For many Cornellians there is a list of things that undergraduate students aspire to cross off before graduating, including what courses to take. As the fall semester draws to an end, students and professors shared their thoughts on some of the University’s most iconic classes.
Whether it be BIOEE 1540: Introduction to Oceanography, HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines or CHEM 2070: General Chemistry I, these iconic classes attract hundreds of students each year for a multitude of reasons.
Much of the classes’ popularity stems from the professors’ passion to provide students a greater understanding of the topics within their course.
Prof. Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric studies, said he enjoys teaching students how the ocean and Earth works, but his main goal is to inspire students to use their voice and stand up against climate change upon completion of his course Introduction to Oceanography.
“I often say that if all I did was teach the basics of a wave or a tide, I would not want to teach this class,” Monger said. “I want to teach this class because I want to create a revolution.”
Monger’s passion is reflected by his presence in Bailey Hall during class. To connect with the large student body on a more personal level, he plays songs themed to the lecture of the day as students come in and take their seats before class.
“I tell students that I consider the overarching theme song of the class to be: Stand Up by Sugarland,” Monger said. “This song, in a sense, describes the learning outcome I hope for in the class.”
Students resonate with his song choices and lectures because they are both eye-opening and easy to understand, even for students without science backgrounds.
Faryan Heravi ’24 did not know what to expect when enrolling in Monger’s oceanography course, but Heravi has found his voice throughout the semester.
“I usually don’t get too involved in environmental issues, but Monger’s lecture really helped me learn that I can make a difference,” Heravi said.
These classes are also iconic due to their uniqueness to Cornell. For example, Introduction to Wines is taught by Prof. Cheryl Stanley ’00, senior lecturer, who was a student of the course more than two decades ago.
“I took the class in the fall of 1998, and I loved it,” Stanley said. While my wine journey started in high school at my job in a restaurant, this course set me on the professional path of becoming a Sommelier, Wine Director and now a Wine Educator.
Stanley believes her course reflects the University’s “any person, any study” principle. She enjoys teaching her diverse set of students the history, culture and different parts of the world through wine.
“The class represents a cross section of Cornellians who study all different subjects but have come together in the Statler Auditorium to learn about wine,” Stanley said. “I am excited people are interested in the subject matter of wine, whether they drink wine or not.”
Ava Sannino ’26 has been looking forward to taking this course since her pre-enrollment period.
“I grew up on a vineyard on Long Island and have been helping in every harvest since I could walk,” Sannino said. “There hasn’t been a year that I haven’t at least helped with the bottling and labeling of the wine.”
As someone who grew up around wine, Sannino enjoys learning about it in-depth and plans to continue studying wine at Cornell.
“The discussion about various wine regions [has] inspired me to travel in the future to wine country around the world,” Sannino said.
While the popularity of HADM 4300 comes from its unique nature, other courses gained their notoriety for being a difficult rite of passage for students such as General Chemistry I, better known as CHEM 2070, taught by Prof. Stephen Lee, chemistry.
“The course has, as its heart, the idea that every student is on their own personal arc of achievement and that everyone’s arc is different,” Lee said.
CHEM 2070 is a required course for many science and engineering majors, such as those on the pre-med track. It aims to teach students fundamentals of chemistry, including an acute understanding of the chemical bond.
“It is an honor to teach a course in the footsteps of these great scientists and great teachers,” Lee said.
Noah Gerling ’26 found this course equally challenging and academically stimulating.
“Before attending the first class, I heard rumors that the class was super difficult and these rumors did turn out to be true,” Gerling said. “My favorite topic in 2070 was the Classical Experiments topic as I found the history and science behind it all very interesting.”
While he has struggled, Gerling has been able to hone his chemistry skills over the course of the semester, which has been extremely rewarding.
“If you can conquer CHEM 2070, you can achieve anything!” Gerling said.