Students have amazing May Term experiences

Intensive learning classes taught in May are special classes indeed. The Intensive Learning program provides a distinctive learning experience in which students and faculty share academic immersion and full-time engagement with a single course.

Travel courses ventured far and wide to locations such as the Bahamas, Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, France and Germany.

What follows is a partial list of academic activities on campus in May. Check out the photo gallery for pictures.

Learning often involves investigation, and two classes put students in the role of "detectives." Dr. Mary Henold's History Detectives class (IL277 CM) explored the past of Roanoke's greater Raleigh Court neighborhood. This area features tree-lined streets, historic homes and easy walking access to an urban village. Students spent several days walking through the neighborhood and researching the history of certain homes, including the one owned by Roanoke Mayor Nelson Harris. Henold encouraged students to understand how the landscape of residential spaces both preserves and reveals history and to consider the history of an area and how that fits into urban planning and development in future communities.

Dr. Ben Huddle's class on Forensic Chemistry (IL 277 CC)placed students in the "CSI" role of investigating a mock crime. Huddle and his student investigators use reactions, laboratory techniques, procedures and instruments of chemistry to examine drugs, poisons, body fluids, tissues and fire residues from a "crime scene" and consider how those results are used to assist the system of criminal justice.

Dr. Marilee Ramish taught a yummy class on Demystifying Food (IL177 CF). Students not only considered the biology and biochemistry of plants, animals and fungi that make up our diet, but they also explored the mechanisms used to make milk into cheeses and ice cream and how grain is transformed into bread and beer. For their exam, the students gave presentations on a dish important to their family. The presentations were followed by a potluck lunch for all to share. The student-favorite of the lunch was Alyssa Rachubka's shrimp soup. Guest judges (lucky faculty and staff) voted Mark Ashby's Christmas salmon as the best entrée.

Dr. Jack Steehler's course, Robots and Society (IL177 CG), explored the interactions between robots and humans, including the controversies surrounding artificial intelligence. The course concluded with a competition of robots designed by the students.

Dr. Joe Blaha's Broadway Musical (IL177 CB) course wrote, produced and starred in an original 30-minute musical presented on campus. But before students presented their show, they traveled to the Great White Way to see several others, including "Gypsy" (currently nominated for Tony Awards for Best Revival and Best Lead Actress-Patti LuPone), "Spring Awakening" (a new controversial musical, winner of last year's Tony for Best Musical) and the mega-musical "The Lion King." Students also took part in workshops on acting and improvisation, toured museums and performance halls and presented their musical in Olin Hall's Amphitheater back on Roanoke's campus.

Dr. Meeta Mehrotra's course, Sociology Goes to Bollywood (IL277 CO), wrapped up with a tea party in which she outfitted all the students in colorful saris. Luck would have it that the class enrollment was fully female.

Dr. Heath Brown's course on the Presidential Campaign (IL177 CI) included discussion on the practical tools of campaigning and the philosophical dimensions of campaigns. Students immediately put this knowledge to work in Washington, D.C., as campaign volunteers for John McCain, Barak Obama and other candidates. Roanoke graduate David Lipes '08 visited the class and discussed his work for fellow Roanoke graduate Sam Rasoul '02 and his campaign for the U.S. Congress. The class also conducted a poll, storyboarded a political ad and projected an electoral strategy for the city of Roanoke based on the returns from the mayoral race.

Drs. Matt Rearick and John Creasy's course Maroon Challenge:Leadership Development and Outdoor Adventure (IL177 TA) took students deep into the woods of North Carolina and West Virginia. Students explored seminal texts ranging from Thoreau's Walden to Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Students also challenged themselves and each other physically and emotionally by participating in a series of progressively demanding outdoor activities including mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling, whitewater rafting, mud obstacle course, high and low rope team-building initiatives as well as a full-day eco-challenge.

The stated objectives of the Intensive Learning Program are to foster intense and purposeful faculty-student interchange and to encourage thoughtful, creative exploration of a focused topic. As evidenced by another stimulating month of academic inquiry, the 2008 IL courses do indeed encourage thoughtful and creative tactics, from both faculty and students.

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