Everyone has to take general education requirements (GERs) in college. They’re tedious, we know. But us at the Fringe have a few picks of our favorite GERs to keep you enjoying UWM every step of the way.
Dance 122: African Dance and Diaspora Technique I
Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Arts
It sounds ridiculous but it’s not. UWM is one of the few schools in the nation that offer and African Dance track program. Kill two birds with one stone with this class. Not only does it satisfy two GERs, but it also satisfies your work out for the days of class. African dance is fun, intensive, sweaty, and loud. UWM has live drummers that play each class for the dancers which adds even another dimension of authenticity to the class. In addition, the instructors are very talented and funny.
There are two short essays that are graded throughout the semester, in addition to a mandatory outside-of-class dance performance.(I went to see a one-man interpretive dance show and I will probably never see anything like it ever again.) But aside from that, the only other grade component is participation. Since choreography is involved, going to class every day is recommended.
Women are required to wear what is called a “lapa“, or a dancing skirt. You can buy a traditional lapa from the department or use a colorful scarf from home. Everyone dances barefoot.
The dancing is not hard, but it requires a lot of effort. There’s plenty of jumping, squatting, and swinging arms, so make use of the warm ups at the beginning of each class. Like many GER classes, if you try and put in effort, you will have no problem getting an A.
At the end of the semester, the dance department puts on showcases for their classes. If you want to, you can show off what you learned in African dance at the showcase. Or, you can go to watch more advanced classes perform what they learned.
African dance is definitely one of my favorite classes taken here so far.
My honorable mentions: Honors 200: Dirty Realism
–Mary Jo Contino
Honors 200: Nostalgic Fictions: The Odyssey and its Cinematic Afterlife
[Honors College students only]
Satisfies: Humanities, OWCB (honors requirement)
For those just starting out in UW-Milwaukee’s Honors College, I cannot recommend Honors 200: Nostalgic Fictions: The Odyssey and its Cinematic Afterlife enough. Typically held during the spring semester, this course is completely focused on reading Homer’s The Odyssey and studying its many modern interpretations and variations.
The Odyssey is a timeless tale if there ever was one, and this class allows students to slowly and carefully break down the beautifully complicated epic. Perhaps the most intriguing moments arise when students realize just how relevant each of these characters’ stories remains today. Odysseus, Telemachus, Penelope, and others are surprisingly relatable when they face their otherworldly challenges. Personally, I found myself connecting to Odysseus’ son Telemachus’ struggle to grow up in the shadow of his father’s legacy. I am confident everyone can find a bit of themselves in The Odyssey.
Professor Tyson Hausdoerffer is beyond knowledgeable of Homeric works. He is actually able to perform many parts of The Odyssey in its original language; that unique experience alone makes the class worthwhile. However, Professor Hausdoerffer is also not afraid to tackle contemporary variants of The Odyssey—the good and the bad. There are the powerful explorations of the epic like the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother, Where Art Thou? as well as tacky “sword-and-sandal” ones like 1954’s Ulysses that he challenges students to analyze, and it is amusing as well as intriguing to do so.
Between the legendary subject matter and excellent professor, Nostalgic Fictions is one of my favorite classes I’ve taken here at UW-Milwaukee so far.
Ethnic 275: Queer Migrations
Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Humanities
Buzzfeed tells us that college is a time to discover who we are, whatever that means. Before we can answer, we must first understand where we come from and where we hope to go. Queer Migrations posits how race, gender, class and sexual orientation shape our identities.
If you’ve grown tired of the tedious, PowerPoint-heavy lecture, Professor Noel Mariano is the instructor for you. His exercises in experimental learning have proved to be one of the most engaging episodes of my college experience. The quirky, unpredictable flair of Mariano’s lessons command attention.
This once-a-week, three-credit course is among UWM’s finest hidden gems.
You won’t want to miss a single class.
My honorable mentions: Hebrew Studies 100, Comparative Literature 233
English/Art History/ Film Studies 111 – Entertainment Arts: Film, Television and the Internet
Out of any general education course, I have learned the most and enjoyed this class the most. The material was very engaging, unlike most large lecture classes where the professor drones on for 50 minutes. Each week a new topic is lectured on and discussed. A movie or television show is shown to accommodate and illustrate the topic of that week. Then, the assignment for the week is to write up a journal entry that should be around a page responding to the prompt given at the end of the class. Aside from the three exams throughout the semester, journal entries, participation and attendance altogether make up your final grade.
Overall, the movie and TV show choices are pretty interesting. Examples include Moulin Rouge, Modern Family, and South Park. Ultimately though, the instructor who taught my course, Ben Schneider, is what made the class so interesting. He engages a discussion during lecture and makes lecture actually interesting and worth your while. You can definitely tell when he teaches that he is passionate about the subject. If you’re looking for a fun and interesting humanities general education course, this would be the one for you!
Bio Sci 100: Survey of Zoology
Satisfies: Natual Science plus Lab
Getting your general education credits out of the way can be tedious, but some classes are a pleasant surprise from the tedium of gen. ed. Curriculum. The Biological Science 100 level Survey to Zoology class is for everyone who spent their youth trip to Disney World enthralled with The Animal Kingdom. This lecture and lab course covers the miniscule molecular makeup of the Kingdom Animalia and the greater characteristics and classifications of different animal species.
It can be a lot of information, but the labs are well directed and get this, the class extra credit is an information scavenger hunt at the Milwaukee Zoo. Many have had much worse e.c. plights. Highly reminiscent of high school anatomy classes, fetal pig dissections and cells under microscopes are abundant. With any luck, you may even develop an epic Edward and Bella like romance with your lab partner while examining the various stages of mitosis.
Hmong 265: Hmong Americans: History, Culture, and Contemporary Life
Satisfies: Cultural Diversity, Social Science
Although an incredibly visible minority on campus, broader understanding of Hmong history is largely unknown to those who have limited knowledge of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. This small, albeit resilient Southeast Asian ethnic group’s origins take root in China, and “Hmong 265” takes a chronological approach from this point forward. The class’s syllabus starts from the earliest exodus of the Hmong into the foothills of Northern Vietnam and Laos, through the colonialism period in Indochina, and into the life in modern Hmong America.
A fairly large portion of this course deals with the Vietnam War and the subsequent “Secret War in Laos,” which lasted from 1961-1975. This decades old cover-up operation by the United States government, and its eventual bloody aftermath in Laos, led to a diaspora which has brought thousands of Hmong refugees to the US, many becoming our friends, coworkers, and classmates. Hearing about Cold War politics, especially from the viewpoint of a vulnerable minority, is something applicable in today’s heated foreign policy debates. Some of the most poignant moments in this course however focus less on the historical aspects of the Hmong population and more on their customs, culture, and religious practices. Shamanism and courting rituals in particular are some of the more fascinating traditions which have been passed down through the generations.
Since this course focuses on the lives of Hmong Americans, a significant portion of the curricula is devoted to learning about contemporary Hmong issues which begin taking shape after their resettlement in the US during the 1970s. Social, educational, and cultural Hmong issues stemming from a lack of understanding and racism have carved out unique narratives which the class explores at length.
Peace Studies 201: Introduction to Conflict Resolution and Peace
Satisfies: Social Science
In Peace Studies 201 you finally grasp the full definition of peace. Peace is defined in a way that is easy to understand and even the everyday pessimist can comment upon it as a feasible and fair way of living with one another around the world. The material in the beginning of the class is a little dull, but once you get passed the dry definitive chapters it transforms in to a class where you feel like you have the ability to make a great change in the world. In the classroom setting there is a steady flow of readings and it is heavily discussion based. The lasting impact from this class was learning about troubled people of the world and then learning about the people who aim to help them.
JAMS 101: Introduction to Mass Media
Satisfies: Social Science
Why does the Pokémon anime refer to Onigiri as donuts? How is Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Twilight similar? Why is it smart to sell cassette tapes of songs from the TMNT live rock band at Pizza Hut? Can the Teletubbies get any scarier? All of these questions and more can be answered if you take JAMS 101 – Introduction to Media Studies.
This class not only satisfies a Gen Ed requirement for the social sciences, but it also teaches us about the media and its power. Media and the technology that drives it is getting stronger and more prevalent every day, so we need understand all aspects of its production, marketing, and influence on society in order to understand it from a critical eye.
“Media is something that we all understand very intuitively because we’ve been paying attention to it all our lives,” said Professor Michael Newman, who teaches the class for the Spring semester. “But there’s a way of being critical and analytical about media and understanding how it functions in business and understanding how it functions as a way that citizens and communities get their ideas and interact with one another that I think we can understand better by studying than just by being consumers. I think to really understand our modern world we need to understand the media.”
For more general education classes offered at UWM, check out and use this advanced search to find specific classes for specific GERs. With these classes filling up quickly, may the odds be ever in your favor.