A Summer of Learning

Programs offer unique learning opportunities for students.

June 24, 2010

By Jennifer Price

Taking Japanese aerobics. Digging for discoveries at an archaeological site in Old Town Alexandria. And creating a pandemic flu response.

These are just some of the things students are doing this summer at George Washington's Summer Institutes.

The institutes are designed to offer students an intensive academic investigation on specific topics. In addition to guest lecturers, students often make site visits or take field trips.

"Summer sessions offer unique opportunities to expand curricular offerings in ways that are not easily accommodated during the fall and spring semesters," says Georgette Edmondson-Wright, director of GW's summer sessions.

This year, GW is offering eight institutes: Archaeology Field School, Broadcast Journalism, Business, Crime Scene Investigation, End of Life Care, Japanese Language and Culture, Pandemic Flu Response, Psychology: Health Promotion, Special Education: Supporting Families, U.S. Foreign Policy and Women in Mathematics.

Summer institutes are open to both undergraduate and graduate GW students as well as visiting students and working professionals. All of the institutes offer credit hours.

The Japanese Language and Culture Institute is an 11-credit program that integrates the study of the Japanese language with culture through film. Students choose between a basic and an intermediate language course, depending on their proficiency, and all students take the same film class, where they watch Japanese movies with English subtitles.

In addition to the coursework, students participate in a variety of cultural activities including weekly Japanese lunches and visiting the Japanese Embassy Information and Cultural Center as well as the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which both house world-renowned exhibits of Asian art.

The language courses are intense with four hours of instruction a day, says Ichiro Leopold Hanami, an assistant professor of Japanese language and literature in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the institute. What most students take over the course of an academic year, the 13 students enrolled in the institute are taking in eight weeks.

That's why Dr. Hanami has planned fun events like Japanese aerobics, a Japanese cooking class and Japanese karaoke.

"I believe that a large part of learning about a culture and language comes from opportunities outside the classroom," he says.

Rising sophomore Sara Bachourous enrolled in the institute to get ahead in her Japanese language coursework.

"I wanted to be able to skip ahead so that I'll be able to take all of the Japanese language courses that GW offers," says Ms. Bachourous, who hopes to teach English in Japan after graduating. "The institute is fast, but it's really fun. Last semester, I didn't really talk to my classmates outside of class, but here we're all friends and practice all the time."

Dr. Hanami says students who take language courses over the summer have a real advantage in the fall because they will retain everything they learned during the previous year.

"When students take a foreign language during the normal school year and then go home for the summer and come back in August, they usually forget everything they've learned," he says.

Students enrolled in the Pandemic Flu Response Institute examine how well the nation's health and environmental agencies and organizations were prepared for the H1N1 flu pandemic. Students also study the health policies, which allows the nation to respond to an epidemic.

"The institute is really at the intersection of medicine and public health," says Janet Phoenix, a professor in health policy at the School of Public Health and Health Services.

Dr. Phoenix has also had her students make cost estimates of what it would take to fully prepare for the next emerging microbial threat.

"We work with the schools in encouraging faculty to think creatively about ways in which their area of scholarship lends itself to academic opportunities that our students would find engaging, particularly when there is a need for greater intensity and programmatic flexibility that is best accomplished as an institute," says Ms. Edmondson-Wright.

The Archaeology Field School is being taught by City of Alexandria archaeologists in Old Town Alexandria. Students excavate historic sites, conduct laboratory work and study data they've taken from the field. They also learn about site preservation and archaeological ethics. The three-credit hour course is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students.

For more information, go to www.summer.gwu.edu.

Learning & Research