Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

70° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Northwestern classes to take before you graduate

Illustration by Lily Ogburn
With only four years, it may feel daunting choosing classes. Here are some of the must-take classes before you graduate.

The quarter system can be brutal. It can seem like one second you’re registered for your first set of classes during Wildcat Welcome and the next, you’re graduating. Here’s The Daily’s guide to some of Northwestern’s most “cult-classic” courses to take before that happens, along with a few hidden gems. 


Professional Linkage Seminar (BUS_INST 394-LK) 

From the CTECs: “In my (almost) four years of college, the majority of classes I’ve taken here feel like courses I could’ve learned on Coursera for $20 back home in less–terrible weather, as opposed to paying $70k tuition. This is not one of those classes.”

Taught by former President Barack Obama’s speech writer, Prof. Cody Keenan, the class is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” as one student described it. If you’re lucky enough to get in, you’ll learn “why some speeches endure and most are forgotten” from the “down-to-earth” NU alumnus that worked with one of the most powerful men in the world. Depending on what you’re looking to get out of it, this class might just get you one step closer to the White House. 

Global History: The Modern World (HISTORY 250-2) 

Prof. Daniel Immerwahr explores how the world changed when we switched from a “low-energy diet to a high-energy one,” covering world events from the 1750s to the present like communism, HIV/AIDS and globalization.For many students, it’s worth the time and effort, one even said they left each lecture “with a different worldview” than when they entered. In the CTECs, one student wrote, “Professor Immerwahr is one of those professors that you simply have to take a course of before one leaves Northwestern.”

Intro to Native American Studies (SOCIOL 277)  

Many NU students may be familiar with land acknowledgements, but very few go further. This course provides that outlet. Prof. Beth Redbird is known for her “low-stress” courses, based less on memorization and more on thoughtful development. Students coming out of this course said they realize how little they knew about Native history and contemporary issues.  Many also said they appreciate her well-trained service dog and entertaining approach to teaching. 


Human-Centered Product Design (DSGN 308) 

Prof. David Gatchell is described as “design Gandalf” by some, and his wisdom comes in handy in this course where students learn about design research methods. Many students described this course as fast-paced after the third week and say a good tip is to have a good team. In the end, students are expected to develop a product to the prototype stage. 

Machine Learning (COMP_SCI 349) 

Prof. Zach Wood-Doughty’s class isn’t easy, but rather, a “perfect medium” and will help you learn the basics of ML. With a contract grading system, you get to choose which assignments to do while still learning the material. Class recordings, extra credit on Piazza and automatically graded assignments give students more independence. Drawbacks for some include long queues for office hours and a heavy focus on implementation over theory and math.


Politics, Media and The Republic (JOUR 352) 

Students rave about this professor and the class, with one stating “Drop EVERYTHING to take any class you can with (Prof.) Peter Slevin.” Slevin challenges his students with “enthusiastic discussion” about journalism and politics in the classroom and out of it. His previous classes included a 3-day reporting trip to Wisconsin for the midterm elections and an opportunity to see former President Obama speak in Milwaukee. 

School of Communication

Music Theatre Ballet (DANCE 130-1) 

Prof. Vanessa Valecillos’ guidance makes this class worthwhile for dancers of all levels. Students have said that she is a “rare” type of ballet teacher that “truly cares about her students’ growth and success,” according to the CTECs. Advanced dancers can appreciate the slow pace to improve basic technique, and newcomers will benefit most greatly if they become familiar with basic vocabulary before beginning this class. 


Alexander Technique (MUSIC 350)

Prof. John Henes teaches this course on body mechanics, breathing and stress management for performance exclusively for Bienen students. Described by some as almost a “yoga class,” one of the only drawbacks is that it only meets once a week. 


Building Loving and Lasting Relationships: Marriage 101 (HDPS 340) 

Prof. Alexandra Solomon continues teaching this longstanding course, where students can think critically about the role love plays in their lives. From a range of topics including dating, sex and relationships across cultural differences, students are educated on how to “manage conflict and evaluate compatibility.” From family interviews to journaling, papers and quizzes, the workload is worthwhile for many given how “it prepares you to transition out of college,” according to the CTECs.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @LuisCasta220 

Related Stories:

The Best of Distros: 12 classes you should consider to fulfill your degree requirements

Out-classed: Here are some classes you should take during your time at Northwestern

Can’t-miss classes to take your first Fall Quarter

More to Discover