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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Cakes and Classes delivers sweet insight into winter history courses

Jacob Wendler/Daily Senior Staffer
The history department partnered with Bennison’s Bakery to provide decorated cakes displaying images themed to the department’s Winter Quarter courses.

Exploring Winter Quarter history courses was easy as cake for students who attended the history department’s recurring Cakes and Classes event, as professors welcomed the sugar rush of eager undergraduates.

Twelve custom cakes from Bennison’s Bakery lined Harris Hall Monday afternoon, decorated with images depicting course offerings from Gender and Sexuality in African American Women’s History to Histories of Violence. 

Weinberg sophomore Jessica Dean, a political science major who originally just came for a sweet treat, said she found the event helpful.

“There are some things that you can’t learn about from a CTEC,” Dean said. “It’s nice to have this opportunity for accessibility to professors.”

Cakes and Classes is not merely an excuse for the history department to indulge in rich desserts. The history department sees a spike in enrollment each quarter the event is held, according to Nick Anton, undergraduate coordinator for the department.

History Prof. Caitlin Fitz, the department’s director of undergraduate studies, helped coordinate the event.

“I hope that students feel more sense of possibility about the kinds of classes that we offer,” Fitz said. “I hope that they also see the history department as an intellectual home and as a place of community.

History department chair Kevin Boyle said he takes pride in students’ engagement with history courses as interest in the subject is declining nationally.

The total number of undergraduate history enrollments nationwide declined by 1.38% from the 2016-17 academic year to the 2019-20 academic year, according to the American Historical Association. The AHA expects a more significant decrease in the coming years. 

But Northwestern has managed to buck that trend.

“Our enrollments haven’t fallen at all in a decade,” Boyle said. “That’s because we have really, really good teachers, but also because we actually really like undergrads…and you can see that.”

History Prof. Peter Caroll, who has taught at NU for 23 years, advertised his two Winter Quarter classes: Chinese Civilization and Revolutionizing Gender and Sex.

He said Cakes and Classes is valuable for “getting the word out” about the variety of classes available.

“It gives people a little sugar, gets them enthused,” Carroll said.

Cakes and Classes was rewarding for students who were already interested in learning about history courses – and wanted to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

Several students — like Weinberg freshman Sophia Wagner — attended after their professor promoted the event. Wagner is currently in a global history course with history Prof. Daniel Immerwahr and was interested in learning about his course offerings, specifically his foreign relations class. 

History majors like Weinberg freshman Franke Gordon enjoyed learning about the classes. Gordon was particularly fascinated by the Soviet History Through Film class and Sex and the Body in Early Americas classes due to his interest in early American history, he said.

“As a history major, I really am interested in getting into more in-depth analyses of history, and the breadth and specificity of these classes is really interesting to me,” Gordon said. “I also really like cake — especially chocolate cake.”

Despite Gordon’s general distaste for buttercream frosting, he found the frosting very creamy and rated it a “10 out of 10.”

“I love the history department,” he said. “And I love cake.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @toby_goldfarb 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Zoe__Singer

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