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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 4, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 13
Jump Right In!

Champion jump roper Wren Haaland conceived one of the offbeat classes that have become a hallmark of Johns Hopkins' personal enrichment programs.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Intersession lineup runs gamut from beer history to practical Chinese

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Wren Haaland can double dutch like nobody's business, and she has the medals to prove it. The Johns Hopkins sophomore took up competitive jump roping nine years ago, and her career skipped to a high point this summer when she struck gold with Team USA at the International Rope Skipping Federation World Championships held in Toronto, Canada.

Now Haaland wants to teach the entire Hopkins community a jump roping trick or two.

Haaland, a public health major and certified jump rope instructor, will teach a course called Extreme Jump Rope as part of Intersession 2007, which runs from Jan. 3 to Jan. 19.

The course is one of many noncredit personal enrichment offerings that have become a staple of Intersession at Homewood, alongside the academic programs offered to undergraduates. Not just for students, the program has increasingly attracted staff, faculty and local residents who want to take up a new hobby or better themselves.

Extreme Jump Rope is billed as a group exercise class that will introduce participants to many different forms of jump rope, including single rope, double-dutch and individual tricks. The class will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The veteran of dozens of regional and international jump roping competitions, Haaland said that she hopes to convey with the course that the activity is not just for kids.

"Jump roping is something a person can stick with throughout their life, whether it's to spice up their fitness routines, apply to their regular workout or just for fun," she said. "It's a great cardio workout and also has elements of strength training. There are a lot of health benefits."

In total, Intersession 2007 features 33 personal enrichment and development classes broken into the categories of music, dance, art, health and wellness, hobbies, language and theater. The course instructors are a mix of faculty, staff, students and professionals.

This year's list of courses includes Introduction to Playing the Appalachian Fiddle, Ballet for Adults, Introduction to Massage, Getting to Know Your Shadow, Healing with Color, Juggling, Beer History and Appreciation, Practical Chinese for Business and Pleasure, What Are Words For? and others. The classes, all held on the Homewood campus, range in price from $20 to $395, with most between $20 and $40.

Mattin Center/Levering Union director Jane Rhyner, who has coordinated the personal enrichment Intersession program for 21 years, said that her goal each year is to provide an eclectic mix of courses that focus on fun and interaction.

Rhyner solicits ideas from the university population, and in recent years the program has relied heavily on the contributions and creativity of students. "I've found that students, both graduates and undergraduates, have a lot to offer," she said. "They have a hobby or interest and want to teach it to others."

Gadget guys Mike Chi, David Cummings and Andrew Liu will demystify the inner workings of some modern-day devices.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Such was the case with Gadget Design, a new Intersession course to be taught by three engineering seniors: Mike Chi, David Cummings and Andrew Liu. The class, sponsored in part by the JHU student chapter of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, will attempt to introduce participants to the world of DIY electronic gizmos such as MP3 players, POVs (persistence-of-vision devices) and disco-light dance floors. Students will learn the basic principles of instrument design and build their own device.

Rhyner said that she is very open to course proposals, and each year's Intersession features five to 12 new classes. In fact, she admits she has a hard time telling a person no.

"But if a proposal is a little too academic, I will tell them to tone it down and make it more fun," she said.

Historically, the two most popular Intersession courses have been Wine Tasting and Ballroom Dancing. Wine Tasting offers participants an introduction to the most popular varietals — chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon — and the most prominent wine regions in the United States and Europe. Charles Lawrence, a retired psychologist and School of Public Health alum, has taught an Intersession wine tasting class for the past 20 years. Before that, he taught a similar course at the School of Medicine, where he was an adjunct faculty member.

Lawrence attributes the success of the course, always among the first to fill up, to wine's lasting and growing popularity.

"Quite simply, a lot of people want to know a little more about wine," Lawrence said. "And the course somehow has attracted word of mouth. People take it and tell others how much they enjoyed it."

In addition to the personal enrichment courses, Intersession includes for-credit academic offerings, study abroad opportunities, "experiential learning" trips and GRE, LSAT and MCAT preparation. According to Office of the Registrar statistics, the Intersession offerings have been steadily growing in popularity. In 2002, just over 900 enrolled in Intersession courses. Last year, enrollment jumped to 1,286.

Jessica Madrigal, Intersession director, attributes the increased enrollment to the concerted effort to offer a diversity of classes that are topical and engaging but slightly less challenging than semester-long courses.

"This is evidence for me that the evolution of Intersession course offerings from traditional three-credit graded courses to our current format [of mostly short one-credit pass/fail classes] has helped Hopkins attract more students each year," Madrigal said. "When designing the Intersession curriculum, our intention is to schedule courses that are appealing enough to lure students back to campus from their holiday break."

And if they want to add some fun to their schedule, they can jump right into a personal enrichment class, too.

For the complete list of Intersession offerings and registration information, go to


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