The Class of 2021: Our Favorite Classes at SJU

by Thi Nguyen, Iswarya Vel, Maria Johnson, Zoe Mrozek, Michelle Wheatley, Emily Lehman, Maura Flynn and Gianna Penezic

As the Class of 2021 prepares to leave SJU in May, they are particularly reflective about the impact that the University’s professors have had on their time here.  Every Scholar has at least one favorite class to recommend, and they have a lot to say about their choices.  So make sure read what follows with pen and paper in hand, so you can jot down courses that sound interesting to you and remember them when you’re next registering for classes!

Thi Nguyen (Biology & Economics): I have a passion for learning and have truly enjoyed every class that I’ve had the opportunity to take. While it’s challenging to decide which particular course has had the most influence on me, Darwin, Dogma and Ecology from my second semester of college has undeniably made a profound impact. I read all kinds of fascinating books that I could not put down, including The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I have always had a deep appreciation for the natural environment. Although I was aware of the negative impacts that technology and modern society can have on ecological systems, I did not realize the extent of damage that our actions can have on the health of our planet. Through this introspective class, I had the opportunity to rigorously analyze the inherent interconnectedness between our actions and the environment, as well as engage in meaningful discussion which tremendously enhanced my understanding of these relevant issues. As a result of taking this course, my fondness and reverence for the natural world intensified, and I became more conscious of the potential impacts of my own actions. The course provided a transformative educational experience which challenged my perceptions, heightened my awareness of ecological issues and resulted in tremendous personal growth.

Iswarya “Ice” Vel (Biology & Business Intelligence and Analytics): I have loved my time at SJU and have taken advantage of various opportunities. As a Biology and Business Intelligence & Analytics double-major, I’ve take a wide range of classes. My favorite class was a breath of fresh air from the plethora of math and science classes that I had been taking. It was Sports and Spectacles in the Classics, which fulfilled my Art/Literature and Ethics Intensive requirements. The course covers the role that athletics had in the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds. I am a member of the Varsity Women’s Tennis Team, and have been an athlete my whole life. I am also a fan of the Percy Jackson book series, as well as Greek and Roman mythology. This class combined all of these interests into one. The course relied on artwork and statues to understand the ancient world. It explained both history and mythology and related it to the modern world. Because I took this course, I have learned more about the world of athletics and the development of various modern practices, and gained more appreciation for the athletic world I am in.

Maria Johnson (Biology): Saint Joseph’s is a great school in which to learn about social justice and ethics. My favorite class so far has been my first-year seminar, What’s in Your Neighborhood? The class really opened my eyes to just how important the neighborhood where a person grows up is to their prospects because your zip code can affect your education, opportunities and even interactions with social institutions like law enforcement. We were able to take a “field trip”–a ride on the 40 bus, which goes through all different parts of Philadelphia, and really apply what we’d learned to what we were seeing. The class really inspired my path and dedication to service, especially in educaiton. I’ve really challenged myself to do my part in helping raise up the neighborhood around SJU, and I have my first-year seminar to thank for that. I haven’t graduated yet, though, and next semester I’m really looking forward to a class on Christian Medical Ethics, which I hope will bring the same sense of enlightenment to my chosen career as a physician as my first-year seminar brought to my college experience.

Zoe Mrozek (Biology): Looking back on all the courses I have taken in the past four years, my favorite at SJU had to be Bacterial Pathogenesis, which I took my sophomore year. While this class was challenging, it greatly prepared me for the research I would be conducting in the coming years. What I enjoyed most about this class was learning about all of the intricate mechanisms that bacteria take to cause disease, as well as their ability to exchange genetic material with each other and adaptability to become antibiotic-resistant. Bacterial pathogens remain a major public health issue in the world today, adn this class helped instill my goal of working in the public health field in the future.

Another class that I loved taking during my time in college was Religions of the East while I was studying abroad. The professor for this course was a Zen-Buddhist monk, and it was always fascinating to hear about his experiences and the places around the world he had traveled. My favorite aspect of this course was the field class I had while I was in Japan. We spent a day in Nara (yes, that is the part of Japan with the deer you can feed and pet) where our professor, who lived in the neighboring city of Kyoto, took us to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. I enjoyed being able to learn about these religions where I could be present to see them actively practices and from a local who was a near-expert in this field of study.

Michelle Wheatley (Mathematics): Looking back over the past 3 1/2 years, my favorite class at SJU was Introduction to Sociology. I chose this class because I needed to complete a general education requirement, but it ended up being one of the best classes I have ever taken. This class focused on both sociological theories and applications of the theories in present society. The professor did a great job of focusing on a variety of different social struggles, such as class, race and ethnicity, and the family environment.  This class really challenged me to begin looking beyond the surface with respect to people’s situations in order to have more empathy and understanding. Although I have had many struggles in my life, I have also been very lucky to have friends and family who were able to help me immensely. And this class made me appreciate their help even more. It also helped me realize that there are many people who need assistance but aren’t able to receive it. Even though I will be getting my degree in Mathematics with a minor in Data Science, I hope to one day be able to found a company with the sole purpose of leveling the playing field for all members of society.

Emily Lehman (Physics and Environmental Science): My favorite class at Saint Joe’s is actually one of my first. As a freshman, I was saddled with a full deck, I had 8 a.m. classes every day of the week. And to make it even better, they were my most difficult classes: University Physics and Calculus II.  I was prepared for the worst, but was until I experienced the teaching style of Dr. Angiolillo. I had met him briefly in my interviews to become a McNulty Scholar, but it was not until I had him in the classroom did I realize what a sharp, passionate and caring professor he was. Dr. Angiolillo would come to every class prepared with not only lecture materials but physical examples, demonstrations and hilarious anecdotes. By the end of the first week of classes, I was hooked. I always knew I enjoyed physics, but Dr. A. made it so I was not only enamored with the principles but was also able to appreciate the delicacy and beauty in the mathematics behind them. He made getting up at 7 a.m. worth it. I am not the only one to feel this way. Even my friends who took University Physics as a requirement raved at the individual attention and detailed explanations Dr. Angiolillo provided. I am so glad I took the risk, in the 8 a.m. class because I was able to interact with one of the best people I have ever met at Saint Joe’s. He has since become my advisor and lifelong mentor.

Maura Flynn (Biology and Psychology): As I look back at my time spent as a Hawk, I have realized that one of the best parts of Saint Joseph’s University is the commitment to small classes and dedicated professors. One of the best classes I have taken in my 3 1/2 years on campus has been a course called Inside OutMany people are surprised when I say this because it is not a science class. However this course, in addition to my science studies, has directed my career path.  Inside Out was held at a local Philadelphia prison where half of the students were incarcerated and the other half were SJU students. In this class, we studied the philosophy of death and dying. This class taught me about humanity and forgiveness, friendship, social justice, life in jail and the mass incarceration crisis in the US. Because of this course, my goal is to attend medical school and provide health services to incarcerated people. I want to improve health care in prisons and jails. I believe that medical care is a basic human right, and it should not be denied to someone because they made a mistake. This class allowed me to engage with people whose life paths are very different from my own, and this gave me a broader perspective on society. I am so grateful for the service learning classes here at SJU.

Gianna Penezic (Biology): I have had two favorite classes throughout my time at SJU.  The first one has to be Italian 101/102, which I took for my language requirement. Because of my Italian heritage, I have always wanted to learn the Italian language, so taking these two coureses in Italian gave me a great basis to do so. Each class was so dynamic and lively, with active class discussion that made the class so fun to be a part of every day! Not only did we learn vocabulary, syntax and other grammatical concepts, but we also learned about Italian culture, which was eye-opening and very interesting.  I hope to one day become fluent in Italian, so I am glad I took Italian at SJU to start me off on my fluency journey.

The other class I thoroughly enjoyed at SJU that ties into my future career plans is a class I took for my Interdisciplinary Health Services minor, Healthcare Law and Ethics. I am in the process of applying to law schools and have an interest in health and medical malpractice law, so this class was very important in giving me fundamental knowledge about that area of study. We read case studies thoroughly and analyzed the legal and policy implications of each case, as well as reviewed the reports from the ethics teams at various hospitals. I loved taking that class, as it was one of the only classes at SJU that directly touched on my future career goals, and I am grateful that SJU provides such a class.