The Freshmen Guide: 8 Student Approved Classes to Take This Fall

Hated by many and loved by some, everyone must meet and complete the infamous General Education (Gen-Eds) requirements in order to graduate.

Aside from beginning a new chapter in one’s life, college is a time to leave comfort zones, expand horizons, and view ideas form different perspectives. With twelve academic colleges and hundreds of classes to navigate, the course options are endless. Add
45,000 students into the scenario and scheduling becomes a hassle, especially for incoming freshmen.

Among the different majors, interests, cultures, and experiences, Penn State students have at least one thing in common. Hated by many and loved by some, everyone must meet and complete the infamous General Education (Gen-Eds) requirements in order to graduate.

As a rising junior, I’ve taken a fair share of Gen-Ed courses — some good, some bad. Fortunately, the Underground team members, friends, and fans, have taken a variety of courses that have proved to be culturally enriching, interesting, and enjoyable.

Here are eight student approved courses you should consider taking this fall:

AFAM 101: The African American Woman

My favorite Penn State course taken to date, AFAM 101 explores the sociological, historical, and political experiences of African American Women within society. Satisfying Humanities and US Cultures requirements, the course discusses current events, personal narratives, misrepresentation, and is even cross listed with Women’s Studies 101. Oh, and you obviously don’t have to be an African American Woman to take the class. When I took the course in fall of 2015 the classroom was filled with students of a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Get your blessings and sign up for this class!

BBH 251:  Straight Talks I: Advanced Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Peer Education

Recommended by a variety of campus Resident Assistants, the class promotes discussion of social justice issues, leadership, and facilitation skills related to LGBTQA+ issues. With objectives of critical thinking, developing consciousness, and challenging social norms, students are encouraged to work together in creating a more accepting and safe community. The course satisfies three credits worth of United States Cultures and introduces students to knew perspectives. Unfortunately, the class size is small; therefore, if you’re interested, sign up as soon as possible!

Music 009: Introduction to World Musics

Counting toward General Art and/or International Cultures credit, the course seeks to help students understand the meaning of cultures and how stories are integrated into rhythm. It also explores the evolution of music through pop culture, history, geography, and other aspects of human life. Ultimately, the class increases in value as students examine stereotypes associated with specific types of music, preconceived notions, and raises cultural awareness. As if breaking stereotypes wasn’t enough, The Underground’s very own, Sumit Pareek, recommended it so it has to be good, right? Right.

WMNST 106: Representing Women and Gender in Literature, Art and Popular Cultures

Topics typically covered include aspects of patriarchy, women’s movements, religious witch hunts, and scholarly research. The class digs even deeper by exploring diversity and studying women from Amish, Black, Hispanic, Jewish, and Chinese ancestry. Recommended by two students, one majoring in Political Science and the other in Women’s Studies, the course broadens knowledge of feminism and satisfies Humanities requirements.

CMLIT 143: Human Rights and World Literature

With the ability to satisfy Humanities, International Cultures, or US Cultures requirements, the class recognizes the fact that human rights have long been an area of injustice with need for continual improvement. Studying the intersection between human rights, advocacy, and disclosure, the comparative literature course highlights issues of slavery, genocide, dictatorships, and apartheid. Looking to movie depictions, poetry, and photography for support, the class further ventures into questions of ethics, morals, and public opinion. Upon the recommendation of a friend, I’m enrolled in the course for the upcoming semester, so if you see a girl in Underground apparel be sure to say hello!

CAS 271: Intercultural Communication in Context

I took this course in effort to satisfy a major requirement; however, the topics discussed, articles read, and projects made great content for someone looking to take an in interesting Gen-Ed. Fulfilling United States and International Cultures credit needs, the class introduces students to trends in communication in domestic and international cultures. With highlights of topics like Disney culture and acknowledgement of successful Penn Staters of color, the course provides the opportunity to delve into the realm of media. As of right now, the class is taught online; therefore, you can move at your own pace and make your own schedule. I know, it’s lit.

AED 225: Diversity, Pedagogy, and Visual Culture

The title of the course doesn’t quite do it justice. The General Arts and US Studies class explores a variety of topics ranging from racism, sexism, and classism, to media representation, gender, and the importance of cross cultural relationships. I’ll be honest with you, the class can get uncomfortable at times, but you’ll finish the semester holding new perspectives and knowledge on challenging topics. Enrolling in this class is an experience like no other, trust me. Interested and want more information? Editor in Chief, Adriana and I can tell you more about our experiences in the class.

COMM 205: Gender, Diversity, and the Media 

Designed to look at the relationship between media and society, the Social and Behavioral Science class has been recommended by three people within the College of Communication. The course provides students with an opportunity to look at the economic, political, and social implications of current media while simultaneously building knowledge on sexual orientation, ethnicity, and diversity in the classroom. Cross listed with WMNST 205, the class is comprised of both men and women.


All in all, every student’s classroom experience will be different. Prior to enrolling in courses check out what other students have to say about the course load and expectations on Rate My Professors, an online tool and review site built for college students, by college students.

Don’t like the class? It’s not the end of the world. The beginning of a semester can be overwhelming and odds are, you just need to stick with the class, engage, and open your mind to new ideas. If you truly believe your overall grade and livelihood will suffer, you can drop the class by August 27th without penalty.

Good luck!

About Candice Crutchfield (20 Articles)
Candice is an occasionally stressed out college student and aspiring lawyer from northern Virginia. The African-American student-turned-social-justice-advocate can be found reading about civil rights issues, ranting about millennial life, and starting Twitter conversations with Soledad O’Brien. After being many people’s only black friend, she gained an interest in establishing diverse and accepting communities. A media junkie of sorts, she can also be found writing for Blavity, binge watching TV shows, and taking endless pictures of food for her Instagram account. Email her:

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