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This is an AMAZING professor! I took her Globalization/Gender Systems course over the summer and it was truly an eye-opening experience. Most of the topics covered are political/current events issues and aren't the most pleasant to deal with, such as globalization of production, neoliberal economic policies, gender subordination, food insecurity, malnutrition and gender issues relating to HIV/AIDS, but these are topics everyone needs to know about and if one is dealing with these types of issues, rarely are they "fun." Professor Gunewardena assigned a lot of reading for this course (no textbooks, all material was obtained via downloads/links) and while at times it was voluminous, all of it was worthwhile reading and completely relevant to each week's subject area.
During the course, we viewed 3 films and were required to write analyses of each; these assignments combined were worth 30% of our grade. Again, each of the films was on target with the subject area for the week. Attendance counted for 10% of our grade and informed participation in classroom discussions counted for 10%. The final was essay-based, there were 5 essay questions (1 for each week of topics covered beyond introduction to concepts) and counted for 50% of our grade.
There were several students who complained repeatedly (but NOT to the Professor!) about being required to participate in discussion because it was not a 5 unit class and there was no discussion section assigned, which I personally felt was uncalled for and really immature. Last time I checked, being a student at UCLA meant that we are all expected to read the required materials, assimilate the readings and be able to at least ask questions in class about things we don't understand and/or be able to participate in discussion in class concerning the current topic. What's so hard about that? What's the point of going to class and simply being a note-taker? People who don't want to be actively involved in their education and make the most of it should probably give up their much-desired seat at UCLA and try online college or "distance learning" where they won't have to be accountable for actually thinking or being involved.
I would not rate Professor Gunewardena as a difficult teacher because the term implies to me someone who practices academic terrorism, which she does not. Nor does she try to trick her students on tests, nor does she make the subject matter incomprehensible. On the contrary, if you are a person who is not up-to-date on all things political, or current events (like me!), she makes it possible to understand sometimes nebulous concepts such as gender constructs, agency, resistance and subordination which are necessary for the course.
Professor Gunewardena is obviously extremely intelligent and really knows her stuff. She is very dedicated to her field and her work. Her enthusiasm is contagious. I had another professor the same quarter who was the chair of their department (and obviously tenured), and while this person is a long-time professor at UCLA, Professor Gunewardena stood in stark, positive contrast to this person as a superior teacher. She takes time to learn each student's name and is genuinely concerned that each student is learning and understanding the concepts of the course. She makes somewhat unpleasant subject matter interesting and engaging, and is a highly effective teacher. She is always available in her office hours and let us know beforehand if she would be away from them on a particular day. She kept in touch via e-mail and was responsive to e-mails sent to her.
I cannot say enough good things about Professor Gunewardena and would highly recommend this course, and this professor, to anyone who wants to have a great learning experience at UCLA. She is the type of professor, and person, that one would remember with admiration years after graduation. Women everywhere of all ages should be thankful there are feminists like her that make our lives more pleasant because of her dedication and accountability.