New Academic Classes for 2023-2024

Catalyzing Change: Entrepreneurial Thinking

By Nathan Wang and William Liu

erdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research course called Catalyzing Change: Entrepreneurial Thinking. According to the course description, the course will offer students an opportunity to explore the world of entrepreneurship through project-based and action- oriented work. 

Starting next academic year, the class is open to all upper school students. The course will feature guest speakers from alumni and several advisors for students. 

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89, who will likely teach the class next year, said the course was designed with a focus on problem-solving and entrepreneurial collaboration.

“This is the first full-year academic course that focuses on offering students a foundational experience and skill set in entrepreneurial thinking,” Engelberg said. “The Catalyzing Change course will give students the skills and confidence they need to tackle complex challenges in the real world, whether those are business challenges or social [or] policy challenges. [Students will learn] problem-solving; design thinking; market analysis; competitive analysis; financial projections and analysis; organizational design strategy; and marketing.” 

Entrepreneur-in- Residence Mike McGinley said the class will integrate aspects of both HW Venture and HW Works.

“This is going to be a class [where] you’re going to be really excited [that] you’ve learned something,” McGinley said. “We look at this as an upgrade in trying to consolidate some of the stuff that we’re doing and integrate the other things that are already happening at Harvard-Westlake into a real class.”

Kian Sharifi ’24, who is interested in taking the course, said he appreciates the innovative element of entrepreneurship. 

“Entrepreneurship is so interesting because it allows you to think creatively without any rules,” Sharifi said. “Unlike typical school subjects, entrepreneurship rewards you for doing something that no one else has done before, which makes it so unique and cool.

Sharifi said he is optimistic about the new course. 

“I took the Venture: Catalyzing Change directed study last year and I really enjoyed it, so I’m sure this class will be just as fun,” Sharifi said. “[I am] excited to learn more about it and maybe fit it into my senior schedule.”


Graphic Design through the Medium of Merch

By Alden Detmer

The Visual Arts Department introduced its new “Graphic Design through the Medium of Merch” Kutler Center course at the Academic Fair on March 7. Students will learn about the principles of design, layout and composition of artwork and apply it to the production of merchandise, according to the course description.

The course will occupy a block for a full year and will be open to all upper school students. The goal is for students to emerge with their own visual identity, products and skills to communicate through two-dimensional design. 

Visual Arts Teacher Whitney Lasker, who will teach the course next year, said he was inspired by the power of clothing’s message.

“T-shirts, in particular, have the ability to convey humor, show support for a favorite band or sports team, or even make a statement about fashion,” Lasker said. “This imagery can connect us with a passing stranger who also is a fellow fan or supporter. I have personally always been conscious of the message my clothing sends, and I have often wished I had the skills to turn my ideas into a shirt that I could wear and share with others. In creating my graphic design course, my goal is to empower students to turn their own ideas into physical objects that can be shared with the world.” 

Lasker said graphic design’s ability to empower personal expression sets it apart from other visual arts classes.

“Graphic design is different than traditional forms of art, as it usually has a function in our day-to-day life,” Lasker said. “Not to say graphic design can’t be fine art or fine art doesn’t have a function. However, good graphic design combines artistic expression with problem solving and communication. Other visual art classes may focus primarily on aesthetics and personal expression and techniques. This course will also touch on these elements but as they relate to effectively communicating a message or solving a visual problem.”

Kai Do ’24 said she plans to take the course next year to further explore her design interests. 

“I’ve always wanted to branch out more into fashion and the other side of graphic design, since I’ve always been into art and making layouts for magazines,” Do said. “At the Activities Fair, [Lasker] was talking about how there’s going to be many mediums we get to work with. Screen printing and seeing how other companies design their merch should be super cool.”


In Search of Self: How Literature Shapes Us

By Hannah Shahidi and Zoe Goor

 a new elective available to juniors and seniors called In Search of Self: How Literature Shapes Us for the 2023-2024 school year. English Teacher Jocelyn Medawar will be teaching the course. Students in the class will participate in group discussions surrounding various texts and will be assessed through creative prompts rather than essays characteristic of other English courses. This course aims to allow students to focus on literature as a path to personal, philosophical, spiritual and intellectual growth.

Medawar said she hopes the course helps students see reading in a more positive light.

“This course is for students who will want to focus on literature as a path to some kind of personal growth,” Medawar said. “That’s ultimately what I’m getting at. I think that a lot of students would like a space to read literature, without the pressure of having to write an essay, without the pressure of reading quizzes. It’s about a different way to read.” 

While the course will replace Medawar’s elective Shakespeare and Our World, Medawar said she intends for the classroom culture of the new course to have a similar feeling to that of her old elective. Carter Staggs ’23, who took Medawar’s current elective, said his class allowed him to get to know other students on a more personal level. 

“People very much bring themselves to the class in a way that you don’t see in some more heavily academic intensive courses,” Staggs said. “Because of that, you get to really know the people in the class with you, and I would suppose that is why it feels so much like a family.”

English Department Head Laurence Weber said he hopes the course provides students with real-world analytical skills. 

“Like all English classes, [I hope] that it finds students where they [are] at and gets them to feel more connected to each other and a world in which we [are] constantly interpreting the details,” Weber said.


English IV: Apocalypse Now

By Alex Dinh

ing a new English class for seniors called English IV: Apocalypse Now for the 2023-2024 school year. In past years, seniors could choose between four honors-level options and one option in the regular track. Now, seniors will have two options. The class will analyze texts, graphic novels, films and series about different ways the world might end, including Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Zone One by Colson Whitehead and Severance by Ling Ma.

Students will read about life after climate disasters, civil wars, global pandemics, zombie invasions, nuclear attacks and supernatural interventions and respond with critical writing, personal essays, book reviews, blogs and fan fiction. 

English Teacher Darcy Buck said the primary reason for creating a new course was to create more choices for seniors who don’t want to take an honors English class.

“One of the things that we were all thinking about was choice,” Buck said. “Right now we have a lot of advanced offerings for students who really want to charge hard as seniors in English. But there was only one course that was offered for students who wanted to spend their honors chips in other places.”

In addition to critical writing assignments, students will also be completing creative writing assignments, fan-fictions, book reviews and blog posts. Buck will be one of the teachers of the class and said they hope the class will offer a more enjoyable version of English to some students.

“Our hope is to have a course that’s really fun,” Buck said. “I think for a lot of students, by the time they get to senior year, they can feel a little salty about the fact that they have to take an English class. We want to create a course that focuses on the pleasures of reading and thinking about and talking about books that are wildly speculative but also quite relevant to our lives.”

Morgan Orwitz ’24 said she is considering taking the class and is glad that the English department is expanding its course offerings.

“When I saw the booth at the academic fair, I thought the idea behind the class was super interesting and creative compared to the other classes,” Orwitz said. “I’m not sure what class I will end up taking, but I will definitely consider [English IV: Apocalypse Now], and I am glad that the English department is adding more non-honors English classes.”