A college campus can feel like an isolated island to a
student, especially a freshman new to a city.
Realizing this, and wanting to help forge a sense of
community among students and Baltimore residents, the
Center and the Office of the Dean of Student
Life earlier this year provided the Class of 2010 with
a means to explore and find out more about their new home:
A Hop Hon Hunt.
The inaugural program, held on the weekend after
orientation, divided the 120 freshmen who signed up into 10
groups that were then assigned to the neighborhoods of
Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Hampden, the Inner
Harbor, Little Italy (two groups), Mount Vernon, Mount
Washington and Upper Fells Point.
Each group was provided with upperclass student guides
and a camera, and was asked to find clues, scavenger
hunt-style, and take pictures of their assigned
neighborhood. The groups would later use the pictures to
make collages that conveyed the uniqueness of their
neighborhood and the experience.
The creative collages have now been hung in the Gilman
Tunnel, where they will be until April 1.
The Hop Hon Hunt was the brainchild of Citlai
Miranda-Aldaco, then a faculty member in the Department of
German and Romance Languages and Literatures, and two
graduate students in the department, Regina Galasso and Ann
Their concept was the winning entry of "The Spirit of
Community" competition organized by the Counseling Center
Advisory Board, which set out to find new ways to increase
the sense of community at Johns Hopkins. The board
solicited ideas from Homewood campus faculty, staff and
students. Fifty-eight proposals were received.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
Galasso said that what her group wanted was to create
an event that would acquaint incoming freshmen with the
diversity of Baltimore neighborhoods.
"We thought that a scavenger hunt would give students
an opportunity to meet each other, talk to upperclassmen
about JHU and Baltimore, and introduce them to the city,"
Galasso said. "Our impression has been that JHU students
don't really know about all that Baltimore has to offer,
and this was a way to expose them to places they may not
Galasso said that the feedback from the participants
was overwhelmingly positive, and she has since learned that
many students have built friendships with team members and
returned to the neighborhoods with family and friends. She
said that the collages the students designed do a wonderful
job of capturing the spirit of the day.
"It's amazing to see students playing boccie with the
residents of Little Italy or eating tacos at the
Tortilleria Sinaloa in Fells Point," she said. "Overall,
the event was people-centered and connected Hopkins
students to the community and local businesses. It really
was a win-win."
The MTA provided free bus passes to allow students to
navigate the city streets. Several merchants welcomed them
to their neighborhoods and donated prizes to the Counseling
Center that included free dinners, trapeze lessons, tours
of the city and gift certificates. The gifts were
distributed to participants at the end of the event.
Michael Mond, director of the Counseling Center, said
that while the advisory board considered opening the event
to the entire undergraduate student body, it made sense to
scale it down to freshmen.
A Fells Point collage: The set of
'Homicide,' oysters, tattoos and water taxis that took them
to the Inner Harbor.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS
"We said, let's try a pilot program with the freshmen
and start building this idea of community right from the
get-go," Mond said. "We decided to hold it the first week
[students] were here because everything was new to them.
They probably didn't really know the city at all, even if
they had already visited, and their time was not already
taken up by studies, sports and clubs."
Mond said the Counseling Center would like to make
this an annual event, one that he hopes will draw even more
students next year and involve more Baltimore
The journey is not over yet for the first-year teams,
The collages will be judged by members of the campus
community, and the winning entry will be awarded $500,
donated by the Counseling Center, for the team to divide.
Judges will be told to look for the collages that capture
the spirit of the day and the "personality" of the
neighborhood in the most creative way.
The winner will be announced at the
Spring Fair, which starts on Friday, April 13.