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May 22, 2022

Intersession boasts array of fun, interesting enrichment courses

By ALEXANDRA BALLATO | December 6, 2012

On Jan. 7, many faculty and students will return to Homewood after their winter breaks to partake in a Hopkins tradition that has been in existence for over forty years: Intersession. This voluntary program lasts for three weeks in January prior to the start of the Spring Semester.

Intersession offers opportunities for undergraduates on campus to get involved in a range of activities, such as Academic Exploration, B’More, Leading Social Change, Career Development, Personal Enrichment, Study Abroad and Study in the USA. In the graphics below are a sampling the of available courses.

“Intersession is a great time to take classes with students from diverse departments,” Larry McGrath, Intersession instructor of Film and Philosophy, wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Students get to play with interests that they might only imagine exploring in an alternative life of an arts BA instead of an engineering BS. Seize the opportunity and, just maybe, make the switch for real after you have a taste.”

The Academic Exploration offerings allow students to do just that. McGrath’s course, which synthesizes the fields of film and philosophy, provides students a unique perspective in both disciplines.

“What drew me to teach the course then is the same as now: film can teach philosophers a lot; we can use elements of film—editing, sound, visuals, and sensations—to give a richer texture to ideas that might otherwise seem stale in books,” McGrath wrote. “In short, film is a medium that puts concepts into motion.”

Neil O’Donnell, instructor of the Neurological Diseases to Nanoparticles course, has a strong connection with his area of instruction.

“I was interested in instructing this year because I am very passionate about my research project,” O’Donnell wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Nanoparticles have reached a critical mass in terms of their biological applications. These particles have been used in a host of applications including medical imaging and gene delivery. As a result, my co-instructor, Rishab, and I designed this course to really highlight and demonstrate the terrific potential of these particles. In addition, Rishab and I wanted to shed some light on what we do in lab each day to further our respective projects. … I am especially excited to teach about the synthesis of the particles. My thesis centers on the synthesis and coating of nanoparticles, and so I really look forward to sharing that with the class.”

The Archaeology of Beer will be returning this January after its debut last Intersession. Christopher Brinker explained the significance of his course in an email to The News-Letter:

“Archaeology is really a multidisciplinary undertaking and studying beer in the archaeological record evokes many of those disciplines,” Brinker wrote. “For instance, in the course we will consider the process of malting grain, and how botanists can distinguish between malted and un-malted grains found in the archaeological record. We will also learn about chemical studies of residues on ancient jars and potsherds and what they can tell us about what those containers once held.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the Archaeology of Beer is rooted deeply in both science and archaeology, which posed a potential issue for Brinker. Instead, he found the opposite effect to be true.

“In 2012, this turned out to be a strength,” Brinker wrote. “Many of the students in the class came in with strong biology, chemistry, or engineering backgrounds. Together with the archaeology majors, the students were able to play to their strengths and come together as a team, each having a role to play. I have every expectation that this will be the case in 2013 as well.”

While Academic Exploration courses are based upon classroom learning, the Career Development program offers a different lens through which to view the benefits of Intersession.

“The lens of career development highlights the way students can get into the industry and what working in the industry actually entails,” Blair Chapman, instructor of the Financial Literacy course, wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “In a regular class on the topic, students would learn the necessary information to be able to do a job in financial services, but not how to get the job or what you would actually do on the job. Students also gain insights on how to progress through a career in finance, which would not be covered in a regular class.”

Financial Literacy, a class that has been in existence for almost two decades, benefits from the city of Baltimore and its residents that already work in the field.

“Finance is always in a state of flux and it is interesting each year to hear from the different guest speakers. … The bulk of the curriculum is taught by guest speakers that are either Hopkins Alumni, parents of students or are connected to JHU in another way, e.g. former Professors,” Chapman wrote. “I am always interested in seeing the perspective of new speakers on the various topics covered.”

Such hopes for a change in perspectives are at the root of many Intersession course. William Smedick is at the forefront in inducing the adoption of a new angle through which students view their environment.

“Teaching the skills and planning it takes to be a successful agent of change is very rewarding and exciting. The gains I hope students get from the course are an identification and enhancement of the skills and knowledge needed to positively affect change in their lives and lead in organizations they will be a part of in the future,” he wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Similarly, a B’More course offered this January maximizes on resources available in the wider Baltimore area. Laurie Feinberg, the Division Chief for Comprehensive Planning for the City of Baltimore, will join Hopkins freshmen to delve into Baltimore and Urban Planning.

“I look forward to sharing my knowledge of Baltimore with Hopkins students,” Feinberg wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “My hope is that it will open their eyes to Baltimore and broaden their experiences. City Planning will help them look at cities from a different perspective.”

Emily Parker, a B’More instructor of Film, Fiction, and TV, hopes that, on top of their academic benefits,  Intersession courses will also allow students to take advantage of all that Baltimore has to offer.

“Intersession is a great opportunity for freshmen to make new friends and get to know their new home city,” Parker wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “I hope that students will become more comfortable in Baltimore and gain a sense of pride in their new city.”

For the less academically inclined, Personal Enrichment offerings range from Bartending 101 to Intro to Massage, allowing students to pursue a non-academic discipline. Further still are opportunities abroad, as well as across the country, from Tropical Biology and Evolution in Ecuador and the Galapagos to Sundance and Its Role in Contemporary Cinema in Utah.

“Intersession provides students time to meet others within their classes and form lasting friendships,” O’donnell wrote. “I think that Johns Hopkins’ Intersession program is unique because it puts so much emphasis on experiential learning. These classes really are not about grades, but rather about acquiring skills and experiences which one can adapt to other opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.”


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