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Published: April 25, 2004

(Page 3 of 3)

Your Chances: Classes are booked more than a semester in advance. ''Presidential Campaigns and Conventions,'' Mr. Dukakis's summer offering, has been full since fall. The university recently raised the cap to 40 students from 35, but he often takes 5 to 10 above the limit. Students sometimes spill into the aisles.

ROBERT B. REICH, Brandeis
C.V.: Labor secretary under President Clinton; ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

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Teaches: On leave this semester (while teaching at the University of California at Berkeley). He taught a graduate course last semester with 25 students as well as an undergraduate lecture course, ''The Paradox of Wealth and Poverty,'' with 224 students, which was 24 over the cap.

In Class: While graduate students lead the discussion groups and Mr. Reich only lectures, he meets groups of students over breakfast every week to get to know them. Conversation ranges from current events to careers. Mr. Reich was voted best teacher at Brandeis in 2002 and students call him a captivating lecturer, though one complaint is that he dwells more on problems than solutions. Mr. Reich says he tries to familiarize students with the arguments on all sides. As for solutions, he says: ''There are no magic bullets. I'm very careful not to use the class to promote my own particular views.''

Your Chances: First come first served, with 30 to 40 students on a wait list.

STEVEN PINKER, Harvard
C.V.: Known for popularizing science, in the vein of Stephen Jay Gould, with his research on language; author of six books, including the best-selling ''The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.''

Teaches: An elective core science course, ''The Human Mind,'' for undergraduates and a graduate seminar linked to it -- his first courses since moving to Harvard in July from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In Class: Known as the ''rock professor'' for his long hair and easy style, he uses cartoons, videos, music and poetry to enliven lectures. He closed his first class by quoting Hamlet and opened another with ''If I Only Had a Brain'' from ''The Wizard of Oz.'' ''He's incredibly charismatic,'' says Samantha Holmes, a sophomore. ''But this is definitely a science course.''

Your Chances: Good. Five hundred students tried to fit into a classroom for 300 on the first day, during the shopping period that allows students to sample classes before registering. Ultimately, 281 enrolled. Students in the course say classmates may have bolted because of too many demands for a core course, including two long papers, a midterm and a final.

Karen W. Arenson covers higher education for The Times.


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