June 30, 2020 by Shankari Sivanathan
With the last few months of your high-school classes being online and learning to navigate the virtual environment, the time has finally come to begin planning your courses for the next chapter of your life. The announcement of Western’s classes following a blended model – a mix of face-to face and online instruction, will allow you to retain the social aspects of learning that can be more difficult to replicate in an online environment.
Course selection is the most pivotal step for setting yourself up for success during the upcoming semester. This can be an intimidating process, and you might not know where to begin, but we’ve got you covered! Our PBSN team is ready to shed some light on our personal favourite courses and share a few resources that will help you get started with this process.
On June 6th, you had the opportunity to begin enrolling in courses. However, this does not mean you’re not “locking in” your courses on that day – you will be able to switch/swap course, given that there is still space in the class, right up until classes begin!
To help you get started, the PBSN VP team has compiled a list of our favourite first-year courses!
Favourite Course: Going into first year I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what courses I’d like and what courses I might not, and honestly I was wrong about practically everything; however, one course that stood out was PoliSci 1020. Throughout the year I had mixed feelings about it: It had essays which I didn’t like, but the topics covered in tutorials were super interesting, the profs were great, and throughout the course I could see how much I had improved and learned, more so than any other course I took. Going to class was engaging and fun, I got to practice structuring debates and looking at complicated multi-faceted problems in easy to manage chunks, and I did pretty well in the course which did not hurt. While the lectures were strong, and the professors did a great job keeping it fun while also covering timely issues and concepts, the tutorials were my favourite part because of how deep the discussions would go and how engaged people were in the content. Whether it is this course or another, find something that challenges your thinking in a way different to what you are used to and helps you build important skills
Favourite Course: No other Western course compares to the amount of personal development, business acumen and classroom environment that you’ll find in Business 1220. Coming into university, I was shy, afraid to fail, and lacked both the knowledge and charisma of a typical business student. Although I wasn’t going to be a star student in 1220, I knew that it was the challenge I needed to push my comfort-zone and learn essential soft and hard skills— and a challenge it was. But, a rewarding one. In 1220, you’re exposed to a highly dynamic and approachable learning environment that involves real-life business problems. You and your classmates are challenged to formulate, defend and deconstruct ideas utilizing your own critical thinking and communication skills. You learn to ask quality questions, share your opinion and deeply engage with the course material in real-time; this is something unique to the Ivey case-based method— something you’ll come to fall in love with. Despite any initial reservations, by immersing yourself in the classroom experience, getting to know your classmates and solving real business issues, 1220 offers an experience like no other, with a professor that actually knows your name.
Favourite Course: If it weren’t for History 1807 (History of Business), I would not have found my passion to pursue studying history. The course content was intellectually stimulating and lecturers would cater the syllabus to challenge each student to think critically about the reasons things are the way they are. Our professor started from the beginning of economic systems and guided us to what we know of business today, I never felt that I was just digesting dry content. Some cool topics that we touched included; human psyche, the Great Depression and the 2008 Financial Crisis. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone that’s just always curious!
Favourite Course: Taking Business 1220 was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Its unique and dynamic case-based method allows students to reach outside of their comfort zone and hear a diverse array of opinions and perspectives all in a classroom setting. Each class consists of approximately 70 students, which gives you the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships and strong bonds with your peers and Ivey professor. This course gives you a good grasp of business fundamentals, covering five key areas: finance, marketing, operations, organizational behaviour, and general management. The Ivey case-method provides students with the opportunity to take on the role of a decision-maker and solve pressing real-world challenges for various businesses. This style of learning really pushes you to think critically, and problem solve, as no two cases are ever the same. My one piece of advice would be to keep up with all the cases and make sure you are actively contributing in class. Honestly speaking, it is a challenging course, with 4-hour case-based examinations, however, I do believe that it teaches you an incredible amount about business and is an experience that will help you grow as a person. I would highly recommend taking this course and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
Favourite Course: Psych 1000 is, hands down, the most interesting course I took in first year. It pairs nicely with my philosophy that you’ll inevitably find a way to do well in the courses you’re genuinely interested in. As a MOS student, I found that there were several times throughout the year where the courses I took kind of “blended” together –– like simultaneously learning the same topic in MOS Finance, Business 1220, and Microeconomics. However, psych offered a break from this “business” bubble by exploring more scientific topics from the anatomy of the human brain to the effects of COVID-19 on mental health. Not to mention, having Dr. Mike as a prof was one of the most rewarding experiences on campus. My advice to students taking this class is to keep an open mind. Psychology applies to so many facets of business –– from organizational behaviour to creative design. And although the course structure may be a bit different next year, I promise that you’ll find the content as enjoyable. Feel free to reach out if you have any more questions!
Favourite Course: Coming out of high school, I had very little coding experience and didn’t know what to expect when I decided to major in Computer Science. Fortunately, the first-year Computer Science courses offered at Western start by teaching you the fundamentals of a language. My favourite first-year course would be CS1027, as this course has helped foster my love to code, design products, and solve problems! As a hands-on learner, the projects assigned in CS1027 gave me an abundance of practical experience in grasping the fundamentals of Java, data structures, and object-oriented design principles. It’s no secret that the nature of Computer Science and debugging code can provoke frustration and sometimes tears – every programmer has been there! To ace this course, one of my tips would be to start early; you don’t know what errors are going to appear and how long it’s going to take you to debug. My second tip is to learn how to use your IDE’s debugger; this tool works magic when finding logic errors. My final tip is to find a friend to code your projects with! It’s a lot more fun and less stressful to have company coding at 3am. If you have any questions about Computer Science or need any resources, feel free to reach out to me!
Favourite Course: My most enjoyable first-year course was CS1026 (taught by Steven Beauchemin) because of its real-world applicability. Coming into university, I was conflicted about whether I should pursue computer science or not. One of the best decisions I made was taking 1026. The course consists of a mix of assignments, labs, and exams, allowing you to gain a fundamental understanding of the Python language. As someone who prefers learning by doing, the assignments gave me the opportunity to solve problems through code. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in computer science per say, I would still recommend this course because it teaches you to think in different ways—to tackle a problem by deconstructing it into smaller sub-tasks. My only word of advice would be to find a group of friends to bounce ideas off of when working on projects and assignments. Try to first approach the task at hand independently prior to consulting others. It makes the process much less stressful while also ensuring that you’re building critical skills in the process (which will be of benefit for the final exam). Don’t hesitate to message me if you have any questions!
Favourite Course: One of the favourite courses in first-year was HS1002, as I found it provided a great fundamental understanding of different social determinants of health in Canada and in other countries around the world. I’ve always been interested in different public health issues, but I found a lot of the topics I gravitated towards were very specific, so I hadn’t developed a holistic view of the field. This course is great in the sense that it covers a myriad of different issues (ie. healthcare systems, environmental health, colonialism), their respective health outcomes, and simultaneously creates clear connections between all of the different determinants. The lectures were also very informative and easy to understand and they somehow made 8:30am class a little more tolerable. Another reason I enjoyed the course is that the testing points, 3 exams throughout the semester, were based more on understanding topics rather than intense memorization. Overall, the lectures are very applicable to health issues in everyday life and I would recommend it if you’re interested in the social aspects of healthcare!
Favourite Course: Contrary to what I would’ve thought at the beginning of the year, Anthro1020 became my favourite first-year course. It was an elective I chose to satisfy my breadth requirements and had nothing to do with my program or general interests. However, it was a beautifully refreshing course that allowed me to critically analyze modern ideas and concepts. Each of the four units provided a unique perspective on society, history, human evolution, and much more. We even had the opportunity to directly interact with human, pre-human, and primate skeletons, which was an odd, but a fun distraction from some of my other more “serious” classes. Therefore, I would highly recommend that everyone who needs a breadth requirement completed, or some excitement in their schedule, take this course. It allows you to examine some important societal beliefs (even if you don’t agree with the overall consensus of the class) and understand what it truly means to be “human.” Additionally, it is important to mention that evaluations are far from difficult and exceptional grades are definitely achievable (a HUGE bonus when you are taking courses like Calculus and Business 1220).
Favourite Course: As an IB Diploma graduate, I had the advantage of taking a 2000s course in my first year. Geography 2144, taught by Wes Kinghorn, was arguably the best and my favourite course of the entire school year. Despite it being a 3-hour lecture, I found myself constantly engaged with the content I was learning, not just because the professor was extremely personable, but also because the course itself was logical, interactive, and relatable. An addicted Harry Potter fan and an avid traveler, I was captivated by the theories behind why “imaginary places” attract so many visitors worldwide. I learned about the different types of tourists, their stereotypes, and was even able to identify myself within these groups when I thought about my own experiences. This is what learning should be – taking in information and applying it to your own experiences so you are able to have a new and unique perspective. I did not have a “conventional first year course load”, and was even questioned by my peers who laughed at why I was taking such “random” courses. But when exam season rolled around, and I didn’t need to cram for a course I hated/only took because everyone else did, I knew I made the right decision for myself. Take courses you’re genuinely interested in, engage in discussions that help you see the world in a different light, challenge the status quo, and stay true to yourself. You only have four years – graduate knowing that you were not molded from a cookie cutter because that’s how you’ll stand out.
Favourite Course: My favourite course this year was MIT 1020, taught by John Reed. It was a very unique course in that you were not expected to memorize material, spit it back out in a multiple choice exam, and forget all the content two days later. This course focused on teaching broad media theory concepts, giving many relevant examples, and then giving you an assignment to apply these concepts into your life and write about it. I don’t think I have forgotten anything I’ve learned in this class because of the way it was taught. We learned how our technology shapes our actions and behaviours, the theory of signs and language, and the new world of surveillance capitalism. This class has changed the way I see the world in everything from Tiktok to Uber to super bowl commercials. This course was also taught in a very unique way. He would condense about 300 slides into 6 pages that you are expected to print out prior to class. Then, you are not supposed to have a computer in class and are instead, told to handwrite your notes in a Cornell style method. This really allows you to engage more with the course material.
Our last piece of advice is to enjoy the process – no matter what courses you end up choosing, we can guarantee that you will come out of it learning something new and still make the most out of your first-year experience. Take risks! Don’t shy away from enrolling in unconventional or challenging courses, you may even love that course by the end of it!
All of the PBSN VP team is here to help you! If you have any questions about course selection, or Western in general, please feel free to reach out. Happy planning!