Six new student-led forums, exploring a variety of topics ranging from soap operas to organic agriculture, have been approved for the Fall 2019 semester. These full or half-credit classes, taken as CR/U, offer students a chance to study topics that would not be covered in a traditional Wesleyan course.
The six forums offered include: “Woodcraft in Art and Design,” “‘Teenage’ Television: Aesthetics, History and Hate Watching,” “Portfolio Management and Competition,” “Young Adult Literature and Political Ideology,” “Farm Forum,” and “Taking Comedy Seriously.”
“Woodcraft in Art and Design” is led by Dotan Appelbaum ’21 and Levi Ask ’20. After experiencing frustration with the lack of woodworking training available at Wesleyan, the two decided to use their extensive backgrounds in woodworking to teach a forum themselves. They hope students will become comfortable with designing independently and finish the forum with a new skill set.
“Our largest goal is to provide the students with the skills and comfort in the woodshop necessary to create on their own,” Appelbaum wrote in an email to The Argus. “We are teaching design and planning, hand and power tool technique, and proper approach to the material.”
Although they had known Wesleyan students would be interested in a course on woodworking, Appelbaum and Ask didn’t expect to receive 50 applications for just 15 spots in the forum. While they originally created the forum specifically for studio art majors, most applicants weren’t majoring in studio art, showing interest from students across all departments.
“Surprisingly, the vast majority of the applications were from non-studio majors,” Appelbaum wrote. “There’s a serious desire for this at Wesleyan.”
Julian Ross ’21 and Cristina LoGiudice ’21, leading the economics forum Portfolio Management and Competition, also saw great turnout after word of mouth helped spread interest.
“We were very excited to see that a lot of people on campus were interested [in] our forum,” LoGiudice wrote in an email to the Argus. “However, due to enrollment limits we couldn’t take everyone.”
Ross and LoGiudice believe the high level of interest for their forum reflects the desire of students who don’t meet the requirements for upper-level economics electives, or are non-economics majors trying to take finance courses and pursue investing.
“It shows me that the school should begin to integrate similar courses into the curriculum,” Ross wrote in the same email.
Both Economics majors and leaders of the Wesleyan Investment Group, Ross and LoGiudice were inspired to lead their forum after seeing a void in the University curriculum relating to investing. They intend to guide students through the Chicago Quantitative Alliance Challenge, a portfolio management competition, in order to teach investing skills and financial literacy for everyday life.
While these forums are taught more traditionally, with students depending on forum leaders for information, others will be based on discussions by the class and the opinions of the students themselves.
Clara Brown-Coggiano ’20 and Nathan Cheng ’20 will also lead students in the College of Letters forum “‘Teenage’ Television: Aesthetics, History and Hate Watching,” which will explore teen television through group discussions and collaboration. Though they know the general trajectory they want their class to take, Coggiano and Cheng will leave it up to the students to decide where each class goes.
“We don’t have a strict outline for exactly what we’re talking about each week,” Cheng said. “It’ll be heavily discussion-based, so where the class goes depends on the people.”
Coggiano and Cheng hope their students will bring a wide range of knowledge of teen shows to their forum and believe that a variety of individual perspectives on teen television allows for better conversations. Even the two themselves have different backgrounds with teenage television: while Coggiano named multiple shows she grew up watching, Cheng said he relied mostly on hate-watching shows like “Riverdale” for his knowledge of teen television.
“Everybody will have different teen shows that they’re bringing to the table and they’ll have different emotional connections or lack of emotional connections with the shows they watched,” Coggiano said. “We can all come together and pool our knowledge and talk about different things.”
Similarly, Katie Livingston ’21 hopes to hear what the students of her forum Young Adult (YA) Literature and Political Ideology have to say about YA books.
“My main goal with it is for the people attending to get what they want out of the class,” Livingston wrote in an email to The Argus. “Since this is a discussion based class, I’m really going to let them lead the discussion where they’re interested and ask questions that they would like to explore.”
Livingston, who read YA literature for many years before deciding to teach a forum on its relationship with different political ideologies, realized that she had enough material for a whole class after researching the genre’s history. She believes that many of her peers have similar backgrounds with YA that will allow her forum to analyze the value of YA books.
“Mostly, my goal is to get people to take YA literature seriously as a genre, as a cultural product, and as something that has political value and influence,” Livingston wrote. “I think most of the students already feel that way as well, so that’s a good start.”
Coggiano and Cheng echoed this sentiment, stating their hope that their forum will lead students to begin thinking of teen television as a subject worthy of study.
“We feel like teen television isn’t usually a category that is respected,” Cheng said. “It’s not a teen television adoration class, it’s just a teen television appreciation class—even if you hate it, there’s still something to be recognized in it.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.