Fall 2020 - Highly recommend this class. I took it the first quarter it was offered and even completely virtual the class was super engaging and interesting. Since it's a cluster you spend a year focusing on Islam from a variety of different perspectives from some of the most knowledgeable and amazing professors on campus, and I have to say it has definitely changed the way I think about the social sciences. As a STEM major, like many others I took this class because it satisfied a lot of my GEs, but I got way more out of this class than that. To start with, the papers that I've written in this class have been some of the most interesting and unexpected, and I've been able to learn analytical skills both within and outside the social sciences that I don't think I would've learned outside this cluster and that I'll probably continue to apply beyond this class. The professors are so approachable and are always willing to help with research for your papers or your understanding of a topic. The third quarter of the cluster is also organized into small seminars where you delve into a subtopic with a small group of students and a TA (there are multiple seminars, each on a different topic, which you can chose from). I've had some of the most interesting discussions there and the small class size (it was about 10ish people) made the class way more engaging than your typical GEs. There was also a lot of focus on connections with present day issues, which also made the seminar an awesome opportunity to become more informed and aware of how the subject (and the social sciences more broadly) intersects with contemporary environmentalism, politics, science, etc., and learn things I can take with me beyond this class. There is a bit of work and reading that comes with the class, but if you stick with it it will be worth it, and you'll be proud of the diversity of what you've learned and of the work that you've produced. It's not the easiest class you'll find, but in a way the challenge made it worth it :D
Fall 2018 - Very interesting class, Professor Slyomovics is very knowledgeable about the subject matter and I learned a lot from her. She is not good at all with computers though and will definitely need someone to help her most lectures. The grader, Professor Farley, is a really cool, great guy. His lecture was very enjoyable and interesting. Grading breakdown: 20% oral presentation, 30% midterm, 50% final. The part that scares everyone the most is the oral presentation - It is just a retelling of the part of 1001 Nights that was assigned for the lecture. She randomly picks people every time. This isn't lecture and the stories are easy reads so just do your reading and you should be fine. You aren't really graded on quality of storytelling, just don't go up there and say you don't know it. The papers are doable, they are just two and a half page essays that you can pick the prompt for. 4 essays for the midterm and 6 for the final. Also she doesn't use slides so just write down what's on the board and all the discussion in class to help with the essays.
The class was fascinating. I learned quite a bit about the field of visual anthropology and the history of photography. Slyomovics gives you a lot of freedom to engage with the readings and coursework and express your ideas through all of her assignments. She allows creativity and doesn't force students into any real prescribed formats for her class. She is, however, a stickler for correct grammar, spelling, and citations. Plan ahead to attend her office hours, even if you are like me and had to skip part of another class to do so. It will save you time at the end of the quarter. We ended up waiting in an hour long line to get her to sign off on our project proposals (mandatory). BTW, get your proposal signed during office hours ahead of time to save yourself the headache. Slyomovics arranges her class throughout the quarter by themes and this helps to see broader contexts. All of the readings and websites and suggested field trips are useful for the exams and papers. If you are a lazy ass, you will most likely still get an OK grade, but if you actually care about learning and put some effort into the class and the materials, you will gain a ton of valuable knowledge... Its one of those classes where its totally up to you.