The students in the environmental studies program at the Johns Hopkins University look like typical businessmen and women -- most of the time. They go to class in the evening after work like many other continuing education students across the state. But when the weekend comes, they trade in their suits, ties and textbooks for canoe paddles, rubber boots and research equipment and head for the salt marshes, streams and woodlands of Maryland.
"Hands-on ecology is really the best way to learn," said Charles Stine, one of their professors and the coordinator of the program. "I want my students to see new things and I hope they will be in awe of the natural process. And when they see something of which they are in awe, I hope they will become concerned and not want to see it lost."
Field study trips are an important part of most of the courses in the environmental studies program. The classes are non-credit, so there are no tests and students receive only a pass or fail grade. But they must attend regularly and complete required assignments. And while it's not a degree program, students may choose to complete the required seven courses and earn a certificate from the liberal arts division of the School of Continuing Studies at Hopkins.
The program was started last fall to provide business professionals and other concerned community members with in-depth information about the environment. It is just one of the many options in continuing education for adults at Hopkins and at many other Maryland institutions.
Continuing education varies greatly from one school to the next. It may be non-credit or credit, degree or non-degree, college preparatory, undergraduate or graduate. There are programs just for retired people.
Each school or department within a college or university might provide its own continuing education courses. Or, there may be a completely separate school or department just for continuing education.
All of the schools at Hopkins offer their own continuing education programs. In addition, the School of Continuing Studies provides business and education graduate programs as well as a liberal arts division with credit and non-credit courses. Its new leadership development program for outstanding minority managers recently earned a national award.
"We must be responsive to the needs of adults in an increasingly changing and complex workplace," said Stanley Gabor, dean of the School of Continuing Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. "There is a need for adults to continue to learn to keep themselves updated in their careers. We also have people coming back for cultural enrichment -- for the sheer pleasure and stimulation of learning.
"The role and mission of the school is to provide high quality academic programs for adults who study part time in both the credit and non-credit areas," Dean Gabor added. Prospective students for the Certificate in Environmental Studies program are invited to attend an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 19 in Shaffer Hall on the Homewood campus. Call (410) 516-7428 if you want to attend.
Hopkins student and landscape architect Gregory Hoer manages the planning of major transportation projects for the engineering firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas. He already has three undergraduate degrees, but enrolled in the certificate in environmental studies program to update his professional knowledge.
"Landscape architects are involved with humans and the way they use the landscape," Mr. Hoer said. "I hope to tie what I learn in this program into my everyday work. As a designer, this will give me the opportunity to learn why people don't want to see certain projects occur."
Brendan Donegan, director of design and construction at the Johns Hopkins University, hopes to become a more environmentally sensitive architect through his studies and then work to raise the ecological consciousness of the professional community through lectures and writing.
"I am constantly in wonder of the environment we live in," Mr. Donegan said. "There is a fascinating complexity and wholeness to it. As an architect, I have to very carefully work with the land. By increasing my knowledge about the systems I am affecting, I hope I can be more responsive to the environment as I plan buildings and roads."
Classmate John Bouton would like to use what he learns to help recycling and conservation efforts in the community. "I was raised on a farm and I've always been close to the land," said the staff development instructor at Sinai Hospital who has a master of science degree in nursing. "I love the outdoors."
And Caroline McKeldin, 25, would like perhaps to teach one day and believes that what she is learning in Dr. Stine's class should be a part of every school's curriculum. Her father, Theodore McKeldin Jr. -- a lawyer with the firm of Weinberg & Green and son of the late Theodore McKeldin Sr., a governor of Maryland and a mayor of Baltimore -- was her classmate in the course.