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University of California-Los Angeles

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What are the academics like at your school?

Some professors know me by name. Obviously, my fist 2 years it was rare that a professor would know me personally. Now that I am taking smaller classes, and the nature of the classes I take ( a lot based on discussions and interactions and opinions) you get to connect with your professors more. My favorite professors are either Getty or Lohmann. Getty teaches Soviet history and Lohmann teaches poli-sci with an emphasis on ethics. They both seemed genuinely interested in student learning over grades and had plenty of on-the field accounts to spice up lectures. Getty had incredible stories about times he met important players like Gorbachev and was easily the best lecturer ive ever had- he was realy old school. Lohmann is a gem- she is out of her mind and is obsessed with student interaction above all else. Some people can be annoyed by her tangents, but Im down. She really challenges you and grades are the last thing she worries about. I think her class is how university education should be. My least favority courses are ones where it is obvious that the teachers dont want to be there. A lot of teachers are experts in their fields and do research, and they just dont seem to give effort to class. Jacoby Russel comes to mind...Students study a lot, but my major is unique in the sense that it is sorta easy to bullshit and not dso all the assigned reading. Oppose to something like physics, where I image it is a lot more studying. Intellectual conversations are common outside of class and sometimes creep into parties, but it is more about praising or talking shit about progfessors. I am a double major (history/polsci) and enjoy both. Like I said, UCLA is huge and there are good professors and bad ones, finding and connecting with the good ones is key. The academic requirements are really that bad (but everyone complains about them). For me, I had no idea what I really wanted to study, so why not take a Bullshit science class???? They are for the most part easy and you meet people. Yeh, they are ultimately useless, but I guess I know about dinasours and nutrition now?? I think whether UCLA is geared towards getting a job or learning depends on the major and classes you take. History majors, for the most part, are interested in history and not necessarily concerned with a job. Obviously, Law school is emphasized in polisci courses, but it really depends on the professor.

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This is a tough subject for me to write about, because I can't quite tell if I have had an uncommonly poor experience with professors, or if everyone else is just too damn eager to succeed that they don't stop to ask why the hell they can't understand a damn thing they're being told. No one seems to be vocal as me about their dissatisfaction with the faculty, yet if you were to ask someone why they were struggling in their classes, that person would be likely to say that it is because their professor did an extremely poor job explaining it. You see, the greatest problem I have found with the professors is that, while they are EXTREMELY intelligent and competent people, they are interested primarily in the research being funded by the school, and have neither passion for teaching, nor the ability to do it. That leaves the TA's, who are often more interested in student learning, but who almost always use a very different method of explaning material than the professor. In fact, I have had a few TA's who don't even attend lecture. They merely take the topic being covered and find they quickest way to explain it to their students, who then often find themselves confused not only by the material itself, but also by the way in which they ought to go about handling it. There's also another big problem I've encountered with TA's (mainly in math and science courses), and this is kind of a touchy subject, so I'll do my best to be P.C. The majority of my TA's have been foreign. Okay, no problem. However, about half of these foreign TA's had such a poor grasp on the English language that they had trouble grasping some concepts (such as those in word problems), so students would have to explain them. Needless to say, this is not how the limited time of a discussion should be spent. And of course, many of these TA's had accents so thick that they would have to be asked to repeatedly repeat things so that students would understand. Honestly, I don't know what could be done about this problem, since someone should no be denied a position because of his or her background. Still, though, I think it does need to be acknowldged as a problem.

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Professors will know your name if you raise your hand and are a good student. My favorite classes have been the two classes I've taken that I anticipated to be the most boring: Introduction to Jewish Studies and 19th Century American History; Jewish Studies because I'm a Jew and therefore have a strong background in the information I would be learning, and History because well...come on, it's history. The truth is, I could not have been more wrong. Both professors retaught me how to think, encouraging the incorporation of viewing information as belief instead of fact and analyzing for what it can be instead of what it is. Both professors knew my name because I raised my hand often and disagreed with their views even more often. Both TAs (grad students) knew my name all through the courses and got me thinking even more than the professors did. I met the professors and TAs outside of academic purposes a few times as well. My least favorite class was Theater 20. Now hold your horses, I LOVE acting, come on. But the class was for non-majors, and the TA didn't seem to respect the students' potential very much. I attribute this to the fact that our Theater school is one of the best in the nation. All of my GE classes have been interesting and I've had great selection. I took a class on music's influence on Religion in global cultures. It was taught by a professor who was born in Macedonia, grew up in Croatia, spoke 7 languages, and had experienced and worshiped with virtually every religious tradition in existence as part of a life goal of hers. THIS CLASS WAS A GE!!! I learned a lot, despite her thick accent. Don't underestimate the power of ALL departments at UCLA. There are no weaknesses (except Geology, I've heard?). Engineering is top notch (I have friends pulling all nighters to write 30 page computer programs, so I know), humanities are well funded and attract thinkers from all over the country, sciences seem to attract a lot of professors who used to teach at MIT...weird, and the Arts are so comprehensive, I don't see how anyone could choose *cough* CAL *cough*.

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GE classes at UCLA can be pretty large. Even some of the classes for your major, it if is one of the more popular ones. However, to counteract the size of the lectures, many courses have discussion sections where T.A.s help students with the material by getting them to talk about it. So, even though your professor might not know who you are, if you are active in discussions, your T.A.s will and they can be a good source for letters of recommendation if you need them. My favorite class has probably been one of the Honors Collegium courses offered. It was about modern transformations of classical story forms - specifically it was the transformation of the Cinderella story and a transformation of Robinson Crusoe. It was the first and only class where I actually liked writing my papers because I was actually coming up with my own thoughts rather than regurgitating what the professor in my class had told us. I guess that excited me that I was able to discuss my own ideas and not be penalized for going off about what I think. Competitiveness really seems to depend on the kinds of courses you are taking at UCLA. If you are in a bio or chem class that is curved, the class is pretty much cutthroat in their acquisition of grades. I have heard of "friends" denying to help each other for fear that one would do so much better than the other. However, there is really nothing like this in the social sciences. The first priority of a lot of the professors at UCLA isn't teaching, it is their research. This should be kept in mind. Although professors have office hours, it might be harder to get a hold of some of them beyond those times if you need to see them. Education at UCLA seems very much like it is geared toward a professional career of some kind. Most students here, if they know what they are going to do after graduation, seem to be on the path to become some kind of lawyer or doctor.

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As an english major, many of my pre-req. classes are large. I personally didn't make myself known to the professors, but I'm sure it could have been possible. The large lectures are usually divided into smaller sections taught by graduate student TA's, in a sense, it was kind of upsetting to have that personal discussion time with grad. students, but you come to find out that they are just as enlightening as the professors (however, some TAs aren't so good... so its kind of a toss up). It seems that most students are on the ball with their reading assignments, while I usually left them to the last minute, but I managed to maintain B's through most of my UCLA career! Class participation is fairly common and almost everyone seems to have something intelligent to add and a new perspective to give. The professors are wonderful, each have their own personality, but their knowledge is incredible! I don't see too much competition between the students since everyone, at this point, has learned to respect the other since we all had to meet the same requirements to get here! The requirements, at the transfer level, are totally "doable". I transferred! At the high school level, I think it's ridiculous, but all colleges have gotten to that point pretty much. The english major in itself is such a great major, it seems more like learning for it's own sake but what you learn is really applicable to ANY job. The english major gains knowledge in analyzing and reading between the lines, our reading comprehension and grammar skills are exercised and we learn how to construct successful arguments based on specific evidence, all of which can be applied to almost any career choice - and it allows for the flexibility of switching careers paths while in college (as is almost inevitable for most students)!

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As aforementioned, UCLA is a very, very large school. Frequently, you hear lectures in a auditorium with two hundred other people. You could probably go through your four years here with never having a professor call you by your first name. You may find that private attention from your instructors is wanting. However, if you put in the effort, it is not too difficult to form closer relationships with the professors. Classes usually get much smaller as you progress through your major, and as a junior or senior you will find ample opportunity to participate and discuss in class. Professors are also generally very nice; they like having you come to their office hours and will frequently extend it or will make special time for you to visit them. But there are definite downsides to having such a large student body. Not getting individual attention pervades outside of the classroom; it is virtually impossible to get an appointment with an academic counselor come enrollment times, when you need them. Academically, students are very competitive and care deeply about their studies, or at least I am, and so are many of my friends. I think I mentioned that some people sleep in the library -- this is definitely true, especially during Finals Week. I think UCLA fosters academic excellence; there are many opportunities for scholarships, or competitions (like essay competitions) and getting honors so you can shine. Being in the UCLA Honors program also comes with a few perks, one of which is priority enrollment, which comes in really handy. There are definitely those who really don't care though, who never go to lecture (and magically show up in times for midterms or the final exam) -- so there is quite a spread.

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Academics here can be tough, especially if you are a science major aka south campus major. I've taken GE classes in many north campus classes, and the majority of them have a lot of reading. So be prepared to read at least 200 pages a week. For science classes, you take the core classes with hundreds of other students, and depending on the professor, they can be your most favorite or worst nightmare. Each professor has a different style of teaching, what they want to emphasize on, how hard they want to make the exams, how much homework they assign, and show if they care about student learning or not. It really all depends on the professor. I've had some so-so and some very awesome professors; how much you like the class really depends on the professor who teaches it. Some professors will make an effort to know your name, that is, if you try to know them yourselves and go to office hours. Students who go here, worked hard in high school to get here, so they will definitely make sure they stay here and graduate. Everyone is studious, to some extent. Science classes are where you will find the most competitive students--mainly because the majority of them are pre-med, pre-dent, pre-pharm, etc. The student atmosphere also depends on which class you're taking. Some classes promote collaborative student learning while some others just end up being that you're learning on your own (if you have friends taking the same classes, then form study groups! They help a lot!).

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North campus is where all the liberal arts classes are, and South campus is where all the science classes are. It really is strange how different classes are between campuses. South Campus- huge 300 people lectures. Want to get to know the professor? You need to WERK! You need to take initiative, take advantage of his office hours, ask questions! Usually, math classes SUCK and the professors are too smart for their own good and don't know how to explain theories to us normal folk. But the science classes like chem and bio are organized and students know they have to form study groups. North Campus- smaller lecutures (100-200?) and VERY intimate and helpful discussions. Discussions are the smaller division of student classes lead by a teachers assistant, and you really get to know everyone in your discussion, but each discussion heavily depends on the TA. You definitely should try asking around to see which TAs grade better or teach better- it can make or break you! I'm pre-med and switching between psychobiology or psychology major. I was considering minoring in spanish linguistics, but I realized I would need to be a super senior in that case =/. I've only recently switched from undeclared to phychobio to psych... and now I'm considering switching back to pyschobio! I've talked to the graduate counselors and they were very helpful in figuring out what classes I need to take when and what the differences were between majors.

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I'll be honest, classes here are ridiculously large, especially the science classes. My freshman general chemistry class was 300 people. The professor doesn't know your name (how can he?), and people really don't care if you show up or not. Because we're on the quarter system, classes go by really fast. It's good if you don't like a class, because you're done with it after 10 weeks, but if you don't actually know what's going on, then you can fall behind really quickly. As a biochemistry student, I haven't taken many humanities classes, so I can't speak for them, but as far as the science classes go, they're competitive. My classmates study all the time. They go to office hours whenever they're available, and they're constantly trying to get a good grade in the class. Our classes are all lecture-based, so there's absolutely zero participation (unless you have a question to ask), but I know that in the English classes, it's all discussion-based. While all the professors are extremely accomplished, some are simply better at teaching than others, at which point, it's up to you to figure out the material. Lack of funding has cut tutoring programs on campus, making it harder to get help, but the TAs are always there if you need help.

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Some of them. Anthro 12- the honors section. It was me, three other girls, and a world renowned anthropologist. Once in a life time experience... and we got to go to the zoo! Least fav.: trying to get into lower division poli sci classes is like trying to win a car race with a bicycle. Most weekends, maybe three weekdays a week. Yes. Well, no. It depends on the class size/how intimidating a professor/TA is. We have great discussions outside of class; they're not all intellectual, but every so often something intelligent sneaks in. VERY competitive. Most unique class: History of Magic, Science, and Religion. But I don't recommend it. Political Science and Psychology happen to be the two most popular majors on campus. They're crowded and hard to get into--- but! that means there's the biggest range of class topics. I can literally take a class on whatever I want to study. Not really. The requirements are fair, but hard to make them work with one another sometimes. Learning for its own sake. but that's got a lot to do with my majors-- neither is really made for a job just out of college.

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