Summer Session courses to take regardless of your major

From filmmaking to art history to introductory neuroscience, Summer Session courses have something for everyone.

The summer can be a great time to explore courses outside of your major. Whether you’re looking to get some credits out of the way, explore a subject you’re passionate about, or venture into uncharted academic territory, Summer Session offers students a fun and efficient way to continue their scholarly pursuits.

Here are three classes you should take this summer, regardless of your major. 

Making Movies 1 (L53 Film 225)

This course combines cinematic film theory with fictional filmmaking. During the regular school year, this class has a prerequisite. In the summer, however, this requirement is waived and no prior experience with film is required. 

Students will learn foundational techniques in cinematography, including framing, composition, and camera operation. Course projects isolate skills like audio recording and camera movement, which are later combined in the final assignment of a short film. 

If the opportunity to work with sophisticated film equipment on a project of your choice isn’t enough of a draw, consider this: “Making Movies I” will also help students develop and strengthen skills that can be used in all aspects of life. 

“The core emphasis of this class is on collaboration, which is a key component of adult living,” said Deirdre Maitre, lecturer and resident filmmaker in the Program in Film and Media Studies. “Students are definitely gaining hands-on production experience in terms of digital storytelling, creative collaboration, and project finishing technique.”

History of Western Art, Architecture & Design (L01 Art-Arch 113)

This entry-level course covers thousands of years of art history, from cave paintings to post-impressionism. This class draws upwards of 200 students during the regular school year, but the summer session course is smaller, allowing for more intimate discussion and engagement. 

The interdisciplinary nature of art history makes this a popular course for students of different academic disciplines. “You’re incorporating methods and ideas that are sociological, historical, psychological, philosophical, and more,” said Maxwell Dunbar, a graduate student in the Department of Art History and Archaeology who teaches the summer course. “I actually find it odd that art history is considered its own field.”

The course also gives students the opportunity to critically engage with artwork and develop their own ideas in a space where there is often no right answer. “It’s a very open-ended subject that allows you to think on your own terms subjectively, which can be a nice contrast for students in a more quantitative field with established methodologies and ideas,” Dunbar said.

In a recent staff editorial, the editors at Student Life also mentioned this course as one of their favorites from the fall semester.

“Overall, this class is an experience that [is] unlike any lecture you will have taken at WashU before,” wrote Alice Gottesman, Student Life senior scene editor. “It is a fantastic introduction to Western Art, and whether you continue a path toward Art History or never take a visual arts class again, it is a class that is extremely worth your time.”

Biology of the Brain (L41 Biol 120)

Students who are interested in understanding how the brain works but have limited exposure to scientific subjects will likely enjoy “Biology of the Brain.” This introductory neuroscience course is designed to accommodate students with a wide range of backgrounds in biology or psychology. Students are introduced to the basics of learning and memory systems, sensory and motor systems, and degenerative processes in the brain. 

The course is structured so that students spend class time doing activities and engaging in discussions to apply concepts they learned about in recorded lectures.

“Biology of the Brain” allows students to strengthen their evidence-based thinking, which can be applied to everyday decision making. Mitch Kundel, senior lecturer in biology, said the content related to learning and memory could be applied to studying for any class. “There is a good chance the concepts we study in class will relate to our lives,” Kundel said. “Students will be able to resonate with the content regardless of whether they’re studying biology.”

Browse more Summer Session courses and register today!