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Trains, Country Cooking, Hobbits, Tai Chi

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

SPARTANBURG, SC—From spending 25 days traveling by train around the country to dental medicine internships to the study of Saddam Hussein and the world of J.R.R. Tolkien to world travel, homecooking, tai chi and more, Wofford College students are running the gamut during the annual January Interim.

“All Aboard! The American Railroad Odyssey” is taking seven students on a 25-day journey on Amtrak from Spartanburg through some of North America’s most culturally rich locales, including New Orleans, San Francisco, Montreal and Boston. These students not only are taking excursions to museums and national parks and exploring the unique local cultures they encounter, they are studying a larger experience—the train and the institution it represents.

The students will consider the history of the train, research the demographic issues associated with rail travel, search for community, and look at the practicality of rail travel. As they travel, they are corresponding by e-mail with students at North Mullins Primary School in Mullins, S.C., where the mother of one of the students teaches; the primary students are using the travelogues to study history and geography.

Another independent study, “Exit Ramps ’N’ Cheese Grits,” has three Wofford students eating a lot of country cooking in restaurants and writing a “travel guide for eating,” which will be published this month.

In addition to independent study projects, Wofford is offering more than two dozen on-campus projects and courses that are outside “traditional” academic courses. Among them are:

“Saddam Hussein: Politics of Violence and Survival”—a course that examines the man and his politics in four realms: the techniques by which he gained and continues to hold power in Iraq, the secret weapons development program, the international sanctions since the Gulf War, and the international weapons inspections.


“The World of J.R.R. Tolkien”—a course that explores Tolkien’s world through his fiction and essays and through the artistic responses to the world, including poetry, painting, fiction and film.

“Let’s Put on a Show”—student actors, singers, musicians, writers, acrobats, electricians and carpenters will put on a show of their own devising through an intensive improvisational creation. (A live performance will emerge.)
“Cre@tivity @ Play”—to get the creative juices flowing, students are learning to draw, juggle, make origami pieces and play a little music. They also will meet some artists and non-artists who find their creative outlets in diverse ways. An exhibition at the end of Interim will be shared with the Wofford community.
“Environmental Issues”—designed to motivate interest in the environment and stimulate a search for solutions.
Many students are participating in career-oriented internships during Interim, including dental medicine, congressional internships, working for T.O.T.A.L. Ministries, accounting, pre-law, clinical healthcare internships, and theology and therapy internships.

Others travel abroad during Interim. One group is studying cultural traditions of northern New Mexico with such things as creative writing, ceramics, photography and spiritual traditions while staying at Ghost Ranch. Among the other travel destinations are: St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, London and Ireland, Australia, the Caribbean, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Spain, France and England.

Wofford College has offered the January Interim since the late 1960s. At a time during when many colleges and universities rushed to abandon the core curriculum in an effort to give students more intellectual freedom, Wofford was determined to maintain its traditional liberal arts framework, and has done so with nationally recognized success. However, it was felt that there should be some brief time during the year when faculty and students could enjoy non-traditional learning together.

The academic year at Wofford is divided into three parts: a fall semester of four months; the Interim, which occupies a winter month between the two semesters; and a spring semester of four months.

Innovation and experiment are the keynotes of the Interim, permitting and encouraging teachers and students to explore the new and untried, and in so doing to run risks that could not be justified in the semesters.

Click here for more information on Wofford's Interim Program.