This past May, I graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a Bachelor of Arts in English, after three years in the program. Although there were some bumps along the road, I found my experience at CSUN to be better than I had expected. I hopes that you, too, may have a wonderful, enlightening experience as an English major at CSUN, I have written this guide to help you know who to take, and more importantly who NOT to take, as well as where to go for help.
Because I was in honor classes in high school, many of my teachers and classmates had somewhat written off the Cal-state schools, leaning instead towards the more prestigious local options, such as UCLA or USC. I ended up choosing CSUN for two reasons: it was close and the price was right. Although I was pleased with my decision, because I knew that I had a realistic opportunity to finish my education without going into massive amounts of debt, I had sort of resigned myself to receiving a mediocre education. The end result good not have been further from mediocre; my education was top notch.
How to Succeed in the CSUN English Department:
I learned early on in my time at CSUN that strong writing is a necessary skill. If you are not a strong writer, there is help available, but you need to take advantage of it as soon as possible.
Take advantage of the office hours that the professors offer. Work on each writing assignment as early as possible and bring it in during office hours. Ask questions. Take advantage of the writing lab offered in the Learning Resource Center.
Don’t put off reading assignments. The literature classes at CSUN are much more discussion based than they are lecture based. You will succeed if you are prepared to talk about the reading every day. Try not to be shy. If you have something productive to add to the conversation, or even just a thoughtful question, get it out there. Teachers like students who participate in class. The CSUN English department is not made up of classes in auditoriums, full of students who sit and take notes. It is a place where the professors know the students by name, and the classroom is a community. Embrace the community, and the community will embrace you.
What to AVOID:
What I am sure you really want to know is what classes NOT to take. For starters, I suggest you be careful about any class that does not say the teacher. They usually say “Staff,” where the professor would be listed on the class schedule. These are often part-time professors, and you never really know if you are going to get a star or a monster. I particularly have not had great experiences with Stephanie Satie and Thomas Wolfe, both of whom are part-time professors and often listed as just staff on the schedule.
Your best bet for figuring out who NOT to take really is to check out ratemyprofessors.com. While it is true that some students unfairly rate teachers based on personal preferences, you really can tell a lot about a teacher from reading the comments on ratemyprofessors.com. For instance, you will find out who misses classes a lot, grades too subjectively, and gives too much work. Do not just take teachers who have the best ratings on easiness. While it may be nice to have an easy A, you will regret it later when you realize that it might have been nice to actually have learned that information.
As far as course choices go, I recommend that you take your writing classes first, wherever possible. English 355 is a very important course, and it really is important not to put it off until the end. While the electives can be enjoyable classes, you will get better grades in them if you get the writing stuff out of the way first.
Who is GREAT:
Now, just because some part-time teachers are bad does not mean that none of them are worth taking. There are some really great teachers in the CSUN English department. Some of my favorites are listed below:
He truly has a passion for the literature he teaches. He is a tough grader, particularly on writing assignments, but a really nice guy and very fair.
Prof. Bashforth is a linguistics professors who does an amazing job of making a horribly boring subject truly interesting. Be warned that her tests are hard, but she really will go out of her way to help you feel prepared.
I have had this professor for several classes, and she is just a wonderful person and a great teacher. She gives a lot of work, but tries hard to be understanding and helpful. When I was pregnant through the spring semester and summer term, she understood when I didn’t feel good and just wanted to go home. She also really believes in writing as a process, and I believe that my writing was greatly improved by her tips.
An incredibly funny and interesting man, Ian Barnard really tries to take literature outside of the conventional box. He is a fair grader, and an entertaining lecturer. His class was never one I watched the clock in.
This teacher is such a sweet person. I had him for adolescent literature my very first semester at CSUN, and it was a great introduction to the CSUN English department. His class was easy, but very thought provoking.
I had Dorothy Clark for several classes, and she was also my advisor, as I was a credential prep student. I honestly do not think I would have made it out of CSUN without her. She is intelligent, down-to-earth, and very progressive. She makes the effort to make sure that she reaches every student, all different learning styles.
Possibly the most intelligent man I have ever met, Professor Solomon is an interesting character. He is quite eccentric. He is the crazy college professor I imagined in high school when I dreamed of what college would be like. His classes are 100% lecture based. I earned a B+ in this class, and I have never worked as hard for a grade my life. You will not pass a Solomon class without studying, but you will learn so much that you may actually feel your mind expanding.
Joseph Thomas Jr.
Very possibly my favorite professor, I have also met several other people who just love Professor Thomas. One friend of mine tries to plan his graduate studies around having Thomas for as many classes as possible. He is extremely intelligent, but what makes him so outstanding is his ability to explain everything in a way that is understandable. He also makes the effort to make sure that the information really sticks. Teaching students well is a talent; helping them truly learn is an art, of which Thomas is quite the artist.