My Most Interesting Class: United States History to 1865

Ahmad looks to the side while leaning against a railing in Business Hall.

While senior Ahmad Conteh has pursued his degree in Finance through the Rohrer College of Business, one course he took from outside his major quickly became one of his favorites. Read on as Ahmad, a transfer student from Mercer County College, shares details on a class that took him centuries back in our nation’s past.

So my first semester as a transfer student — I believe that was fall 2018 — I took “US History to 1865.” And honestly, the professor was just top notch.

It was more so like a gen ed. Once I took it, that’s when I got more into it. Because I did take a lot of history classes in high school, and I took one at Mercer before I transferred. I’ve always been into history, learning how everything came about. So once I took his class, I saw how he actually taught me a lot. 

Ahmad smiles while sitting in the lobby of Business Hall.

How so? How did that professor kind of transform the semester for you?

So I’m pretty sure like, certain classes, kids just like to have [their] laptops out and make it seem like they’re paying attention to the lecture. But they’re really not. They’re just lollygagging, or they’re on their phones, or they’re just trying to keep [themselves] occupied during the lecture without actually paying attention (not to like throw kids under the bus).

But so this professor like, literally as soon as everyone was in the class, the first day of class, he made it, no, he said, no phones, no laptops … that right there just told me that ok, this professor’s not playing. He’s showing that this is a class you should pay attention to because you being on your phone or laptop, you guys probably won’t learn anything.

Ahmad smiles outside Business Hall.

Tell me a little bit about the class.

So it was literally like the start of time, like 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. So basically, the founding of the states and like the first, the first colonies that were founded. And they stumbled across the, I believe, was the Roanoke [people], if I’m correct.

And when you took the course, who was your professor?

His name was Nepa, he’s a great professor.

What made the professor great?

He involved the class and made it like … the class [initially] came off as hard. But then once you started easing into it, and then, with the more involvement of the students, it showed that you were able to actually understand what he’s teaching, and you’re able to dissect and actually apply it. He would, for an example, he would put a picture up, like a random history picture. And then students, sometimes they’re shy. So he wants kids to participate. So if you didn’t participate, he will pick you. So it’s kind of like you have no choice. And it was towards your grade. So obviously, you don’t want a bad participation grade, because then it will accumulate to your grade dropping. So he would put a picture up on the projector, and he would say, “Ok, explain to me what you think his picture means.” And everyone in the class is silent. So he’s like, “Ok, I don’t want you guys to make this hard for me. So no one’s gonna volunteer. I’m gonna pick people.”

Ahmad leans against a railing in Business Hall.

So the professor encouraged — no, expected — participation.

But it was in a good way.

And the professor really opened my eyes; he just wanted everyone to participate. He wanted everyone to know that there’s no wrong answers, just put your opinion out there. And, even if it’s not the greatest opinion, it’s still something. And it could still be applied to what we were learning.

How did this class connect to your professional or personal goals?

Well, it was really fun learning about history. I mean, it didn’t really partake to any of my finance classes, because it’s a history class. But I really enjoy history — I should have honestly concentrated or minored in history, just like seeing how everything came about is very interesting to me. So just him basically kind of forcing you to pay attention, it really taught me like, wow, I didn’t even know that at one point. Or like, oh, I missed that timeline before I jumped into that timeline. And it’s good that I now know that because I missed a whole timeline of events when he just broke it down for us and he explained it to us.

Ahmad looks up outside Business Hall.

What are your professional goals?

I want to be a top-notch investor/trader. It’s basically like entrepreneurship. But before I get there, I just want to work for now. As a corporate job, I work my way up in the field. I want to go to grad school. I also want to work for a nice company. Once I do that, just like I said, work my way up in the field, gain all the experience — because at the end of the day, I’m always a student — and then apply towards myself and my own personal goals.

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