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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 9, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 39
New home for a trio of programs

Kyle McCarter heads the nine-member task force overseeing the development of the Center for Liberal Arts. Melissa Hilbish is the center's director.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

KSAS center brings MLA, Odyssey and Evergreen together

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Three popular Johns Hopkins academic programs in the humanities have found a new home in which to exist and thrive for decades to come. On July 1, the university officially opened the Center for Liberal Arts in the Advanced Academic Programs, which will serve adult learners in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas. The center, housed in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, will originally include the degree-granting Master of Liberal Arts program (part of the AAP) and the noncredit Odyssey and Evergreen Society programs that had previously been part of the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. In the future, the center could house other humanities-based programs, university officials said.

Founded in 1986, the Evergreen Society offers graduate-level courses for retired and semi- retired people who want to explore subjects without the commitment associated with a degree or certificate program. Similarly, Odyssey for nearly 20 years has offered lecture series and noncredit courses ranging from the hard sciences to the fine arts.

On Jan. 1, SPSBE separated into two new schools--the Carey Business School and the School of Education--and neither seemed a suitable home for the two noncredit programs. While the university considered possible solutions, Evergreen classes continued and the Odyssey program was discontinued for the spring semester.

Adam Falk, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said that he views the new center as a logical fit with the school and a seamless, unifying entity for the three programs.

"Bringing these three successful programs together under one center allows us to offer, in a more coherent and synergistic way, a full suite of programs ranging from the noncredit offerings of Evergreen and Odyssey to the full degree–granting program of the MLA," he said. "This reflects our historic commitment to educating lifelong learners throughout Maryland and the greater area, which has always been part of our mission."

Melissa Hilbish, associate program chair of the MLA program, is the center's director, and Kyle McCarter, William Foxwell Albright Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and MLA program chair, heads the center's nine-member task force that will oversee its development. Kathy Porsella remains Evergreen's director, while an associate director of noncredit programs, yet to be named, will oversee Odyssey.

Hilbish said that the center will launch its own Web site sometime this summer, but the individual programs will keep their Web sites and registration methods for the foreseeable future. The class locations for each program will also stay the same.

Evergreen offers nearly 80 courses at three locations: the Grace United Methodist Church, located near the Homewood campus; the Columbia Center; and the Montgomery County Campus. Primarily lecture-based, the yearlong program holds 12-week classes that meet once a week for two hours each semester and range in size from 12 to 200 members. It also offers field trips, such as an excursion to New Orleans for a jazz class. Upcoming classes include the Buddhist Experience, Great American Trails, Great Books, Memoir Writing and Eclectic Reading.

In addition to lecture series, Odyssey offers courses in art, music, science, literature, politics, popular culture, environmental studies, foreign languages and creative writing. Some 120 courses, which vary in length, are offered annually at the Homewood campus as part of an extensive curriculum designed to provide professional development and personal enrichment. It also offers a Mini-Med School and a Certificate on Aging.

Established in 1962, the Master of Liberal Arts is an interdisciplinary program that features small, interactive seminars led by distinguished faculty. It features a range of offerings in literature, history, religion, science, philosophy, music, art history, interdisciplinary studies and political science. Courses are held at the Homewood campus and Washington, D.C., Center.

Hilbish said that the combining of the three programs and the connection with the School of Arts and Sciences will only make the programs stronger.

"The idea behind the center is to create an energy and dynamic for our liberal arts programs that benefit the Hopkins community and the community at large. There is something here for everybody--people who want the challenge of a degree or need it for professional reasons, or for other students, there are noncredit courses offered during the day and at night," Hilbish said. "[The center] will provide a home and structure for these programs, and it will continue to grow with programs that fit our mission. We are very grateful to the strong support from both Dean Adam Falk and associate dean of AAP Sarah Steinberg, who recognized the value of the center and have helped us forward."

Falk said the center's affiliation with the School of Arts and Sciences will encourage and allow more of the school's faculty to instruct courses in all three programs.

For more information, go to the programs' individual Web sites at:


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