Conceptual Foundations Discussion Class - Hisham Aidi

We already told you all the secrets about how to survive from one of the heaviest courses at SIPA, Conceptual Foundations (review 1). However, we did not talk about the different discussions leaders that you can choose. 

There are 13 different CF sections, and four of them are taught by Hisham Aidi. He is a polarizing figure at school: either you love him or you hate him. 

If you really want to learn and you are a hard-worker, choose Hisham. If you are a clever kid who has grown accustomed to regular praise in your academics, then this section will provide its own culture shock.

Do not expect Hisham to applaud your intellectual comments at the discussion or to give you a "A" on the paper that you wrote the night before. He is a hard grader. He is strict and meticulous. He will carefully correct every single incorrect word in your 10-page paper and make comments in every paragraph. Your paper will be returned to you covered in bloody ink.

That is what I expect of my professors. After all, if I invested my precious time in writing this paper, then I expect my professor to invest his time in reading it. Go to office hours, learn from your mistakes and work even harder in the second paper.

Speak your mind during discussions. Again, he won’t say how brilliant your comment was, but he will see that you prepared your class. Exactly as he did. Hisham prepares his part well, and he respects the time needed to cover everything in each session: students presenting, open discussion, and then theoretical lecture. You expect him to do his part, he expects you to do yours. Do not dare to open your mouth if you did not do your homework. He won’t tolerate it and he will not hesitate to embarrass you in front of the rest. Sorry, but you deserve it!

From my experience, there are two kind of people who don’t like Hisham. The first group are those who like to be praised as the clever students they are. Not here. Not in Columbia, sorry. The second group are those who do not prepare their materials and think that they will be able to fool the rest, including Hisham. Good luck!

One of my friends, who has chosen to remain anonymous, summarize it very well…

Hisham is undeniably brilliant. He knows the material thoroughly, from the theory to the empirical evidence. Not only did he provide a framework through which to structure our ideas, he also constantly encouraged us to dig deeper into our arguments. I think he can be controversial because he has zero tolerance for bullshit and will not hesitate to call people out on meaningless blanket statements. His focus is on the readings and on the people who have done them. That’s exactly what you would expect from a lecturer/TA. Furthermore, he also happens to be hilarious.