill. It’s a blessing and a curse – how does one narrow down all the options? 

First-years, whether you need to sort through your bulging enrollment backpack or you don’t know where to start looking, The Spire Editorial Board hopes to lend a hand by suggesting our own favorite first-year courses. 

BIOL 117 – Environmental Science, taught by Professor Kelly Wolfe-Bellin 

“I can’t recommend this class highly enough! I didn’t have great experiences with science classes in high school, so I dreaded fulfilling my science requirement at Holy Cross, but I loved Environmental Science with Professor Wolfe-Bellin. The material is really engaging, and it’s accessible without being watered-down. I took this as an online summer course, so I can testify that Professor Wolfe-Bellin has done a great job of adapting her course for remote learning. The class is a fun and interesting way to build a foundational understanding of one of the most important issues our generation faces – climate change.”

– Kelly Gallagher ‘22, Editor-in-Chief, English and Russian double major.

EDUC 167 – Educational Psychology, taught by Professor Lauren Capotosto

“This class is a huge part of why I decided to be an education minor. I took it for a common requirement, but ended up loving it. Professor Capotosto is a great professor who really wants her students to succeed. The course really gets you thinking about the different approaches to problems facing the education system today and most of the readings are fairly engaging. There is a “field study” attached to the class, so once a week you tutor middle school boys from the Nativity School who, at least in my experience, are very happy to have us help with homework and just spend time with them. I’d highly recommend it.” 

– Grace Bromage ‘23, Chief Features Editor, English Major and Education Minor

Graphic by Hui Li ’21.

ENGL 130 Poetry and Poetics, taught by Professor Oliver De La Paz

“I took Poetry and Poetics the fall semester of my first year at Holy Cross, and I absolutely loved it. We did close readings of poems with microscopic precision, and learned the intricacies of sound and rhythm. Reading many contemporary poems, we were able to follow the stories of the texts and the meanings behind them. For potential English majors, or even those who just need to knock off the English requirement, this course is absolutely for you! Even though it’s a heavily reading and writing-based course, problem solving and grappling with complex concepts was a skill I continuously used in this course, and beyond.”

– Nicole Letendre ‘23, Features Editor, English major with Creative Writing Concentration, on the Pre-med track

ENGL 142 Intro to Creative Writing

“This class left such an impact on me as both a student and a writer on this campus. The content of the class was wonderfully educational but it also changed the way I view writing and the ways in which it can become an outlet for true creativity. The class taught me how to be vulnerable in my writing and show a side of myself I was never quite comfortable with before. Yes, the material helped me, but taking the class with Professor Collins in a small, roundtable-like group of 12 students that became reminiscent of a little, Wednesday afternoon community made me grow and develop as a person and as a writer. I love the environment Prof. Collins creates in his classroom. it’s the most stimulated and excited I’ve felt in a course to date at Holy Cross.”

– Maggie Connolly ‘21, Chief Opinions’ Editor, Political Science Major and Creative Writing Minor

GEO 199 – Habitable Planets, taught by Professor Noah Hammond

“I’m in the fall section of this class right now and it’s fantastic. It’s a science class for non-majors and can be challenging at times but what you’re learning is so interesting! The reading load is relatively light and Professor Hammond is super knowledgeable about the subject matter. You cover a wide variety of topics so there’s sure to be something that piques everyone’s curiosity from the formation of the solar system, to the origin of life, to how geological processes wo. If you’re interested in geosciences broadly it also counts toward the minor.”

– Kimberly Fetherston ‘22, Co-Chief Graphic Designer, English Major and Environmental Studies Minor

POLS 100 Principles American Government, taught by Professor Samuel Stoddard

“Principles American Government is the one of the first steps towards majoring in Political Science at the College of the Holy Cross, but the best part is that this class isn’t just for majors. It provides a fundamental overview of our nation, from the structure of our government to the issues of today. If the past couple of months and this election have piqued your interest for civic education, there’s no better class to take during your first year at Holy Cross.”

– Ethan Bachand ‘22, Chief News Editor, Political Science Major

PSYC 227 – Social Psychology, taught by Professor Colleen Smith

“If you either scored highly on the AP Psychology exam in high school or are currently taking PSYC 100 right now, I recommend trying to get a spot in Social Psychology. This was one of my favorite classes that I took during my second year at Holy Cross, and I wish that I had taken PSYC 100 earlier or went to a high school that offered AP Psychology because I would have better understood why people act the way they do in social situations when I was a first-year student. If you do not get into Social Psychology for next semester, I encourage you to try again next year or at a later time during your time at Holy Cross. Humans are social animals, and with all the intriguing behaviors that we can observe in human society, especially during a time of more widespread social isolation and the beginnings of a “new normal,” knowledge about how these behaviors happen is crucial to understanding how and why people react the way they do, and to being a social animal yourself in the human world we live in.”

– Hui Li ‘21, Co-Chief Graphic Designer, Classics and Psychology double major

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