Editorial | Top 10 best gen-eds to take this year

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John Blair | Staff Photographer

Students study on the first floor of Hillman Library.

We’re all struggling to find the perfect class to fill that hole in our schedules — and our hearts. Here are our favorite classes we’ve taken in our time at Pitt that fulfill general education requirements. 

Russian Fairy Tales (RUSS 0900)

Did you think Kurt was joking about Baba Yaga in the first Ant Man movie? He wasn’t. While Baba Yaga is technically a Russian folk tale rather than a fairy tale, the fairy tales are just as intense with all of the same Russian-winter edge. One of the most famous Russian fairy tales is the story of Father Frost, the king of winter itself. This course is taught in the fall, spring and summer and covers a geographic region and literature gen-ed. 

Introduction to Psychology (PSY 0010)

Ever wanted to hear so much about Sigmund Freud that you started to hate him? You should hate him, but you’ll never know why unless you take Introduction to Psychology. Sorry Siggy, women don’t have penis envy. This class is taught in the fall, spring and summer and covers a natural science gen-ed. 

History of Jazz (MUSIC 0711

What many people don’t know is that jazz is a fantastic genre of music, and that Pittsburgh was actually a pretty big jazz hub back in the day. Learn all about it in this class, which our editor-in-chief and many other Pitt students “unironically love.” This course is taught in the fall, spring and summer and covers both an art and a historical analysis gen-ed. 

Buddhism and Psychology (RELGST 1558)

With an already pretty decent sized workload, this class isn’t the easiest in the world, but it is probably one of the most interesting. Learn pretty much everything you can fit into your brain about Buddhism in the first half of this course, and all about how Western cultures appropriate it in the second half. 

While you’re at it, meditate while actually learning about the different types of meditation, as well as where and how they originated. Hint — it isn’t the Headspace app. This course is taught in the fall, spring and summer, and fills a cross-cultural awareness gen-ed. 

Harry Potter: Blood, Power, Culture (ENGLIT 0647)

Bask in the fact that you can take a class about Harry Potter, and then study for that very class on the main floor of the Cathedral of Learning. It’s all of our second-grade dreams come true. Pretending you’re in Hogwarts is the only way to make it through studying for finals anyways. Get lost in the wizarding world in this class that analyzes the story arc of the book series through the different lenses of race, gender, class and more! This course is offered in the fall and spring and covers a literature gen-ed. 

Magic, Witchcraft, and the Supernatural Body (ANTH 0717)

First Harry Potter and the wizarding world, and now more magic? Not the same kind of magic though. This class looks into the very real beliefs about magic and witchcraft in different cultures. This class is also another great opportunity to slowly realize how much everyday culture is threaded with old cultural practices that have existed for thousands of years. This course is offered in the spring and covers both a cross-cultural awareness and a social science gen-ed. 

Stonehenge to Hubble (ASTRON 0088)

If you’re not majoring in the physical sciences but you still love the cosmos and the occasional Neil Degrasse Tyson documentary, this is the class for you. COVID-19 permitting, you’ll leave the classroom to visit the Allegheny Observatory, where you’ll look at stars and learn about the ever-expanding universe. You can’t tell us that doesn’t sound like the coolest thing on the planet. This course is offered in the fall and spring and covers a natural science gen-ed. 

Literally any introduction language course

Learning another language is always a plus. Whether you want to continue a language you learned in high school, or want to switch to something a bit more your speed, Pitt has it all. We are blessed to have a wide variety of less commonly taught languages as well — everything from ASL to Quechua to Vietnamese. Not only will a language course keep your brain sharp, but learning to speak another language is fun. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it and decide to minor in it. 

Statistics (STAT 0200 or STAT 1000)

No matter what your major is, taking a statistics course is almost always a good idea. If you’re in STEM, we’d recommend taking the 1000 level course, as it’ll usually be a requirement for the major. Math sucks, and it’s hard, unless you like math and for some amazing reason it isn’t hard for you, in which case, we are impressed. 

But statistics is important and super useful for pretty much every career path. And if you love spreadsheets as much as we do, it’ll be a great time. This course is offered in the fall, spring and summer and covers a quantitative formal reasoning gen-ed. 

Computational Methods in the Humanities (CLASS 1050)

This is the best course to take if you’re a humanities major who doesn’t want to take a math class because Computational Methods in the Humanities is all about, well, humanities! It delves into the latest humanities research and teaches you how to digitally analyze texts. This course has a lot of different cross listings, so be sure to find the course site before signing up to make sure you have the right one. This course is offered in the fall, spring and summer and covers an algebra gen-ed. 

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