Middle Byzantine Art and Architecture23>
Most Helpful Review
Byzantine Art was not AT ALL interesting to me before I took a class with Dr. Gerstel. After the first week of my lower-division class, I became a Byzantinist.
I've taken 3 classes with Dr. Gerstel, and scored very highly in all of them. The key to succeeding in her courses is simple: read, understand, participate, and enjoy. If you do the work, pay attention, and think about the material on your own, you will do well. Your effort will likely determine your grade in the course. Participation—based on attendance, punctuality, and more centrally on lecture material and readings—is weighted very heavily. Other than participation, there are four graded assignments: two exams, and two essays.
What makes this class special isn't just the material. It's the professor. Dr. Gerstel could teach anything and make it interesting, the same way David Attenborough could describe paint drying and turn it into a documentary.
I'm a senior, and I've had a lot of different professors. No one comes close to Dr. Gerstel—let me tell you why:
Professor Gerstel is, without question, the best professor at UCLA. She is the most kind, empathetic, brilliant, and passionate professor whose courses I have had the pleasure of taking. I am a minor in Art History, and originally wanted to study Contemporary Art. But because of her, I quickly became a Byzantinist. She makes every single topic interesting, applicable in a historical context, and encourages her students to stretch themselves and flex their mental muscle to understand the wider importance of the material she teaches. Dr. Gerstel encourages and facilitates class discussion—everyone in her course feels comfortable contributing. The passion with which she lectures transforms the subject matter into what almost seems like a story. The course feels, over the span of ten weeks, like a kind of captivating novel—one which you want to read and reread. The type of story that keeps you up at night, makes its way into conversation, and I'm serious here, even into your dreams.
Each lecture is methodically prepared and structured, but still organic in its presentation and delivery. Her eloquence and erudition are unparalleled, but she remains entirely humble and approachable. Her research is seemingly esoteric, but she integrates it into the course in a way that would grip even the most disinterested student.
This quarter, classmates of mine have gone through losses in their immediate family and suffered other tragedies, and she has proven consistently compassionate and accommodating. I am one of those students, and I feel safe, understood, and motivated with her at the front of the classroom. But, most importantly, I feel like Dr. Gerstel cares about me—she believes in me. Under her tutelage, I have become a better scholar, a better citizen, and an overall better person. And, I'm just one of her many students. I know that if she has had such a powerful impact on my life, she has done the same for each and every one of her other students. Every Bruin needs to experience one of her courses.
I'd say that more professors need to be like her, but no one could ever replicate the love and passion she has for her discipline and for her students. She is, for the reasons I've mentioned above and for countless others, the greatest professor I will ever have.