Opinion |  5 niche courses that fulfill your gen ed requirements


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The English department’s Childhood’s Books class covers books such as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and fulfils the literature general education requirement.

By Leah Mensch, Opinions Editor

In theory, general education requirements sound exciting. They provide the opportunity to take classes outside of your major in subjects like sociology, natural science and history. These course subject requirements — give or take a few depending on what year you were admitted to Pitt — force students into new areas of knowledge, sometimes helping them uncover a passion they didn’t know they had. But they can quickly turn into a pesky burden, especially if you’re a senior and still have a couple left. Students who take the time to research and read up on the course offerings will find that there is something interesting in every field. These are a few niche courses that also fulfill general education requirements. 

  1. Development of Modern Biology: CGS and DSAS Natural Science requirement, SCI Science NonSeq. 

For those of us who aren’t gifted in the field of hard science or who prefer learning about technical and theoretical topics, it can be hard to find a natural science course that aso ties into your interests. Such students should consider taking Development of Modern Biology in the history and philosophy of science department. This course focuses on the theory and criticisms of evolution and genomics, as well as biology in a social, political and cultural context. It’s certainly not your average science class, but useful and interesting for those who don’t want to study rocks or astronomy.

  1. Game Theory Principles: CGS and DSAS Quantitative Reasoning/Social Science requirement, SSOE Social Science requirement, SCI Social/Behavioral requirement

Most students opt to for something straightforward like Basic Applied Statistics or World History to fulfill their Quantitative Reasoning or Social Science requirement, but a class in the economics department might be more useful for someone pursuing political science, law, philosophy or engineering. Game Theory is essentially the science of strategy, in which people look at factors in a situation in order to determine how to manipulate their best outcome. This course provides an introduction to this principle, along with tangible examples that students might face in the workforce, like bargaining over the price of the car — good knowledge for everyone to have.

  1. Mass Communication Process CGS and DSAS The Arts/Historical Analysis requirements, SSOE Humanities requirement, SCI Social/Behavioral, Humanistic requirements

For those who aren’t fascinated with memorizing the names of painters or types of instruments, history classes about popular or historical art forms can be burdensome. Consider taking a class in the communication department about the mediums in which we receive art and experience popular culture instead. Mass Communication Process studies the development of modern media, such as television, radio, magazines and newspapers. It also gives students the opportunity to analyze the process of mass media and the way that it affects and has previously affected society as a whole. Be sure to sign up as soon as possible — it fills up quickly.

  1. Intro to Feminist Theory CGS and DSAS Philosophical Thinking or Ethics, Diversity requirements, SSOE Humanities requirement, SCI Diversity, Ethical/Policy requirements

Pitt has the number one philosophy program in the world, so it makes sense that these classes are notorious for being difficult and confusing. But when the subject matter is something you’re interested or passionate about, it makes the class easier to grasp and much more interesting.The gender, sexuality and women’s studies department offers a class on the feminist theory. The course questions the fundamental nature of feminist activism and the power of relations. In doing this, the class teaches students to think critically about what these arguments contribute to the world around them and how the world works with feminist theory. It’s a culturally relevant topic that gives students a chance to look inside themselves and squarely at the world around them. That’s not something you have the opportunity to do in class every day.

  1. Childhood’s Books CGS and DSAS Historical Analysis/Literature requirement, SSOE Humanities requirement, SCI Social/Behavioral, Humanistic requirements, SN Art, Music, Creative Expression or Literature

If Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Hemingway aren’t your thing, fear not. The English department offers a literature class that studies beloved children’s books — from the past, all the way to right now. Instead of the classics, you can reread books like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” While there are supplemental readings that study the works in detail, most of the reading and writing is on the books themselves and how they fit different, but common themes amongst works of child literature. Bet you never thought you’d be taking a reading quiz on “Peter Pan.” 

Leah Mensch is the Opinions editor. Write to Leah at [email protected]