Dean's Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter from James B. Knapp Dean Beverly Wendland

Newsletter from Dean Beverly Wendland

There is no mistaking that the spring 2015 semester is well underway. Students have returned to their dorms and apartments, lively discussions are emanating from classrooms, athletes are gearing up for a winning season, and the Homewood campus is buzzing.

Although the energy level on campus always ticks up a notch at the start of a semester, the learning never really stops here. Whether in January or the summer months, our students want to learn all year long, and I’m pleased that we have many opportunities for them to do just that.

Last month, for example, just about half of our undergraduates were involved in winter intersession opportunities, and that doesn’t include those who spent the time studying abroad. Judging by the popularity of our January and summer courses, the ongoing desire to learn is a hallmark of the Hopkins student experience. Our students are energetic and driven, and I never cease to be amazed by their passion for learning—inside and outside of the classroom.

During the January intersession as well as the summer months, course options range from a rich variety of undergraduate academic courses to personal enrichment to studying abroad or in the U.S.

Michael Longo '15 walks with a family in a rural area of Uganda, where he traveled to study health issues in populations residing near Lake Victoria. [Photo by Yong Kai Saw '16]

Michael Longo ’15 walks with a family in a rural area of Uganda, where he traveled to study health issues in populations residing near Lake Victoria. [Photo by Yong Kai Saw ’16]

In addition to the satisfaction of learning something new, students take these courses for a variety of other reasons. Some want to pursue a career-focused course such as the economics-related Seminar in Financial Literacy, which culminates with a trip to Wall Street. Others want to supplement their field of study with a course related to their major. One example is called Vaccines: Past, Present, and Future, which is one of the most popular of all of the 100+ course offerings. Still others are eager to try something completely different.

Every area of study—the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts—offers courses outside of the academic semesters. Jessica Madrigal, director of summer and intersession programs, tells me some of the courses are taught by alumni experts, who are eager to reconnect with students and the campus.

Study abroad is another option many students choose in January and during the summer. Last month, we had close to 100 students on study-abroad programs, and more than 40 students participating in research, internships, or volunteer service abroad.

About a dozen students embarked on a program to Cuba with Professor Eduardo Gonzáles, director of our Spanish program. While the annual Cuba excursion was initiated three years ago, this year’s trip was particularly relevant, given recent developments that could lead to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

Students learn how to play the banjo during an intersession course.

Unfortunately, current events also played a role in another study-abroad trip—to Paris. The students were scheduled to leave for Paris the day after the January 7 terrorist attack that occurred in the heart of that city. Study-abroad director Lori Citti told me that, after a great deal of analysis of safety and risk, the decision was made to cancel. Even though the excursion couldn’t take place, however, Kristin Cook-Gailloud, director of our French language program, rolled up her sleeves and created a dynamic course right here on campus, bringing in expert speakers and ending with a weekend trip to New York. Not Paris, perhaps, but still…

Other study-abroad options include a behavioral biology-based course that takes students to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and a new political science-focused program that takes place in Japan. And we also have U.S.-based choices such as a learning program at a children’s hospital in Florida; a music and theater program in New York; and a film studies trip to Hollywood.

Some students want to stay closer to campus and take one of the many personal enrichment courses sponsored by the Department of Student Life. Jane Rhyner, who oversees these courses, says students usually take them just for fun and for the sheer joy of learning. This might be something like the Appalachian Fiddle class, or a course where freshmen explore Baltimore, or the Ballroom Dancing course. Students are encouraged to teach some of the personal enrichment courses, if they have a talent or hobby they’d like to share, or if they want to gain some teaching experience.

Take Dorm Cooking 101, for example. This popular course was created and led by junior Emily Hu, and it was even featured recently on National Public Radio.


Whether in the throes of a semester or in the waning days of summer, the Johns Hopkins community never stops learning. It’s like a spark that was lit decades ago, and now the torch continues to be passed from one generation to the next. So as a new semester gets underway, I invite our Johns Hopkins family to remember that we learn from one another constantly, and our mission is to create new knowledge and use that knowledge to change the world.

Have a wonderful and productive semester.


Beverly Wendland
James B. Knapp Dean