First off, I have to put this out there: I’ve only had three semesters of classes at Duquesne, so I may not be the best judge of the best classes to take. But out of the six classes I’m taking this semester, Writing and Research in International Relations has to be my favorite.
Oh man, I hear the groans of pain to the tune of, “A Writing an Research class is your favorite?!” But I look forward to this class all the time. Not only is it useful specifically for my major, International Relations, but we also talk about interesting topics with a truly excellent professor.
The first, seemingly simple quality is the physical size of the class and the time of day. The professor, Father Spangenberg will take the time to learn your name, but the task is a lot easier for him to do with a smaller class. I’ve realized that about 10 people is my favorite class size. It’s not so small that we’re practically having dinner with the professor, nor is it too large to get lost in the crowd. We’re all International Relations majors, so we all have an interest in the subject. Also, I took the afternoon slot Writing and Research in International Relation (W/R IR from here on), which was a fabulous choice for me. Waking up in the morning, I don’t want to have a conversation, I just want to drink my coffee and get the lecture notes. In the evening, I’m thinking about all the different things I have to do before I go to sleep that night. 3PM is the perfect time to absorb all the material and really apply it to life. I’m not entirely fried from a long day, and most of us are all willing to have a good conversation.
Secondly, the class itself is obviously useful. Particularly for those of us in the liberal arts, we know that a graduate degree is quite a contender in the running for possibilities of our future. Knowing how to write a good research paper is absolutely essential to a graduate degree. Or if grad school isn’t in the cards, I know potential employers will be impressed by the fact that I know how to handle myself in the field because I took this class. Not only will this class help in the long run, though: it has also already helped in my other International Relations classes by adding to my knowledge of the field and improving my writing skills, which are so important in jobs and grad school.
And lastly, Father Spangenberg is an excellent professor. He has the experience and background which really build his credibility in the field. So when he listens to what we, as students who are just learning about all of this, have to say, I am sincerely impressed. But he doesn’t just listen to what we have to say, he also learns our names, a quality which we sometimes can only hope for in professors. Father Spangenberg is always open to discussion, and will take the time to explain why he holds one opinion or another. He creates an atmosphere where we can express our opinions without fear of judgement. But, of course he makes sure that we students have the same skill he does: we must be able to speak about our reasons behind our ideas. The things we learn in this class help us improve in multiple areas, not just writing or reasoning.
I hear the reduction in the noise of people complaining about writing. I can empathize: I’ve always loved writing, but hated research papers. But when truly interested, the work becomes exponentially easier, no matter the subject. W/R IR has already helped me love my field even more than I already did. We’re only halfway through the semester, too!