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Fall 2016 (3A): Term Summary

January 1st, 2017

Happy new years! Another term has passed again and this time it's my first term of my third year!. This term was especially important as I'm entering my last 2 (and most important) years of my undergraduate degree.

I feel like despite the great time I had during my Co-op term at the University last Summer, I was ready to start another study term. This time, I really felt that I was going to focus more on domestic politics, rather than the international politics that I had focused on in my second year. Having more knowledge of domestic politics would open up more opportunities for jobs in the public service, which was something that I had really wanted to do. I guess my choice of classes and also past experience paid off, for I managed to land a great amount of interviews and a couple of good offers for government analyst positions this term. In 2 days, I'm starting my first day of work at the Treasury Board of Ontario, Capital Planning division. 

I've been putting LSAT studying on a hold for winter, as I tend to try to focus on coursework during my study terms for I don't want to get overloaded. I'm probably looking to take the test June 2017, as I feel that I have prepared well enough for it. 

As usual, I will be talking mainly about the courses that I took, along with my opinion of the content, evaluation, and also the professor.  I also like to include the grade I received in the course, to give you guys a picture of the difficulty level. 

Classes 

Again, I took 3 PSCI classes this term, as well as 2 electives. The electives that I took were part of my specialization requirements and included a French course and an Economics course.

PSCI 255 - Comparative Political Economy of Advanced Industrialized Countries 

This course for me was certainly a must-do. Having had JingJing Huo in the past for PSCI 244, I knew that I would have a great time in this course. In fact, I'm probably going to take any course that he offers, because he is an amazing professor that really teaches the material for success. This course consisted of analyzing the policies offered by welfare states and how they affect inequality, poverty, and development. We looked at 3 main groups of countries - Anglo-Saxon, Continental Europe, and also Scandinavian countries in this course. There was also a bit in the end about how policies towards female employment in these countries can drastically influence fertility rates and also family sizes. The content was very straightforward and interesting, and professor Huo clearly outlined what will be on the tests. The questions on the tests were very similar to the review questions given in class, and there were no surprises at all. The material is solely from his lectures, so you don't have to do any extra readings in order to do well. However, he does provide supplementary readings for people who do want more background knowledge of the material. The course evaluations only consisted of a midterm and exam, so it's pretty stressful to write them as they're weighed so much. However, I managed to score high 90s on both of the tests, mainly by taking advantage of his review sessions. received a 96% as my final mark in this course, and I encourage you all to take it with Dr. Jing Jing Huo. 

PSCI 331 - Public Administration 

For me, this course was on my shortlist because it offered a great introduction to how the government functions and the duties of a public servant. Since I was interested in working for the public service, this course would have been great for preparing me for my future co-op jobs. Initially, I was unsure as this course was taught by Daniel Henstra, a professor whom I've never had before. By this time, I already had a shortlist of "good" professors to take courses with and would always look to prioritize them first. However, since this course was so useful for my career, I decided to take a chance and went along with it. Turns out Henstra is also a really great professor. His explanation of the material was very good and organized, and the classes were pretty light for a 3 hour sessions. His tone was very enthusiastic and he also used good relevant examples and stories while lecturing to keep us entertained. About 2 hours was spent lecturing, while the last hour was generally used to discuss a case study in class. Furthermore, his classes tended to end usually at least 30 minutes early as we got through the content rather quickly. Course content consisted of an overview of how government functions, the role of the public service, modernization in the public service, and also a bit on the characteristics of the public sector. The readings were quite light and not necessary as the content on the exam covered primarily the lectures. Furthermore, he handed out a pretty comprehensive exam review beforehand. Evaluations consisted of participation and attendance, two short essays, a briefing note, and also a final exam. His marking was generally quite lenient, and I managed to get a 92% in this course with moderate effort. 

PSCI 363 - Canadian Constitutional Law 

This course was another one of my shortlisted courses as I was very interested in certain court cases that shaped the Canadian society. These included cases on abortion, hate speech, niqab rights, and also voting rights for prisoners. When reading the course description, it seemed that all of these cases would be discussed and thus I chose this course. However, out of all my courses, this one would have to be the hardest I've taken this term. The professor, Emmett MacFarlane, is well-known for being a very smart and talented researcher, especially in the field of constitutional law and rights. I probably put about 2-3 times more effort into this course than any other course, yet still ended up with a substantially lower mark. His lectures were long (took the whole 3 hours with little discussion and class participation) and also were full of small things that you had to remember. Course consisted of weekly reading summaries, a midterm and final, and also a an essay. Readings were very long and consisted of 60-100 page court documents or a bunch of stuff from academic journals. The midterm marks were very poor for the class, as 37% of the class failed the midterm. Class average for that midterm was probably low 60s, with the highest mark being only the mid to high 80s. Many people (including me) in that class frequently got 80s and 90s in virtually every other Poli Sci course, so there was a clear discrepancy. Essays were marked okay (class average 74%), but again no 90s were given. I feel like the essays were marked more leniently to offset the poor midterms. However, the grade distribution was still lower than normal for a third-year honours level course. In the end, I managed to get an 82% which is still a good mark, but many people did very poorly in that course. I still anticipate that I will be taking courses with MacFarlane in the future. He's one of the smartest professors in the PSCI department, and his courses are very interesting, so it's worth a lower mark in the long run.

ECON 102 - Introduction to Macroeconomics 

After taking Econ 101 and finding it to be rather easy, I decided to take this course. Furthermore, this course was a requirement for my specialization in Public Policy and Administration, so I would have to take it eventually. I saw that a highly regarded professor, Mary Ann Vaughan, was teaching it this term and decided that now was a good time. The content of this course is laid out similarly to Econ 101 except the topics were focused more on the macroeconomic side. Topics included GDP, Money Markets, Inflation, Unemployment, and also a bit of Fiscal and Monetary policies. The reviews of Mary Ann Vaughan were certainly quite accurate. She was an amazing professor who genuinely cared about her students. Although sometimes strict in class about talking and having cell phones out, she lectured the material very well and had some good notes she made on her own for the more difficult sections. She's also pretty fit despite her age and can bench like 300 pounds, which was very surprising. Along with teaching econ, she regularly gave us life lessons in class and was very approachable during office hours. Evaluations consisted of 3 quizzes, and a final exam. The questions were all multiple choice and very similar to the ones found on the study guide provided for us. She also spent some time in class doing sample questions which were also very similar. I found the class to be rather memory-heavy and more tedious at some points, but it was very easy to get a high mark as long as you put the work in to do the sample questions on the study guide. I ended off this course with a 96%, slightly higher than the 95% I got in Econ 101. Both of these courses I find are rather all-or-nothing because the tests are very memory and knowledge based. Generally, students either do really well or really poorly. If you do take Econ 102, I would certainly recommend it with Vaughan. 

FR 151 - Basic French I 

This course was an elective course that I took as part of my language requirements in my degree. Although I could have taken other languages such as Japanese or German, I decided to stick with French as I had enjoyed French in elementary school and felt that learning some basic French may help me when applying to government positions. This course focused mostly on beginner-level vocabulary and grammar. According to my friends who took French all the way through high school, this course was mostly based off Grade 9 and 10 French as it was designed for people who had not taken French beyond Grade 9. Topics included greetings, places in town, describing your family and commonplace objects, talking about your hobbies and preferences, and also describing things at school. The content was very organized, as the lectures helped with the textbook practice activities. My professor, Mikalai Kliashchuk, was a pretty funny dude who encouraged class participation in exchange for bonus marks. He discussed the content well and also gave out instructions in both English and french so students were clear on what was happening. Certainly a great professor and I always looked forward to his classes. Evaluations consisted of attendance & participation in lectures and tutorials, 3 written tests, an oral comprehension test, and a final exam. The tests and final were very basic and straightforward. They consisted of fill in the blank, conjugating verbs correctly, describing activities based on a picture, simple questions such as asking for the time or date, and also some grammar questions where you had to fix the mistake made. The practice activities posted in the textbook and online were very similar and sometimes even identical to the questions on the test. This course was certainly the easiest course I had this term due to the straightforwardness, and I ended up with a 97% as my final grade.

The Future & Concluding Remarks

I was initially anticipating this term to be harder, as I was entering my upper-years now at University, but it turns out that this term was probably the same, if not slightly easier as my previous terms. I guess it's because after a few years in University, you mostly get used to how things are and everything goes by really smoothly. 

The only really big issue I had to deal with this term involved PSCI 363, which really made me think about how I selected courses. Of course, I select courses out of interest, but I also have to keep in mind sometimes that in the end, the mark you get is very important too. As much as I hate to say it, I would probably have chosen a slightly less interesting course in exchange for a higher mark and less workload had I known of how hard PSCI 363 was. This term, I did manage to get a 92.6% average, which was really nice, but I feel like I could have gotten higher had I not taken PSCI 363. In the future, I might see if I can take 6 courses a term, as the 6th course here is free and I think I should be able to easily handle it. 

I'll probably be posting in a month or so about my experience with my next Co-op term, so stay tuned for that!





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