Economics and Strategy major Marcus-Jay Wilkes answers questions about Barbara Schaal's new course Bio 3900: Science for Agriculture and Environmental Policy
1) What attracted you to this course?
I was interested in understanding a niche of policy from expert perspectives. I’m not a policy major, but the study of political theory feels similar to an economic model or game theory problem. I enjoy understanding how complex systems affect interpersonal dynamics like those in politics. I felt biology and environmental policy would be a great supplement to my studies, especially considering their importance in the fight against climate change.
2) Was there anything that surprised you about what you learned in the course vs. what you expected to learn?
I approached the course with little in the way of expectations and hoped to learn about whatever was presented. I was interested in learning from the personal experiences of Dr. Schaal and the myriad of expert speakers regardless of topic areas. I found myself ardently taking notes on the mechanics of controlled fires, biosecurity, science communication, and many more disparate fields. While I am not studying any one of those fields directly, I loved the true academic passion the course fostered. Because the focus was on learning and being open-minded, the course fostered a sense of genuine interest and collaboration. Other students and I asked thoughtful questions to wonderful people, had internal discussions in and out of the classroom, and walked from the course enriched in a holistic sense.
3) How do you feel about Barbara Schaal as an instructor?
Dr. Schaal is an excellent instructor and mentor. Her expertise added depth to each conversation and fostered a true sense of learning and passion in the classroom. It was an honor to learn from Dr. Schaal, and I would gladly take any course she offers in the future. It is a true blessing to have her on the WashU faculty, and I wish her the best in all future endeavors.
4) Why would you recommend this course to fellow undergrads?
This course gets you interested in its discussions in a way that transcends academic discipline. Each expert speaker was willing to answer additional questions outside of the class, and I am happy to have built relationships with great mentors and minds. The course is a unique opportunity to dive deep on essential topics with peers and instructors that genuinely care for the material and want to see you succeed. If you have the chance to take the course, I strongly recommend you do. Otherwise, reach out to any former student of Dr. Schaal, and I am sure they would be glad to share some of the exceptional experience that was Bio 3900.