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The Daily Tar Heel

These UNC classes could change your life — or at least your major

Students prepare for class in Phillips 208 on Monday, March 18, 2019. This is one of five classrooms considered a 'Studio Classroom' and just one type of classroom in Carolina's Flexible Learning Spaces Initiative. The Initiative's purpose is to improve student-focused interaction through the modernization of classrooms.

There are the 8 a.m. classes you can barely drag yourself to, the lectures you struggle to stay awake for and the difficult seminars with dense readings that half the students didn't complete before class.

But every once in a while, there's also a class that leaves an impact. It can change your worldview, or — even more importantly — your major. 

The Daily Tar Heel asked students from across UNC's academic departments to share what course left the greatest impact on them. These courses, and especially their professors, come with high praise from current and former students.


Mallory Hill is a senior majoring in history with a minor in religious studies. Hill plans to become a history teacher, and said HIST 398: Undergraduate Seminar in History with Professor Jerma Jackson helped her toward her goal.

"She was one of the first professors that I had a really genuine relationship with, and that I felt like really knew me well," Hill said. 

Hill said she used her seminar with Jackson, which focused on "Leisure-Time in the Making of Modern America," to study a Christian youth group that existed at UNC in the 1940s. The group, known as the "snuff-buckets," held an interracial picnic that caused quite a bit of controversy on campus. 

After her experience doing research with Jackson, Hill decided to take another course with her and even asked Jackson to write her a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

"She really does genuinely get to know you and wants to help you be the best writer, the best student, the best thinker that you can be," Hill said. "And she was just a really inspiring professor. She made me feel the way that I want my future students to feel in my classroom." 

Environmental studies

Eric Young is a senior majoring in environmental studies. Young said ENEC 350: Environmental Law and Policy with Professor Donald Hornstein has been one of his favorite courses at UNC.

“A bigger part of it was the professor,” Young said. “I really enjoyed the professor, I thought he was very interesting to listen to, I thought he presented the material in a very engaging way, but he was also very very funny, which helps a lot.”

Young said that though he has taken many environmental studies classes, most of them only vaguely discussed environmental law. He said it was useful for him to take a more in-depth look at the subject.

"He was good at putting things in perspective," Young said. "If there was something happening he could be like, 'Oh imagine it like this, or imagine it like this,' and give people more relative understanding." 


Sean McCaffery, a senior majoring in computer science, said HNRS 354: Seminar in Philosophical & Moral Reasoning with Professor Larry Goldberg, in which he is currently enrolled, has caused him to think deeply about his own worldview.  

“The things we talk about ultimately inform your view on why you live your life and what is truly good and what is truly bad, things that a lot of people don’t necessarily think about all that often,” McCaffery said. “It’s really profound, but it’s also, like, he creates a really cool community in the class.”

McCaffery said Goldberg takes class discussion seriously.

"(He's) just an intense guy, but ultimately makes it a really engaging and positive discussion environment," McCaffery said. 

The seminar may not be around too much longer, McCaffery said, as the department is considering canceling the class in upcoming years. To fight this, Goldberg’s former students have banded together to make a website advocating for the course to continue.

Diverse classroom experiences

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Not all classes are the same for every student who takes them. Students from minority backgrounds, for example, may want to take a class with a professor who has shared similar experiences. 

According to a recent survey conducted by The Daily Tar Heel, Kelly Hogan, a professor in the biology department, was voted the professor who best supports minority students at UNC. Runners-up included Trevy McDonald, Jeannie Loeb, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Viji Sathy, Pamela Conover and Cynthia Current.

The same survey found that William Sturkey won in the category for “professor of color that has had a large impact on your UNC experience.” Runners-up included Chérie Rivers Ndaliko and Jeannie Loeb.