This February, Hopkins released the 2019-2020 Course Guide. As Hopkins students prepare to start planning their course schedule for the upcoming year, many know little of the actual process that goes into adding new courses.
Although students begin their course selection well into the second term, the actual process of creating a new course begins long before that: all the way back to the summer before. Ideas don’t only come from the teachers and faculty. Hopkins students also have a large infuence in the process. History Department Chair Elizabeth Gleason jokingly said, “Student input matters quite a lot, especially for electives, because if students aren’t interested, they don’t run.” In addition, students often have new creative ideas for potential classes. “Sometimes students will come to us expressly to ask for
or very strongly hint at the fact that they wish we offered something that we don’t,” Gleason added. History teacher Zoe Resch noted the infuence of research papers and other projects: “Topics that we see people wanting to do over and over again are strong indicators for us in what students are interested in and the potential classes we can create from that.” Resch went on to state that often in electives, teachers who teach related topics notice a certain unit or specifc questions in which students continue to show interest. The idea for the new history course of Asian Studies: Buddhism, came from History teacher Ian Guthrie’s Comparative Religion class. Guthrie noticed the popularity of the Buddhism unit and how students wished it were longer. Resch stated is meant to “replace the previous course of Asian Studies with a narrower approach." It will dive into the narratives of countries such as India and Tibet, and examine the changing nature of ideas, communities and cultural traditions from a global perspective.
Once a new course idea solidifes, it then goes through a series of steps in order to make it onto the guide. The idea is frst discussed within the department. Once it receives departmental approval, it must go through Director of Academics David Harpin. From there, it is pitched to the Academic Policy Committee. If it makes it through that, it is then brought to a full faculty vote where it is decided whether the course will run next year or not.
The History Department also added a Russian History class, which will trace Russian attempts at enlightenment, rapid industrialization, and modernization in Imperial Russia and the USSR.
The Art Department is adding two new courses. Acting II is a new name in the course guide. Art Department Chair Bobby Smith stated, “The class, in essence, is replacing the old course of Acting for Film.”
Coinciding with the new Drama class, Design and the Art of Making has been added to the list of 3d classes now offered at Hopkins. Stemming from the popularity of Design Engineering, Smith said “we knew the idea of having hands-on art of making prototypes was popular with students, we wanted to provide another way for them to take a course that did not have any prerequisites.” By adding this class, Smith hopes to “create a track of study for students whose interests are geared towards engineering, science, and the three-dimensional arts.”
The English department experienced the biggest change in the Course Guide. What was once called The Masters Works: Mark Twain, was charged to Legends of Literature: Virginia Woolf. When asked about the name change, English Teacher Alex Werrell stated, “We thought the word ‘master’ was a problematic word in general, regarding race and gender. Legends of Literature seemed a much better ft.” As for why the course changed from focusing on Twain to Woolf, Werrell stated: “She is a pivotal fgure, at once conversing with an older tradition and introducing a brave new world of literature.” The class will not only explore the novels of Woolf, but also read her letters and criticism which contain illuminating insights to her life.
Magical Realism and Native American Literature are also new English courses. The Magical Realism class will read literary classics rooted in the Latin American genre. Students will study works of literature from Marquez, Allende, Rushdie, Morrison, and Ward. Similarly, Native American Literature hopes to foster discussion about American identity through works of novels, short stories, poetry, and primary sources.
Writing at the Crossroads is another new class examining the theme of creolization, while also investigating the literary moments where cultures converge. Werrell added, “a core of the course is a fundamental belief that creolization is a rich process that infuences both colonizers and colonized.”
Students now selecting their schedule for the next school year were excited by all the new choices.
Emmet Dowd ’21 explained why he signed up for Magical Realism: “I like how it’s about magic and fantasy but also “mundane” and grounded in society. For a while, in English classes we only read the classic American important novels so it is interesting to read other works of literature that are big parts of other cultures; magical realism seems like an attempt to diversify.”
Some students were left wishing for more. CC Rocco ’20 who is planning on signing up for Asian Studies: Buddhism commented, “Hopkins doesn’t really teach too much about Asian History. It seems like it’s less than “straight history” and more focused on religion. It’s a whole half of the world that we don’t learn about. And I feel as if its a big gap in our core curriculum regarding the diversity of the History Department courses.” Rocco added that she still is excited to take the course: “The course, in general, seems to be a more abstract approach to learning and more open to conceptual discussions and conversations which catch my interest in regards to History electives.”
The Hopkins course guide is constantly expanding and open to feedback from students. Smith summed up this sentiment, “We want to keep evolving as a school, as well as diversify the experiences that students have in an educational setting.”