The Economista: Cheap Courses

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Welcome to The Economista! My name is Andy Pham and I will be giving you weekly tips and tricks on how to budget, save money, and have inexpensive fun at Brown!

Hello Future Brunoians! This week I will be talking about some courses that I or my friends have taken that had either none, or very few, required materials. These will also be courses that we recommend in general.

Basically, this is going to be my little version of Critical Review for y’all. (Critical Review is a student-run website that compiles student reviews of courses at Brown).

ENGL 0100T: The Simple Art of Murder 

Required Materials: A lot of classic crime genre novels (think The Great Gatsby and Native Son). Most of these works can be found in online public domains. For the ones that are not in the public domain, Brown’s bookstore sells them for surprisingly cheap used prices (typically under $10).

The Course: The best part about this course is the professor. He is incredibly passionate, eccentric, and funny. The discussions were always something that I had never thought about before. We talked about privacy, ownership, positions of power, identity, and more. On the surface, you may think that you already have a lot of defined opinions on these topics. However, Professor Daek Nabers will really challenge these ideas and make you think more.

GNSS 0090: Reproductive Health: Science & Politics

Required Materials: Three novels. All of the other weekly readings are provided as pdf’s through Canvas (Brown’s primary form of communication between Professors and their classes). The three required novels cost under $20 if you buy them through the website that Professor Fox recommends.

The Course: This course is definitely one of my favorites. It is also a first-year seminar which makes the atmosphere very open and not very intimidating. We learn about and discuss so many topics under the reproductive health umbrella. This ranges from contraceptive methods to abortion to forced sterilization to inequalities in healthcare. Professor Fox is very kind and receptive to everyone’s ideas. She prefaced this course by stating that she wanted it to be an open space for everyone to share their ideas.  She has said that one of her most memorable and hard working students was a white, Evangelical Christian, male from the South.

AMST 1600C: The Anti-Trafficking Savior Complex: Saints, Sinners, and Modern-Day Slavery

Required Materials: Nothing. That’s right. There is nothing that you have to buy for this course technically. Unless you decide that you want to print out the pdf’s to have something tangible to read. Even for our final film project, there is nothing that we have to buy. Plus, Granoff Art Center has plenty of film and media equipment that you can check out.

The Course: This is another one of my favorite courses. The highlight is Professor Shih. She has so much experience in human trafficking studies as shown by her three years of field work and various published works. Yet, she is simultaneously so down to earth, kind, and funny. This course also presents a counter narrative that you don’t generally hear about in anti-trafficking campaigns. We talk about how there are consenting sex workers out there but a lot of these campaigns involve complete erasure of consent. We also talked about how a lot of campaigns that claim to be “anti-human-trafficking” are in reality “anti-prostitution”. In this way, a lot of campaigns don’t acknowledge other forms of trafficking. Furthermore, a lot of campaigns also lack “constellation thinking” (as described by Teju Cole) in that many people think that trafficking is a simpler issue than it really is. A lot of people feel self-gratification just from taking “trafficked victims” out of their work industries and feel that this is enough. This attitude fails to recognize institutional issues such as poverty, lack of jobs, and lack of opportunities.

Just to clarify, this course does not aim to completely shut down on any effort to end human trafficking. It does focus primarily though on analyzing the ideologies of typical saviors.

ETHN 0500: Introduction to American/Ethnic Studies

Required Materials: Nothing. This is another course where all of the required readings are provided to you by the instructor, online.

The Course: This is actually a course that two of my friends took last semester (and that I will be enthusiastically taking next semester). My friends say that all of the readings are really good and relevant to the class. These texts made them consider ideas and topics that they never considered before.

They also enjoyed the discussion sections where they could sit down and talk about these concepts with classmates. Furthermore, they found the professor to be incredibly engaging and great. In one of their words, “she is a strong, empowering Native woman of color who is extremely passionate about food justice and environmental justice. She tries to bring awareness to the Native community at Brown.” In addition, my two friends praised how she wasn’t afraid to be introspective about her work and lectures and was always willing to address any mistakes she made – such as accidentally leaving a specific group out of discussion.

SOC 0010: Social Problems 

Required Materials: Nothing. This is another course where all of the required readings are online pdf files that will provided to you.

The Course: My friend in this course found the teacher to be really enthusiastic about the subject. Furthermore, the topics were complicated but really interesting. This made conversations hard, but really good and fulfilling. The concepts that you learn in this class is also immediately applicable, which is something that the students appreciated.

CLPS 0200: Human Cognition

Required Materials: None. All material is taught to you through Powerpoints.

The Course: Students in this course really like the Professor. They found him really funny and relatable. They also agreed that concepts were explained really well through interactive examples. On the note of concepts, the material is a lot of interesting theories and case studies. Due to this, there are lot of helpful examples provided in class that students enjoyed. Furthermore, the grading system is thought to be fair.

I think this subject can be really useful for low-income students looking for cheap but interesting courses to take. I will probably do a few more of these because I would’ve wanted something like this when I was choosing courses my first-year. Even though Brown’s course scheduler tells you what books are required, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the professor won’t tell you that there are things you need to buy on the first day of class.

Thank you for reading!


I am open to any and all ideas, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have! If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments you can e-mail me at . Thanks!


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