I thought Merry was great. She was upbeat and sarcastic and obviously wanted us to do well. She graded the midterm much easier than many of the other section leaders and gave us lots of resources and extra practice problems. She was helpful during her office hours and usually noted who showed up to extra review sessions. Also she would bring us cookies in class and often let us out early. I think I was lucky
Merry is, as the past reviews state, a nice woman. At least, in class. Get her alone in her office hours and she can make you cry. But this is only because she wants you to succeed. She grades fairly but does not believe in any kind of grade boosters. She does not offer any extra credit assignments, as most other Frontiers discussion leaders do. All in all, she's not the worst discussion leader you can have. But, she's also not the best. She makes herself available to students, but then gets aggravated when you don't quickly understand what she is explaining to you. If I had a choice, I probably wouldn't choice Merry.
Prof. Cai is such a nice person. She brought in cookies for the class every day. Unfortunately, she is not such a great professor. She can be extremely difficult to understand as English is not her first language. The classes were also very boring (though that was most likely not her fault as the course was inherently boring). She was a relatively forgiving grader, and she is very devoted to her students. She's always willing to help after class. Prof. Cai is so invested in her students that she even meets with them to make sure they are doing well. She is very nice and very helpful. Take her class if you are looking for a nice professor who will grade fairly and help you whenever you want. Do not take this class if you are looking for a fascinating Frontiers experience; it was often excruciatingly boring.
She's a nice person, but SHE'S A GEOLOGIST. This fact makes it hard to take her seriously speaking about Astronomy... she's learning a lot of the material at the same time her students are. Professor Cai acknowledges this constantly, that she's not an expert. But really, what single person is an expert on Brain and Behavior, Earth Science, Astronomy, and Biodiversity? That's a fundamental flaw in the course, compared to the other core classes. Sessions are long and tedious, mostly because Merry only has a limited amount of things to say about each topic (except Earth Science). It's not her fault, but prepare to be frustrated with Frontiers itself and try not to take it out on Merry. Participate if you want an A.
Merry Cai isn't really as bad as the previous reviews make her out to be. She may at times have difficulty explaining the concepts, but quite frankly the concepts are almost always intuitive, not requiring explanation at all. People struggle to explain the obvious. Any problem with the class is more an issue of the course itself. That said, Frontiers of Science is a ridiculous attempt to educate, an insult to the Columbia name. But that's another story. In comparison to other FoS discussion leaders, Merry assigns relatively little work. There's a quiz maybe every unit, and there are four units in total. All the other work is common to all FoS sections. In fact, Merry is very lenient about turning homework and take-home quizzes in late. I turned one in a week late and had no points deducted.
Although Frontiers is a silly class, this professor is very accesible and willing to help. I don't know how much she actually gets the information across to other people, but she is definitely there to answer your questions. The discussion section she leads is prety average, and I think most of the problems could be attibuted to the stupidity of the course, and not really a reflection of the teacher. She does give you until Friday morning to put the WIA's in her mailbox, which is a blessing and a curse. It's good if you're really cramped with work, but bad because you will most probably end up procrastinating (right now I'm a case in point) and hanging out with a WIA on thirsty Thursday.
I entirely agree with the previous review, not only did she not know what she was talking about, but she would give random, out of the air explanations for questions she didnâ€™t know the answer to, which was pretty funny to watch, since a lot of the people in the class are either taking science classes, or are even science majors. The quizzes were ridiculous, since she would list 2-3 correct answers, and consider the only incorrect one as the most correct choice. She is completely incompetent to teach this course, and all semester she raves on how she is â€œpro Aâ€, but her grading is entirely random. She has no curve, and when you talk to her, she gives you the â€œoh donâ€™t worry you are doing fineâ€ speech, but what she actually gives you, does not resemble her semester-long ramble about how she wants everyone to get an A. In summary, some of the people from class would do a better job at teaching the material, at least they wouldnâ€™t construe their own imaginative explanations to scientific facts just because they donâ€™t know the actual answer.
I cannot imagine being subjected to a worse class than Frontiers. Although Merry is "nice" that is another way of saying she was totally oblivious, had no control over the class, and often struggled to communicate basic points. She was so nice because she was overmatched. It was very difficult to understand the basic mechanics of her class and seminars were a complete joke. Her powerpoints were unhelpful as were her lectures. She speaks with an accent and seems proficient enough but when you actually stop and try to focus on what she is saying it is pure gibberish strung together that makes absolutely no sense. It wasn't uncommon for people do to everything but work in her class and her instructions and explanations for even the most basic of things was a chore. Having left the entire class inadequately prepared for both the midterm and final, Merry would deliver an incoherent rally speech in which she would state that she was pro A. She never once taught us any of the info for the exam and seemed to suggest that we just walk into the test room and essentially bull shit our answers using backdoor tricks and SAT style question manipulation. When it came time to grade the exams she was overly harsh and refused to curve the exams. I know Merry is intelligent and she is pleasant enough, to the point of having a polite sort of condescension. But she has no business being in any sort of class room, save for maybe a Geology class, which is her field. She admitted that she had learned the material recently and boy did it show...even the rock unit was as incomprehensible as everything else. In short, stay away, and if you have the misfortune of being placed in this class demand a tuition voucher from the university as this class is a waste of money and perhaps the worst classroom experience you will have in your academic career. This class should be striken from everyone's transcript for good measure and eliminated from the core.
I believe she is a teaching fellow, and this was her first time teaching Frontiers. She was very friendly and willing to help, as well as willing to admit her own mistakes. She either knew more about the last half of the course, or was more prepared to teach it; although she wasn't especially knowledgeable the first part of the semester, she definitely improved by the end. She seemed to gain confidence as the semester progressed. She was a fair grader and described herself as "pro-A." We didn't do much in seminar, but that was mostly because the Frontiers seminar activities are fairly pointless. Seminar was pretty boring, but she seemed like a fun, positive person. She was also good at reviewing for the midterm, in terms of focusing on what material would be on it. Considering that Frontiers is probably not going to be a particularly interesting or life-changing experience in any section, I would recommend her.