Baltimore is many things. It's the largest city in
Maryland, a major U.S. seaport, the birthplace
of Babe Ruth and a thriving cultural destination, just to
name a few. To Paula Burger, dean of
undergraduate education, Charm City is also a learning
laboratory for Johns Hopkins students to
experience, explore and have some fun in.
With this in mind, Burger helped champion the creation
of B-More: A Common Freshman
Experience, a one-week academic and personal enrichment
program with the city as its centerpiece.
The innovative program, which took place the last week of
intersession, offered the students the
opportunity to get to know Baltimore better, reconnect with
friends and make new ones, and foster
Freshmen had the chance to register in one of five
one-credit classes held in the morning and
then participate in a slew of afternoon and evening
activities, which included movie nights, a city tour,
site visits, guest speakers, dinners, a varsity men's
basketball game and more.
The week kicked off on Sunday, Jan. 20, with a welcome
back reception, followed later that day
with a dinner at Charles Commons and an address from
Burger. The opening night concluded with a
viewing of the 1998 version of the John Waters film
Nearly 60 freshmen registered for the pilot program,
which also included four "B-More
ambassadors," upperclassmen who served as peer facilitators
for the week's activities.
Burger said that the plans are to scale up the week in
subsequent years and eventually have the
entire freshman class, or close to it, participate.
"Our goal is to have students come to regard the
B-More program as one of the highlights of
their college experience," she said. "Baltimore can be an
asset to undergraduate education, and we
need to take better advantage of that."
The courses for the inaugural program were B-More:
Health Realities and Health Care
Disparities; Ancient Egypt in B-More: A Guided Tour;
Rethinking Interventions in B-More: An
Ethnographic Consideration of Everyday Life; B-More: Charm
City Politics; and Lives on the Wire:
Anthropology, Inequity and Urban Life in B-More.
Each offering involved visits to relevant off-campus
sites. For the Ancient Egypt course, for
example. students visited the collections at the Walters
Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art.
The afternoon and evening group activities included
lunches in a campus dining hall, a community
service project on Greenmount Avenue, dinner in Little
Italy, a bus tour of the city, field trips to four
museums and a dessert night at the White Athletic Center,
which featured talks by men's varsity
lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala and a group of Johns Hopkins
alumni. A tour of City Hall had to be
canceled at the last minute, when a malfunctioning
electrical panel filled the building's first floor with
smoke just as the bus arrived.
Ralph Johnson, associate dean of student life and
B-More coordinator, said that senior exit
interviews conducted in recent years pointed out that too
many students spent their four years at
Johns Hopkins without getting to really know the city.
"We viewed this week as a way to expose [students] to
what Baltimore has to offer culturally
and socially so they get engaged with the city early on in
their academic career," Johnson said.
Burger said that she wanted to create a rich
educational experience to explore a variety of
educational topics that play out in Baltimore.
In future years, Burger said, the program could
include courses on such topics as the economics
of port cities, museum studies, challenges of urban public
schools and maintaining a city's
"Baltimore would serve as a lab to illuminate all
these issues, a bridge from theory to practice,"
she said. "There's really no limit to the types of classes
that we could offer. But it's not just about
learning; it's about building class unity and having fun,
and we tried to offer plenty of opportunities
Burger said that a program like this would hopefully
empower students to get out and explore
the city on their own, and also bring students closer
What's the future of the program? Burger said that
B-More week is here to stay and will only
get bigger and better.
"My vision is that this program will be the kind of
thing that all of the freshmen plan to come
back for," she said. "They wouldn't want to miss it."