Digital Diaries Season 3 Episode 7: (Ghost) hunting for the best classes

Saul Pink, Newsletter Editor



With fall course registration starting today, The Daily asked Northwestern students about the best and most surprising classes they’ve taken — and what their dream courses at NU are.


JACK RYZENMAN: For the very first meeting, we went to the basement of Swift and used these divining rods to hunt for ghosts in the basement and try to have interactions.

SAUL PINK: That’s Weinberg freshman Jack Ryzenman talking about a psychology class he’s taking this quarter: Psychology 392: “Psychology & ‘Weird’ Beliefs.”

SAUL PINK: Course registration for fall 2023 starts today. That means a day of constantly checking CAESAR to see how many open seats are left in that one class you really wanted. This week, we asked Northwestern students about some of the best classes they’ve taken so far at NU — and what classes they have their eyes on for this fall and beyond.

SAUL PINK: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Saul Pink. This is Digital Diaries, a weekly podcast following the college experience and asking students questions about life at Northwestern.


SAUL PINK: Ryzenman’s “Psychology and ‘Weird Beliefs’” class is part of his psychology major. When he signed up for the seminar-style course with psychology Prof. Sara Broaders, he didn’t expect to be talking to ghosts in the basement of Swift Hall.

JACK RYZENMAN: Professor Broaders gave us these two bronze “divining rods,” she called them, that you’d hold in your hands. You’d have to lock your elbows.

SAUL PINK: Ryzenman then asked the ghosts questions from a questionnaire. If the rods crossed, that meant yes. If not, no.

JACK RYZENMAN: So like, “Is your first … the first letter of your name ‘A?’” And then you’d, like, wait for it to literally just do anything. If it doesn’t cross, it’s not ‘A.’

JACK RYZENMAN: I don’t remember exactly what our ghost’s name was, I think it was, like, Diego or something. He was 18 years old. He’s like a veteran of war.

SAUL PINK: One thing he’ll remember from the class is an hourlong documentary about members of the Flat Earth Society, a conglomerate of people who believe the Earth is flat.

JACK RYZENMAN: Before taking this class, I thought that conspiracy theories were entirely crazy. It didn’t really present these people as crazy. It showed that they use some sort of reasoning to get to certain conclusions to shape their beliefs.


ELEINA SALGIA: So the class was “Religion in the Media.” I originally took it because it fulfilled the distribution requirement for, I believe, an ethics distro.

SAUL PINK: That’s Weinberg sophomore Eleina Salgia, a premedical sociology major. That word you just heard — “distro” — is something you’ll hear a lot when people talk about finding the best classes. It’s short for “distribution requirement.” Schools like Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the School of Communication have these requirements to expose students to academic disciplines beyond their major.

ELEINA SALGIA: Honestly, apart from my STEM classes, I’m looking for courses that are a little bit easier, usually don’t have exams, but also classes that people say are really interesting.

SAUL PINK: One of Salgia’s favorite distros was Religion 172: “Introduction to Religion, Media, and Culture.” She took it the fall of her sophomore year to fulfill Weinberg’s fifth distribution area: Ethics and Values.

ELEINA SALGIA: We talked about a variety of different topics in the media ranging from video games to podcasts to even cults.

SAUL PINK: Salgia says the part of the class she’ll remember the most is learning about the history of cults and how people get involved with them.

ELEINA SALGIA: You hear about that term a lot, but you never really understand what it means and how people get involved with it, and just learning about that was (a) really eye-opening experience, that a lot of people in cults are really vulnerable and taken advantage of.


SAUL PINK: When it comes to finding fun and interesting classes, one four-letter acronym comes to mind.

JACK RYZENMAN: Thankfully, Northwestern has CTECs.

ELEINA SALGIA: All the CTECs for the professor were amazing.

SAUL PINK: CTEC stands for Course and Teacher Evaluation Council. Each quarter, students fill out evaluations about every class they take, answering questions like how well the professor stimulated their interest in the subject or how many hours they put into the course per week.

JACK RYZENMAN: Managing what your coursework will be, before even taking the classes, can be done by looking at the CTECs.

SAUL PINK: Using CTECs and word of mouth, students can have their eyes set on certain classes in the future. While Ryzenman’s fall is filled up with classes for his data science major, he said he hopes he has the chance to take the legendary “Marriage 101” class about building loving and lasting relationships.

JACK RYZENMAN: My sister is currently a junior here at Northwestern, and she’s taking it and she’s raving about it.

SAUL PINK: Salgia said she hopes to delve into departments beyond her fields of study.

ELEINA SALGIA: I think there’s a communications class on kids culture or kids stories. That seems really interesting to me. And then I also really want to take an RTVF class — basically anything with screenwriting.

SAUL PINK: You might find yourself hunting ghosts, or perhaps you’ll end up learning about cults. But one thing is for sure: You’ll never know where the courses you sign up for are going to take you.


SAUL PINK: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Saul Pink. Thanks for listening to another episode of Digital Diaries. This episode was reported and produced by me, Saul Pink. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Mika Ellison, the digital managing editors are Ava Mandoli and Erica Schmitt and the editor in chief is Alex Perry. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @saullpink

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