Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1999
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APRIL 1999

O N    C A M P U S E S

Spring break in Las Vegas... the "coin of the realm"... mergers and acquisitions... film festival returns for an encore... a retiring remaker... satellite sushi ... Division I debut

A scholarly gambol in modern Babylon

The 11 students in History of Science 140.424 had an unusual assignment for spring break: fly to Las Vegas, gamble, drink if you like, see the sights, and record your observations in a journal.

There were more conventional assignments as well in Las Vegas: The Eighth Wonder of the World. Students read literature about the city, including Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and they watched the movie Leaving Las Vegas. But vicarious scholarship is not enough, says Bill Leslie, the professor of History of Science, Medicine, and Technology who came up with the course. "To understand a place like that they have to see it," he says. "They've got to walk the five miles of the strip and see the architecture."

There were some ground rules: Students had to be at least 21 to enroll in the course, pay their own expenses for the trip, and stick to a $100 gambling limit.

Leslie's research interests lie in understanding how and why regions develop, grow, and decline. A few years ago, he wrote a book on the birth and development of Silicon Valley. Now he and his students are exploring how the city of glitz and extravagance, emerged from desert dust--and what it all means to modern civilization.

"It was, of course, science and technology that built Vegas and keeps it alive," says Leslie. In the early 1900s, Las Vegas was a dusty little frontier town with a handful of saloons and a modest amount of gambling, says Leslie. Things started changing in 1931 when the federal government began building the Hoover dam south of Las Vegas to provide power for California and irrigation for the Southwest. With water and power, air-conditioned resorts became possible.

Mobster Bugsy Segal built the Flamingo casino after World War II, and other resorts quickly followed, turning Las Vegas into a gambling mecca. In the 1980s, the city recreated itself, this time as a family vacation spot, featuring amusement parks, video arcades, and kid-friendly entertainment. Developers also built facsimiles of the other wonders of the modern and ancient worlds. There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. The Luxor Hotel, where the Hopkins contingent stayed, has a rendition of the Great Pyramid.

Not everyone is enamored of the city, but Leslie finds the place invigorating. "It anticipated acceptable architecture everywhere else that breaks down the distinction between place and style. It's where post-modern really got a chance," he says. "You could experiment on a grand scale without being true to history." --Melissa Hendricks

MBA director Swanson
Photo by
Louis Rosenstock
The "coin of the realm"

Beginning next September, graduate business students will be able to earn an MBA from Johns Hopkins. "Over the years, our current Master of Science in Business (MSB) evolved into an MBA, and it was only logical to rename it," says Stanley Gabor, dean of the School of Continuing Studies. "The MBA generally is recognized as the 'coin of the realm' for graduate business education."

Courses aimed at managerial communication--particularly cross-cultural communication--will be a key part of the Hopkins MBA, according to the program's director, Gene Swanson, a former finance professor at Cornell University and Baltimore's Loyola College. The aim, Swanson says, is to give students the skills they need to make strategic business decisions "within an increasingly global business environment."

There are currently more than 1,000 students enrolled in the MSB program; more than half have already accepted the offer to switch midstream to the MBA program, Swanson says. (Those who opt not to switch will have until September 2005 to complete the MSB.) Hopkins MSB alumni, some 2,000 in all, also have the opportunity to replace their original degree with the MBA by taking some additional coursework. --Sue De Pasquale

Romance languages to merge

Come July 1, Hopkins will have a new Department of Romance Languages, the result of the merger of French with Hispanic and Italian Studies. Stephen Nichols, professor of French, will chair the new department.

After professor Noel Valis announced her intention to leave Hopkins for Yale University, Hispanic and Italian Studies was left with only four tenured faculty members, prompting anxiety, Nichols said.

"The trustees are very much concerned about the viability of small departments, whether they can maintain a critical mass and recruit grad students," he added. "They're concerned that departments be supported and reinforced to allow them to realize the excellence that Hopkins likes to foster."

Students will continue to major in French, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, but under the umbrella of the new department. Nichols said that if there is sufficient demand, the department might create a romance language major, in which students would study two or three languages and their literary traditions. --Dale Keiger

Film festival returns for an encore

A year ago, Teddy Chao '99 and Gil Jawetz '95 nervously watched the first wave of independent movie buffs trickle into Shriver Hall for the inaugural Johns Hopkins Film Festival. They needn't have worried.

"We just wanted to have a little, mini film festival, just on campus," Chao, now president of the Hopkins Film Society, says of the fest that spread to the Baltimore Museum of Art. "We were just kind of blown away. Baltimore had been waiting for a film festival for a while. We ran out of festival T-shirts the first day."

An estimated 2,200 independent filmgoers--many local urbanites-- turned out, packing three campus auditoriums during the Saturday finale. Student organizers won accolades from the local press, including "Best Film Series" from Baltimore Magazine.

This spring the student-run festival returns for an encore. Six features and a handful of shorts--culled from more than 50 entries from across the country as well as Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and Germany--will be shown from April 15 to 18 in Shriver Hall and elsewhere on campus.

On the schedule are three movies shot by students in the Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program. These include SUBS, a short about "sandwiches, battleships, and death matches," according to Chao, the 1999 festival chair. There's also Flower Bridge, a story about New Year's Eve in Hong Kong, and a documentary, Yard Sale, which explores the underground culture of people who wake up early on a Saturday to cruise the trash-into-treasure circuit. (The other features and shorts were still being selected at the time of publication.)

The Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program, part of the Department of English, is gaining recognition for its efforts in film, video, and what's known as the digital arts. In addition to the movies, students have produced a CD-ROM edition of Ibsen's Doll House; an undergraduate film journal, Frame of Reference, which showcases student writings; a Hopkins-backed movie, The Spot, featured in film festivals three years ago; and a 10-minute short in 1997 called The Least Dangerous Game, a contest of killers and targets and squirt guns on campus. "It was action-packed," Chao says.

There's a message here for those aware of Hopkins's sometimes stodgy image, and it has to do with the F-word. "I think it establishes that Hopkins is not all academics," Chao says. "We like to watch movies and know what is going on in the independent film circuit and, yea, have fun." --Joanne P. Cavanaugh

APL director to step down

Gary Smith, the man charged with remaking Hopkins's Applied Physics Laboratory during years of defense cutbacks, will step down June 30.

He leaves the lab "in excellent shape," according to university president William R. Brody, who praised Smith for diversifying the lab's base of contractors and creating "innovative new programs." Smith's association with APL spans nearly three decades; he joined APL as a research scientist in 1970, and over the years served as assistant and associate director of the lab, before assuming the directorship in 1992.

Under Smith's leadership, APL has expanded its efforts in space science. Its NEAR probe, for instance, is soon expected to make the first orbital rendezvous with an asteroid. The lab has also stepped up its involvement in transportation research and biomedical instrumentation.

A national search for Smith's successor will begin soon.

Satellite sushi

Used to be when college kids got the midnight munchies, they'd run out for a pizza or a cheese steak. Now they're queuing up for sushi.

In February, the Japanese restaurant Kawasaki opened a satellite sushi bar across from E-Level, the late-night student pub in Homewood's Levering Hall.

California roll (at $3.50 a plate) is far and away the biggest seller. Runner-up: the salmon and tuna combo platter ($5.50).

Soon, raw fish aficionados may not even need to leave the comfort of their dorm rooms; there are plans for sushi delivery.

Photo by Louis Rosenstock
Division I debut

When the women's lacrosse team hits the game field this year, it will face opponents who are bigger, stronger, and faster than the ones the team is used to playing. Welcome to Division I.

The women Blue Jays made the jump to the big time this year, after 23 years of play in Division III. They'll face some heavyhitters early on, including North Carolina and Duke. How will they fare?

Head coach Janine Tucker is confident but realistic. She'd be happy with a top 15 ranking and a playoff bid within four years.