I surveyed other interns in the office (and a few I pestered on Facebook) and here is what I found (we limited our selections to classes offered this fall that are open to first year students, i.e. nothing advanced):
Forests: An Introduction to Ecology and Evolution with Kerry Woods
Ben ‘13: “Any class where you get to go on weekly field trips with ecology professor Kerry Woods will change your life.”
Ezra ’13 adds: “It was the class that kick started my interest in ecology - it’s really well-constructed; students learn to ask rigorous questions ABOUT science as well as becoming comfortable with scientific literature. Also, the labs are phenomenal!”
Fundamentals of Spatial Thinking and Making with Jon Isherwood.
Amira ‘12: You’re exposed to working with so many different materials, including clay, wood, metal. But the really great part is that even though its an introductory class, you’re still required to call upon a personal aesthetic to complete assignments. So even though it’s assignment based and everyone is working on a common project, you’re able to incorporate your own artistic vision.”
Electronic Music: Creativity and Sound with Randall Neal
Ezra ‘13: ”This class gets you listening to everything as music – the huge revelation of the early experimenters in tape and processed sound is that music is “organized sound,” not just of instruments and voices, but also of machines, animals, and artificial noise. You listen to lots of classic and contemporary electronic music, learn the basics of pro-tools and recording, and make two larger pieces. It’s a great class to take from the get-go if you’re interested in any of the arts, because it improves your ability to listen with open ears and gives you a chance to pursue your own aesthetic and ideas through the projects.”
First-Year Dance Intensive with Terry Creach
Julia ‘15: “It was great because there were definitely a lot of freshman in it but there were also students from a lot of different years who were exploring dance for the first time; so it was low-pressure in that you weren’t expected to be an expert at anything coming in, but at the same time you were treated with the same respect as as a more advanced dance student (I took it with Susan Sgorbati, but I’m sure Terry Creach is the same). I think it’s a good way to find out if Bennington-style modern dance is something that you want to continue with.”
Social Psychology with Ron Cohen
Ellie ‘13: This is an amazing introduction to social psychology, the study of individual behavior within a social context. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn, through practice and readings, how to conduct social psychological research, even in your very first term at Bennington. It also will completely change the way you look and think about the world around you!
An Introduction to the Art of Sound Design with Julie Last and Scott Lehrer
Insiyah ‘12: Its a really great introduction to different ways of thinking about sound and it’s also a nice class to have if you’re thinking about video, theater, or visual arts, because a lot of people use this as an opportunity to design sound for visual work. It’s great because you get a lot of technical experience but you also do all this reading that helps you build your conceptual ideas about sound.”
Introduction to Pure Mathematics with Andrew McIntyre
Evan ’13: “What is important is that Andrew teaches math in a way that no one else does. You learn to look at an equation or a problem and break down what each part of the numbers is doing. Andrew asks you to consider what the equation is supposed to be doing; what it does at time-initial; what it does at time-infinity; and if all of that makes sense. Not only does he change the way you think about math, but the way you think about math, I’ve found, has a profound bearing on the ways you think about problem-solving and numbers themselves.
Philosophical Reasoning with Paul Voice
Akhurapa ’14: “It is unique among philosophy classes here in that it provides a survey of different topics in western philosophy (ethics, epistemology, meaning of life etc)
It serves as a great introduction to western philosophy and allows students to develop their skills writing social science essays and formulating and developing arguments/analysis. Bonus points because Paul is great!”
Insider Perspectives on the French-Speaking World with Stephen Shapiro
Fizza ’13: “Firstly, an introductory language class would be just great across the board - language classes here are broad in a way that no matter where we land in terms of our medium (visual arts, science, social science) we will find them contributing to our work. Also, Stephen is wonderful: helpful and fun as a teacher. His classes are entertaining and he really knows how to teach the foreign tongue. He is really broad and will be especially supportive if you are really motivated or are interested in something wild - he is teaching some kids Latin.
The Journey III: The 1860s with Eileen Scully
Jan ’14: “From the fact that this survey history course requires you to keep a ‘substantial personal journal, writing weekly letters to fictive friends and family,’ you might deduce (correctly) that Eileen is an unconventional history teacher. Her classes are the most open-ended of any I’ve had at Bennington, with almost unlimited possibilities for projects - a few years ago, one student put on a puppet show about Russian history for her final. I dislike this word, but I would call her classes “emergent” - they begin like a blank slate and gradually, Eileen and the students negotiate the terms of the class and what they want to get out of it. And she’s genuinely brilliant but she, more than any other professor I’ve had here, avoids imposing: her classes are all genuinely different because they all develop in an organic way. Take this course if you want to find new ways of thinking about and experiencing history but also if you want a classroom experience that will make you consider deeply what it means to be and learn as a Bennington student.”
The Actor’s Instrument with Kirk Jackson or Jenny Rohn
Sarah ’12: It’s really an amazing way to either dip your toes in or review the basics. It covers a lot of different techniques and exercises and both Kirk and Jenny are great!
Just wanted to pass this along: notes from a real, live Bennington dance student! Thanks for the helpful input!
Hi! Like Mike, I am also not a dance student, but I wanted to answer this question because a bunch of the freshmen in my house took dance classes this year; a few for the first time ever.
Although dance at Bennington definitely has a certain cachet to it, it follows the same general rules as any other discipline at Bennington - namely, that intro-level classes are truly introductory-level courses that require no prior experience to jump into. While it is true that some freshmen arrive at Bennington having already studied dance in some capacity, it’s not as if they dictate the challenge level of the courses that are already taught.
There is definitely a place for first-time dance students here. As with any type of introductory course, the intro-level dance courses focus on teaching strong fundamentals and building the framework upon which more advanced skills can blossom. Don’t be scared! Not only is dance accessible here, but like Mike said, there are a lot of opportunities for even first-year students to dance in the spotlight.