UMass Amherst

10 Known Classes that are a breeze at UMass

June 5, 2014 in Academics, Campus Life, Top 10 Lists

By: Thomas Beaton


If you’re like me —a college senior looking for filler classes to take for easy credits — then you want to optimize your college schedule to include a few classes that are “easy A’s.”  Upperclassmen have the advantage of being adjusted to the heavy workloads and time commitments of collegiate level classes. Incoming freshmen do not (I was an example of that.)

However, there is a way to boost (or keep intact) your precious GPA for my fellow UMass brethren. Even in a time where academic achievement is constantly prided, there are still some classes that are interesting and easy at the same time. The following list has been compiled from personal experience, and other blogs, to build a profile of classes known for having low workloads and being “easy A’s.”

Before we begin though, I will quickly share a wonderful tool that the UMass administration doesn’t share (as much as they should.) It’s a website called where you can login with your SPIRE ID and password. Myedu allows you to optimize your schedule and gives you grade averages of a class, with filtering options such as professor, semester, and course level. Use this site as much as you can, as I am using it as a reference point for the average grades in the following classes.

Plagues and the Ecology of Disease 140: (Have taken)

  • Professor(s) — Dan Cooley and Stephen Rich (temporary lecturer)
  • Average Grades based on  —  A range (34%); B range (47%); C range and lower (19%)
  • Field of Study — Plant, Soil, and Insect Science
  • Summary: Not only is the material very interesting but the online quizzes are hour long attempts with ten multiple choice questions. Also you get two attempts at each quiz. The assignments are relatively easy such as film reviews and write-ups of class material. If you’re into raunchy images of biological phenomena then this class is for you. Cooley warns you about the graphic nature of some of the diseases for those who faint at the sight of blood. Great professor and easy work.

World Politics 121: (Have taken)

  • Professor — Vinny Ferraro
  • Average Grades based on — A range (35%); B range (51%); C range and lower (12%)
  • Field of Study — Political Science
  • Summary: Vinny is the best lecturer I have had at UMass bar none. The workload consists of two 4-5 page papers, but you can write about anything. The class teaches you about political theory and how you can formulate any opinion about international/sovereignty issues with substantial fact basing it. You feel like a person rather than a robot reciprocating the same information over and over again. Before the lectures begin, Vinny also plays tons of classic jams on his amazon cloud music library for the students to enjoy. A great class where you have a 50% chance of at least getting a B.

Biology of Cancer and AIDS 160: (Taking in Fall 2014; recommended by close friends)

  • Professor — Shannon Compton
  • Average Grades based on — A range (46%); B range (37%); C range and lower (18%)
  • Field of Study — Microbiology
  • Summary: Since my senior year is coming up, I asked around my group of friends (my fraternity brothers),  for easy classes to fill my schedule up. I got several recommendations for this classes all saying they got either an A or a high B. The tests are very easy, and you learn a lot about two very relevant diseases to modern day society. A favorite among many UMass students.

Greek Mythology 224: (Taken by close friends)

  • Professor — Anthony Tuck
  • Average Grades based on — A range (43%); B range (40%); C range and lower (17%)
  • Field of Study — Classics
  • Summary: My sophomore year roommate gave me blunt advice before graduating, “Take Greek Mythology with Anthony Tuck. Easiest class you’ll ever take.” I never had the opportunity to take this class, but heard that Tuck is very nonchalant and charismatic with his lecturing. Considering that there is an 83% chance to get at least a B, I really wish I had this clear GPA booster on my previous semester schedule. If you can take this class do it.

Social Issues in Intergroup Relations: Exploring Social/Cultural Differences and Common Ground 202 (Taken by friends, I recently found out about the course)

  • Professor — Ximena Zuniga
  • Average Grades based on — A range (69%); B range (21%); C range and lower (10%)
  • Field of Study — Education
  • Summary: For a class with a very complicated title, I could not believe the percentage of A’s in this class. So out of the sixty grade reports that were used to compute the data, only six people got below a B. A big part of the class is a dialogue about a certain social issue you can choose (sexual identity, race, etc.) and can present/invite any guest you choose. Being invited to the dialogue is how I learned about the class, and participating in it  was fun as well as intriguing.

Going Global: Changes in International Journalism 310 (Taken and completed in Fall 2013)

  • Professor — Shaheen Pasha
  • Average Grades based on — A range (79%); B range (8%); C range and lower (12%)
  • Field of Study — Journalism
  • Summary: For any journalism student, upcoming or trying to finish the major requirements, I highly recommend this elective. I put this class on the list because of how great it is, even though you have to be a journalism major. Shaheen has tremendous experience in the field reporting internationally,covering several topics. She is funny and great at stimulating class participation. You engage in hearty discussions, as well as meet professionals in the international field. The most difficult assignment is a group project that you present to the class, which ends up being easy if you group co-operates well. Get over this bump and you’ll pretty much have an A as long as you attend regularly.

Introduction to Media and Culture 121 (Not Taken, researched)

  • Professor — Alison Butler
  • Average Grades based on — A range (67%); B range (24%); C range and lower (6-9%)
  • Field of Study — Communications
  • Summary: A lecture-oriented class with pop quizzes where more than half of the students get A’s. Show up to class and you are golden, and so is your GPA. Communications is a field that deals a lot with how the media influences public perception of society and themselves, which makes for some really cool material to learn about.
Introduction to Psychology 100 (Taken and completed in Fall 2011)
  • Professor — Susan Whitbourne
  • Average Grades based on — A range (37%); B range (32%); C range and lower (29%)
  • Field of Study — Psychology
  • Summary: A very popular gen-ed that many freshmen take (for good reason). Whitbourne is very easy to contact and tells you exactly what you need to study for on the exams. The lectures actually help you learn, and the class material grabs your attention. There are even study guides that outline what you need to know.
My Body, My Health 160 (Not Taken but recommended by friends)
  • Professor — Christie Barcelos
  • Average Grades based on — A range (66%); B range (22%); C range and lower (10%)
  • Field of Study — Public Health
  • Summary: A famously easy class that requires little to no effort in order to pass with flying colors.
Introduction to Theater 100 (Not Taken)
  • Professor — Harley Erdman
  • Average Grades based on — A range (47%); B range (30%); C range and lower (13%)
  • Field of Study — Theater
  • Summary: A 100 level class in theater.


Tips for UMass undergraduates trying to get internships

May 22, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Career, Colleges


By: Thomas Beaton

In a job market that hasn’t be the most hopeful in recent years, undergraduate students have to start building their professional experience while in school. This is an age where employers look beyond your diploma; a piece of paper that declares to the world your expertise in a field of industry/study. A degree alone will not be enough as candidates that have work experience, from internships, will be hired over those that don’t.

So what steps should you take to build internship experience? How should you prepare? Below you will find a guide to prepare your journey into the wide world of internships. Before you even consider looking at this list, get familiar with UMass Career Services and the Chase Career Center as they offer basic outlines of how to prepare for the work force. They offer help with building blocks, such as writing your resume, to long term career planning.

Part 1.  Tips for acquiring an internship:

  • Network (with professors): When you start taking classes in your major make sure to engage, and befriend, the professors that teach them. They can be your greatest resource to get your foot into the door of the professional world. More likely than not they were in a similar position before, and know where to apply, who to apply for, etc. One of my professors not only connected me with my first internship, but he is now a reference on my resume (that will come up later.) On top of networking with professors, one should also use social media to network as well. LinkedIN is a great way to network online with friends, and other professionals, and even offers a job search engine. The career fairs hosted throughout the semester at UMass are ways to directly network with employers.
  • Prepare a resume/cover letter: Most internships require a resume and cover letter for potential applicants. If you’re unsure of how to write/format a resume and cover letter, then your computer’s word processing software will be your best friend. Pages (Mac) and Microsoft Word offer templates of both documents, which can help ease the formatting process. As for the content of the resume, make sure that it contains the most relevant information first. Include employment, skills, relevant coursework, organizations,  a bit of community service/philanthropy, and references.  Your resume should not look like the document you submitted to colleges highlighting your high school achievements. As for the cover letter, the content should be genuine. Let the employer know that you are the right choice for the position and let them know you want it. 
  • Interviewing: This is the make or break of getting that internship. Be well dressed, confident, and make sure you have a copy of your work samples (if needed) resume, and cover letter. A helpful guide from BloombergBussinessweek  highlights a good list of “dos and don’ts” when at the interview. Be human, actively have a conversation, but at the same be respectful and professional to your future supervisor/employer. Research the company you are working for as well, the more consideration you show and present, the better the impression you leave. The critical step of the internship process that can be nerveracking, unless you prepare adequately. I also want to (again) emphasize the importance of dressing well, as the employer decides if you are right for the job within the first ten seconds of meeting you.  Have a great first impression.
  • Paperwork: If you made it to this stage the congrats! You are just about ready to get some much needed experience before your post-graduate life. Head over to career services  and they will set you up with the necessary paperwork if you are getting a credit-compensated internship. The internship will then be added onto your class schedule via SPIRE override.  If you’re lucky enough, you will instead fill out a W-2 for a paid internship.

Why go through this long process? Isn’t college supposed to be the best four years of your life? Well yes and no at the same time. The “no” will be from making sure you have a completed internship, or two, under your belt. You’ll need them.  

“Free-Time” Outlets for UMass Amherst Students

May 9, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life

By: Thomas Beaton

Managing books, schoolwork, possibly a part-time job, an internship, and finances are just a few things that make time management a struggle for college students. If you let those responsibilities take over your day-to-day then a breakdown is bound to happen. Give yourself some free time to simply enjoy life and release some stress.

Luckily here at UMass Amherst, there are ample places to unwind to suit anybody. Whether you just need a nice place to read, or if you wanna unleash your inner party animal, UMass and the town of Amherst has something for you. The list below are just a few places to kick back and relax.


Athletic Fields: Right along Commonwealth Ave. you can find fields to enjoy your time outside. Gather a group of friends and play a team game, or find a spot and just hang out. If you live in Southwest or the Honors College, then you are a very short walk away from these fields.

Mullins Center: Hosting plenty of Division I athletics, as well as concerts (no more EDM shows), the Mullins Center provides on campus entertainment to help you cut loose from your studies. As a student you’re bound to go to a game, or show of some sort, at least once. So why not take a quick break from all your responsibilities and catch a hockey game. The Mullins Center also has online schedules of their events, which makes time management easier for busy students.

Coffee Shops: A cliche yes, but in Amherst you can’t beat the mellow atmosphere of a coffee shop if you’re looking to relax. This article is being written in my favorite coffee shop in town, Rao’s. Bring a book, grab your coffee beverage of choice, and ease yourself into a meditative calm.

Parks: There are three parks within downtown that offer a nice clean space during the warmer seasons of the year. Kendrick Park is located closest to UMass, Sweetser Park along Main St., and the Amherst Town Common in close proximity to Amherst College. These places host town events such as  farmer’s markets and other exhibitions.



Bars: Of course for those over 21, the downtown area offers plenty of venues to grab a beer at the end of a busy week. Most of the time you’ll probably have more than just “a beer.” Several is more in the ballpark. If you need more info on where to go try looking here as well as here.


How I got on my R.A’s nerves (anonymously, for the most part)

April 25, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Colleges

By: Thomas Beaton

I was never one who enjoyed their stay in the dorms at UMass. In fact, I was so eager to get out that I found an off-campus apartment to live in with four friends. I went to my dorm only to sleep as all my friends lived anywhere but my building. While I never disliked my roommates, or the other residents (mostly), I just didn’t like some of the restrictions of the dorms.

My R.A was one of those restrictions.

The Resident Assistants at UMass host floor meetings to outline important dates about the building, and also “stimulate” discussion about campus life. In reality, the R.As make you go to useless meetings about things you already heard in a health class, or read in one of the “Residental Life at UMass” brochures that are littered across the campus.

The R.A was a tattle-tale to The Resident Director, who doles out $100+ fees for BASICS classes, should a student get caught with an open beer. My R.A (let’s call him “Frank”) wasn’t a bad guy, but kind of a goober who constantly hounded me to “show up to the floor meetings, please, for once.” That was always his dialogue every time.

So one day I felt like being a troublemaker. One of my friends made a joke about another buddy of mine looking like “Sloth from the Goonies”  so I had my inspiration. Lazily making a Pages document on my highly expensive Macbook, I took this google image result, wrote the iconic “Hey You Guys!” underneath the picture, and taped it to Frank’s door when he wasn’t there.

The first time I heard him witness my creation he jabbered with indecipherable sounds generated by the sheer confusion. This would not be the last time this happened.

For a solid two weeks I kept putting that image up on Frank’s door after my 2:30pm classes. The other guys on the floor thought it was hilarious because Frank kept getting more and more upset as the image was constantly there. One day I heard him come by and in the most defeated, exasperated sigh “Why does this still happen to me?” The kicker: I lived right next door to him in my economy triple.

The tide would turn in Frank’s favor one day.

As I went to place the image on the door to begin week three of “Sloth Invasion” I noticed the door cracked just a sliver open. Frank jumps out of the door and in a cold, vindictive tone says “So its been you this whole effing time.” Even at that the point the poor guy didn’t have the stones to curse at me. I ran down a few flights of stairs to get as far away from this clown as possible.

Thankfully he calmed down a few days after and we joked about it later. So that is the story of how I trolled the R.A to the point of a near meltdown, and I couldn’t wait to move out of the dorms when that semester was over.

Five unique ways to stay fit at UMass Amherst

April 9, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Health, Sports

By: Thomas Beaton

As Spring rolls around the corner, and clothes become a little more revealing, you’ll want to make sure to stay in (or get into) shape. UMass Amherst offers a variety of clubs, sports, and activities that help accommodate health and fitness needs of all students.

When it comes to “unique” ways to stay fit, or just ways to enjoy the upcoming warm weather, here are five that put the “i” in “intriguing.” Also they are all co-ed.

  • Parkour: or “Free-Running” is the art of getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Even UMass has caught onto the trend and has formed a club accessible to all fitness and experience levels. The sport has a very attractive quality shaped by the aerial somersaults, twisting musculature of the runners, and the daring locomotion that makes up the entity of the sport. UMass students can be a part of this as sign ups go on throughout the whole year. I guess the athletes  call their events “Jams” so if you’re ready to “jam” then parkour is for you.
  •  Outing Club: The Pioneer Valley is filled with options to explore the wilderness stretching beyond the nearby (to UMass)  Mt. Sugarloaf and Mt. Tom. The UMass Outing Club decided to take full advantage of the area’s geography and formed a club that hikes, rafts, ski, and plans a variety of outdoor trips.  As summarized by their hilarious motto on the website,  ”We take people into the woods and do things with them.”  The club is brimming with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and you could add a lot of cool stories to the wonderful narrative that is your undergraduate experience.
  • Fencing: With its history dating all the back to the late 1800′s, the fencing club allows students to live out their Errol Flynn fantasies through novice classes and competitive meets.  At these meets, the club does pretty well for both men’s and women’s. If you’ve never heard of fencing its basically sword fighting which (at least to me) seems like it would be a blast. I don’t think your matches will be like this, but you will be able to tell your friends and family about how you picked up a very historic and unique sport.
  • Cycling:  Whether you want to race mountain bikes, or get into Euro-style road racing, the UMass Bike Racing Club offers students several opportunities to race. The club travels across the New England area to ECCC meets, group rides, and other events. The types of biking specifically are cyclocross, mountain, and road racing so there is a niche for everyone to participate in. Like most clubs at UMass, they accept all experience levels, so if you just want to dip your toes into cycling, give the UMBRC a try.
  • Rec Center Classes:  UMass Campus Recreation is where you can find info on all the clubs and intramurals hosted by the school, but you can also partake in various fitness classes. These classes range from yoga, self defense classes, and education courses on health and wellness. If you schedule really doesn’t allow for that daily workout, you can find a time during the week at the Rec Center and jump into a one of these classes. They are also free which helps save money as well.