Engineering and computer science majors tend to have a stereotype that all they know is math and science and that’s all they have time for. Simply, that’s not the case. At USC, in addition to our major required courses, I have also taken 5 general education courses (GEs). I love the freedom of getting to pick the GE courses I want to take because I want to take classes that actually interest me. Each class I took really changed my perspective on the humanities and ignited a passion of mine for relearning history of peoples.
The first GE I took was AMST 101: Race and Class in Los Angeles with Dr. Juan De Lara. I was interested in this class because I am not from Los Angeles and I wanted to learn more about the emergence of cultures in one of the most famous cities in the country. I quickly learned about diverse indigenous histories and legends, Spanish influence, Asian-American and Latin-American immigration, Black and LGBT history, and more. It was useful and incredible to understand the histories of the city; the class was a way to pay respects to the city I now reside in.
Next I took a General Education Seminar (GESM) titled GESM 120: Reading Black Love with Dr. Lanita Jacobs. Every freshman has to take a GESM for one semester in their first year. In this class, I learned about Black culture in the United States, Black Literature and folklore to understand what brought joy to the community despite discrimination. I really appreciated this class because it taught me African American history through the lens of African American people. Slavery is a central point often taught in Black history, but this class taught me more about Black culture, the ways that it can be celebrated, and recognize the progress made in the face of struggle while maintaining the integrity of the effects of slavery. This class taught me the importance of learning through native ethnographers, meaning historians belonging to the studied group, and inspired me to continue my exploration of history.
Mules and Men by award-winning native ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston (pictured on the cover image of this blog!) was one of my favorite texts from GESM 120: Reading Black Love.
In high school I had an interest in musical theater, I even participated in a production of Hairspray. I ultimately put that interest aside to focus on my studies, and I was able to revive this interest while taking MUSC 200: The Broadway Musical: Reflections of American Diversity with Dr. Karen Parks. In this class we learned about the histories of popular Broadway musicals by analyzing the musicals’ origins and productions, as well as examining the plots of the musicals, choreography, musical composition, and staging and how they reflect American cultures and sentiments at the time. I really enjoyed watching and researching musicals and it really revived that younger me who loved song and dance and interested the current me in learning American histories through various art forms. I also found my favorite musical, In the Heights, which really struck a personal chord with me based on my college experiences so far. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in musical theater and studying diversity in the arts.
I also took SPAN 290: Introduction to Latin American and Iberian Studies with Dr. Ronald Mendoza- De Jesús. This class takes an introductory perspective of the cultural history of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America by studying literature and other art forms in the past few centuries. It is really refreshing to learn about more than just Christopher Columbus in regards to Latin American history! I got the opportunity to learn about Central America and the Caribbean to get a better historical understanding of how we gained independence and remained as countries full of vibrant culture.
The last GE I took was AMST 135: Peoples and Cultures of the Americas with Dr. Alicia Chávez. This class also explored Latin America and it exposed me to new thoughts and ideas and educated me indigenous history and the importance of perspectives. I learned histories of peoples through stories, literature, and films as well as learned new perspectives of the experiences of Latin-American immigrants leaving their home countries for opportunities in the United States. I particularly enjoyed an assignment which required me to visit a museum, exhibit, mural, or any public display of Latin-American art, in which I selected visiting the Maya exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences across the street from USC’s campus. It was a creative way to learn culture through art and I look forward to visiting more museums to learn about other cultures.
An example of a stela, a carved stone with hieroglyphs and figures, from the Maya exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences.
Overall, I recommend picking your GEs with intention so that you get the most out of them. I am sure glad I did!