Classes

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. These include M.S., M.S. in Data Journalism and M.A. courses. Choices vary each semester depending on faculty availability and other considerations. Classes described now may change or be dropped to make room for new additions. We cannot promise that students will gain a seat in any specific class.

M.A. Arts & Culture Fall Seminar

In the fall semester, the Arts & Culture seminar engages many enduring questions that are foundational to this broad beat: What is art? What is culture? Who is an artist? What are cultural rights? What is creativity? How does critical theory help us understand cultural phenomena? Where do classifications often invoked in the arts come from and how are they useful? How do the arts themselves represent history and culture? Experts from Columbia and elsewhere help guide us in our inquiries, among them, the cultural anthropology professor Paige West, human rights legal scholar Kendall Thomas, artist and arts education professor Olga Hubard Orvananos, experimental film scholar Ronald Gregg, and historian and journalism professor Jelani Cobb. Meanwhile, students cover an international fall arts festival in the city, writing news features, reviews, and critical essays; develop a team podcast project; and write a longform complex profile of an artist.

 

 

M.A. Arts & Culture Spring Seminar

Without abandoning the aesthetic and theoretical concerns addressed in the fall semester, this seminar turns to more direct examinations of issues related to arts and culture policy, economics, and politics: art markets, public and private funding, creative economies, ownership questions, and the role of the arts in diplomacy, protest movements, and state propaganda. We look at various ways the arts are engaged for some kind of utilitarian purpose -- from economic development to the social development of "at-risk youth," from heightening spiritual engagement to lowering blood pressure. For these investigations, our faculty partners include intellectual property expert and law professor Jane Ginsburg, curator and art consultant Jonathan Binstock, religion professor Josef Sorrett, and literature and Latin American Studies professor Frances Negrón Muntaner. Students continue to work on their writing -- this semester, with special emphasis on critical writing. They also team up for a group investigative cultural reporting project.

 

M.A. Business Fall Seminar

With the world's economies so intricately linked, perspective is essential. In the fall, students will examine economies that are now thriving, like the United States, but also learn about the warning signs of stagnation, downturn and decline. They will discuss capitalism's shortcomings -- as well as various new proposals like a living wage, employee business ownership and the breakup of powerful technology titans. Stripping away political gamesmanship, they will contemplate failing economies, such as Venezuela's, to analyze what went wrong and sketch out possible future courses. They will gain a greater appreciation of the extraordinary long-term impact wrought by very gradual shifts, like more women entering the workforce and labor's move away from unions. Through data analysis, students will learn how to estimate the impact of government policies, central bank actions and legal decisions on the population as a whole. From guest speakers who are economists and journalists with decades of experience, they will discern the economic ripples that ultimately dictate everyday life, including an individual's ability to buy a house, pay for college and retire in comfort.

 

M.A. Business Spring Seminar

Students move on to the basics of financial reporting in the spring semester. After an introduction to capital markets, they analyze the corporate building blocks, from the assets and liabilities on a balance sheet to income statements. Timely case studies will be introduced on companies like Tesla (What is it really worth? Is it in financial trouble? Will it go private?) and Disney (Why did it merge repeatedly with other big companies? Why did it diversify into Broadway shows? Can this classic entertainment company survive the disruption of the Internet?). Students will consider whether chief executives have ethical responsibilities that extend beyond shareholders. They will ask, what are the warning signs of trouble in a corporation: in accounting, in the way the company is run, in the way the board of directors is structured? Similarly, what are the clues that politicians may be enriching themselves, their associates or favorite industries? Lawyers and accountants will illuminate the financial enforcement of crimes like money laundering, securities fraud and insider trading. Along the way, students will assess the true value of an enterprise and glean whether they -- and investors of all stripes from hedge funds to college endowments -- are making wise investment decisions for tomorrow.

 

M.A. Essentials (mandatory for all M.A. students)

Investigative techniques are key to 21st century journalism. Students learn the best ways to comb public records, conduct internet forensics and do thorough background searches on individuals and corporations. They gain an understanding of cutting-edge concepts in data journalism and how to employ them in coverage of their concentrations. Multiple instructors teach sections of this class. 

M.A. Evidence and Inference

This fall M.A. course teaches a disciplined “journalistic method” of testing assumptions and hypotheses, recognizing the ways that stories can distort the truth and exploring how to make sure that reporting firmly proves its points.

Students also develop useful skills for working with statistics, conducting in-depth interviews and combining anecdote and narrative with the big picture in their writing.

M.A. Politics Fall Seminar

In the fall, students In the M.A. Politics seminar will learn about the formation of the nation state – why it won out over sprawling, multi-ethnic empires or city states. We use this rich scholarship to help us understand why there is not a coherent central state in Afghanistan or Somalia. Students will learn about the origins of nationalism: why are people willing to die – and kill – for something (the nation) that made little sense to people of earlier centuries? They use that understanding to decode emerging situations of ethnic conflict, resurgent nationalism and populism. The seminar also examines the dynamics of collective behavior -- what happens when people get together to effect change, and under what circumstances do political and social movements succeed or fail? Scholars from relevant fields and journalists covering these issues will visit the class on a regular basis. Recent guests have included behavioral economist Robert Frank, journalist William Finnegan and historian Mahmood Mamdani. 

 

M.A. Politics Spring Seminar

The spring semester of the M.A. Politics seminar focuses on political institutions. Just about everywhere in the world, there are political parties, interest groups, legislatures, executives, judiciaries, regulatory agencies, and so on. The seminar looks at how these developed and the varied forms they take, using the United States as the primary, but not exclusive, example. Readings are a mix of political theory, empirical political science, and journalism. Assignments aim to teach students to understand the political personalities and events that journalists cover into an institutional context. Recent guests include journalist Emily Bazelon, political scientist Robert Y. Shapiro, political scientist Kimberley Johnson and law professor Olivier Sylvain.

 

M.A. Science Fall Seminar

The fall semester of the M.A. Science seminar typically starts with the history of science: students look at the continuities between past events, such as the Scopes Trial, and contemporary issues. They then delve into climate science, visiting laboratories to understand contemporary research, and they examine the politics of the field. They study several exciting frontiers in physics (black holes and gravitational waves), technology (instruments and ethics), and finish the semester with sessions on ecology, focusing on current issues such as urban ecology or invasive species. Along the way, they examine scientific funding and think critically about metaphor in science writing. Recent fall lecturers have included historian of science Daniel Kevles, paleoclimatologist Gisela Winckler, mathematician Cathy O’Neil, and ecologist Matthew Palmer.

 

M.A. Science Spring Seminar

The spring semester focuses on evolution and genetics, neuroscience, public health and medicine. Students often travel to see fossils in situ and at the American Museum of Natural History, and they learn about mass extinction events and how the movements of the cosmos are reflected in sediments on Earth. They learn how to take apart medical studies and flex the statistics they have learned in Evidence & Inference in the fall. They also discuss some of the newest developments in epigenetics and in neuroscience. Recent spring lecturers have included paleontologist Paul Olsen, neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, animal behaviorist Diana Reiss, medical historian David Rosner and sociologist Alondra Nelson.