As students complete their course registration forms, any number of forces shape their decisions about which classes to enroll in.

Fulfilling requirements, following favorite professors and avoiding Friday class are all obvious factors in the decision making process, but sometimes it is the world outside Bowdoin that bears directly on students' course choices.

National and international events affect the enrollment in certain courses as well as the popularity of certain departments year to year.

For example, the Department of Government saw the greatest increases in their student enrollment during the years of presidential elections.

In the fall of 2000—just before the election of President George W. Bush—enrollment in government classes jumped a significant 16.4 percent from the previous semester.

In 2003, during President Bush's re-election campaign, enrollment jumped up again, this time by a considerable 14.7 percent from the previous year.

However, in the intervening years, student demand for government classes dropped.

During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Dean for Academic Affairs James Higginbotham said that "there was a small increase in [enrollment in] Chinese language [classes]."

When it comes to departmental popularity in a more general sense, Bowdoin's humanities courses are typically packed more often than those offered by the math and science departments.

This is a trend that contrasts with the national movement toward increased computer science and technology enrollment.

Between 1997 and 2006, the number of students enrolled in a history course increased 16 percent, adjusted for size of the total student body. In fact, as of fall 2010, history was the fourth-most popular major.

History classes "make sense of the world you live in," said Associate Professor of history Dallas Denery.

They "raise questions that have historical and contemporary relevance."