Ask a Wag The Freshman Experience Winona Scheff

Class with the President

Every Monday around 5:45, I head up the carpeted stairs of the Union to a classroom many don’t know exists. Walking into the lobby of President Guarasci’s office, I prepare myself for a challenging class I am lucky enough to take. GOV/HI 260: Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Picasso is a course offered once a year because it is taught by two of the college’s most special faculty. Dr. Rappaport, a retired historian, has such a passion for teaching and the content of this class, while he sits at the mahogany table with his nine students every Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. Not only does Wagner provide honors freshmen with a chance to learn from Dr. Rappaport, but it also provides the chance to have Wagner College President Guarasci himself as a professor.

We sit in President Guarasci’s meeting room, on the top floor of the Union, with a beautiful view of Brooklyn and the Verrazano Bridge. If my fellow classmates and I are lucky, the professors bring M&Ms and drinks because they understand the difficulty of a 3-hour class, let alone a 3-hour class with brain-stretching material. While this class is said to be harder than most, the professors are beyond supportive and encouraging. Dr. Rappaport and President Guarasci share a special bond and work together to strengthen their students' skills and push us farther than we think we can go. It is a wonderful 3-hour class filled with laughs, smiles and an inspirational amount of intellect and perspective. What other college would have a classroom with such a beautiful view and the president himself sitting right by your side, diving into the difficult subjects of Darwin and Marx?

To give an understanding of why Wagner College provides students this wonderful opportunity, I was able to sit down with President Guarasci in his office, which just might have a better view than even our little classroom. When I sat down with him, I got to understand just how cool this opportunity really is. He makes a point to be active in campus life, including the classrooms. When I asked him why he continues to teach, he said "I'm a teacher at heart. I loves the process of teaching and learning and working with students to understand difficult concepts. He believes that all campus faculty should be teachers, scholars, leaders and citizens." By teaching a class every year, he practices what he preaches: building an inclusive campus for the future.

As a freshman, I was originally intimidated by the subject matter of this honors class. While it still can be overwhelming and frightening, I now understand why President Guarasci enjoys it. He loves to be able to teach a group of freshmen such big and  challenging ideas. In this class, we work together to learn about these extremely complicated personalities in order to find the value in their work. President Guarasci's involvement truly emphasizes what makes a class like this, as well as the rest of the Wagner courses, so special. It is aspects such as the personal nature of the Wagner classrooms, the community built within the walls, the challenging yet supportive environment, and the method of theory, then practice, that separates Wagner from any other school.

I should also mention that this class, much like many others, takes field trips into some of the best museums in the city. On one trip to the Museum of Natural History, I was sitting with Dr. Rappaport in the shuttle back to campus from the Staten Island Ferry. I started to mention how intrigued my grandfather is by my experience at Wagner, and especially the material of this specific class. Light-heartedly, I mentioned how my grandpa would love to experience college for at least one more day. In response, my professor told me to invite my grandfather to college.  He was totally serious. Soon after, I brought my grandfather to class, where he sat peacefully in the leather chairs at the beautiful mahogany table and enjoyed the experience of class with bright students, a wonderful professor, and President Guarasci. What college would let you bring your grandfather to class with you? What campus would allow freshmen students to sit in a prestigious faculty room for class? What college president would teach a class, sitting by the sides of the college residents? Wagner College would.