Students get to study outside major areas of interest College's January term offers diversity

December 28, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

This winter, do you want to look for the sea where Princ Caspian set sail on his voyage to the end of the world?

Are you interested in finding your way to the castle of the High Kings and Queens of Narnia?

Then you can go to Gill Gymnasium at Western Maryland College and talk to the physical education professor who has a map of Narnia on the wall of his office.

"I am just a fan of C. S. Lewis," said Dr. Alex Ober, who is teaching a literature course during the January term. "It worked well, even back then [when the class began], and this year we have another full class.

"As long as the students show interest in the subject, I'll teach it," Dr. Ober said.

FTC Students have shown much interest in the courses taught during the January term, which was begun in 1969 to offer students the chance to take courses outside their major fields and garner a wider liberal arts background.

"It is about breaking out of the classroom and experiencing other things, sort of the embodiment of liberal arts," said Chris Hart, a spokesman for the college. "You try different things and add them to your depth of knowledge."

Although each student is required to enroll for one January term, many students return to later winter sessions because they are interested in what is being taught.

"A lot of these courses give teachers, as well as students, the chance to branch out from what they normally do," Mr. Hart said.

Dr. Ober said he began teaching the Lewis course almost a decade ago with a chemistry teacher at the college. It was an interesting topic and the students were able to do something different.

"The stories are strong in their mythopoeic atmosphere," Dr. Ober said, referring to a characteristic that makes people able to read them over and over without becoming less intrigued by their substance.

"The stories take you beyond the ordinary life," he said, which is similar to what the January term does for students with regard to their teachers.

"It's good for students to see their professors outside their own territories," Dr. Ober said. "We can show them that we're not so one-dimensional."

You can't go much further outside your field than Dr. Robert Weber, the political science department chairman, did when he began teaching the course "Ski the West" three years ago.

Dr. Weber's three-week course teaches people, from beginners to experienced skiers, about the fundamentals of the sport. And he instructs them in the proper clothing, techniques and equipment.

The final week of the course is spent practicing on the slopes.

"Since I've been involved with the January term, I've taken trips to Central America and Europe, twice," said Dr. Weber, who became interested in skiing about five years ago after taking a trip to Killington, Vt. "I took students to Park City, Utah, that first year. We had nine students.

"This year we have at least 29, with about three from the community and my wife joining us," Dr. Weber said. "This year we're going to Breckenridge, Colo. It's beautiful."

Dr. Ober feels the January term offers Western Maryland's students opportunities to see a different world, a place completely outside their educational paths.

"It encourages students to consider some other possibilities," he said. "The students get a change of pace and an opportunity to take something that is outside their requirements. It is this sort of branching out that represents the focus of liberal arts."

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