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What did Wofford students do during their January Interim?

Using probability theory to beat game shows, teaching rats to play basketball, studying and traveling the world, even working in the dental clinic next door

Wofford students, COME ON DOWN!!! And learn how to win on “The Price Is Right!” Sounds like an easy A and an even easier way to spend the month of January, but think again.

According a description of the course taught by Dr. Matthew Cathey, associate professor of mathematics, and Dr. Dan Mathewson, associate professor of religion, “after examining the place and history of game shows in American culture, students will learn and use mathematical techniques in probability theory, combinatorics and game theory to learn the best strategies to beat the various ‘The Price Is Right’ games.” 

The 25 students in the Interim met Ben Ingram, a 2005 Wofford graduate who just won the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, and wrapped up the month by creating a Wofford-focused game show — performed before a live studio audience, of course.

Come on Down! How to Win on “The Price Is Right” provides an ideal example of what Wofford’s Interim is all about — putting theory into practice, expanding the walls of the traditional classroom and remembering that a commitment to life-long learning is part of what makes a Wofford education so transformative.

A few of the transformative, on-campus courses offered during the month of January were:

Animal Cognition and Rat Basketball — The course explored the ways in which animals communicate, solve problems, remember events and locations, forage for food and interact socially with each other and with humans. Students trained rats each day to play one-on-one rat basketball.

Living in a Microbial World — This laboratory-based class explored questions such as: Is bioterrorism a real threat? How have epidemics impacted the course of history? Is there validity to the hygiene hypothesis, which claims that our increasingly sanitized lifestyle is detrimental to human health?

Pulp Theatre — Students spent the month planning, rehearsing, staging, advertising and ultimately performing “Once Upon a Mattress,” a fractured fairy-tale musical by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer, that provides a fresh take on “The Princess and The Pea.”

Inventor’s Lab — Students researched and developed their own extant technology projects in one of three areas: wearable computing and fashion, robotics and 3D printing/scanning.

Figure Drawing in the Academy — The course provided an intensive studio experience of drawing the nude and semi-clothed human figure, with guidance provided through diverse historical methods and approaches.

All About Motorcycles — Students learned the general and specific brand histories of the motorcycle, how technology has changed over time, current engine and major systems technology, brand comparisons, component function and more.

Latin Dance: Exploring Latin America and the Caribbean through its Music — Using popular music as a vehicle, students studied the rich history and culture of Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to learning the salsa, cumbia, merengue and tango, students read and studied the films of the area.

Criminalistics — Students used case-study examples as they performed laboratory experiments that taught the methods, techniques and principles of forensics.

Personal Finance — This hands-on course answered personal and business finance questions every student will encounter after graduation. Should I rent or buy a home? What is a mortgage and how much does it cost? What kind of insurance do I need? What’s the difference between stocks, bonds and mutual funds? And that was just a start.

Chinese Cultural Experiences — Students studied Chinese culture and developed practical skills while preparing and sampling Chinese cuisine and tea; receiving training in taiji, music and other traditional Chinese entertainments; playing Majiang and watching popular martial arts films.

In addition, hundreds of Wofford students completed professional internships and research projects, both locally and around the globe. For example, Wofford students interned with physicians, dentists and attorneys throughout the Upstate. Others worked at BMW, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Silver Queen Yacht Company, Spartanburg Academic Movement and SLED, just to name a few.

During Wofford’s January Interim, travel/study projects also offered popular educational experiences. Highlights of this year’s faculty-led study abroad experiences include:

  • Paddling the Okefenokee and the Everglades: Real-Life Lessons in Wetland Conservation
  • Music and Nature in Puerto Rico
  • Landscape and Culture in Greece
  • Studying Japan’s History, Government & Culture
  • The Culinary Arts in France
  • Religious Histories of Istanbul: Christian-Muslim Relations and the Megacity
  • Little Cayman SCUBA Adventure
  • South Africa
  • Oxford Odyssey: The Life and Works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien


For a full listing of the Interim courses (on-campus projects, travel/study projects and internships projects), visit http://www.wofford.edu/interim.

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89