“I was surprised (in a good way) by how interesting, relevant, and interactive the course was.” — From a program course evaluation
This course considers the successes and failures of presidents from George Washington to Donald Trump. Lectures and class discussions based on assigned readings are supplemented by hands-on projects in which students take on the roles of press secretary, strategist, and president. Participants work individually and in teams to complete assignments that hone writing and public speaking skills. They draft State-of-the-Union addresses and op-eds in support of Supreme Court nominees. In a mock town hall, they field questions from constituents about their legislative agendas. From the Situation Room, they manage simulated global crises based on real-world events. The course also features field trips to locations such as the United Nations Headquarters and Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States.
We afford special attention to the historical and global dimensions of the presidency. Students study the role of the American president on the world stage as well as how the institution of the presidency compares to other heads of state around the world. They leave the course with a multifaceted understanding of the presidency. Upon completion, participants are prepared for college-level coursework in American politics.
Benjamin Serby is a doctoral student in Columbia University's Department of History. His research and teaching interests include 20th Century U.S. intellectual, cultural, and political history. Benjamin holds a B.A. with highest honors from Brandeis University and an M.A. and M.Phil. from Columbia. His dissertation is a study of the concept of "liberation" in the youth counterculture and radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Benjamin's writing has appeared in SOCIETY and in the blogs of The Society for U.S. Intellectual History and the Gotham Center for NYC History. In 2016, he was awarded a History In Action HAPA grant to complete an online exhibition about the life and work of the historian Richard Hofstadter, drawn from archival materials and previously unpublished documents. During the 2016-2017 academic year, as an Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellow in Museum Education at the Museum of the City of New York, he worked on public history education content development and taught elementary, middle, and high school students about social movements and urban history. He has worked as a teaching assistant at Columbia for six semesters.