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McDaniel's Jan. Term classes offer a variety of unique classroom settings

The ball deflects off of goalie Peter Comitale's arm during floor hockey jan term class at McDaniel College on Wednesday.
The ball deflects off of goalie Peter Comitale's arm during floor hockey jan term class at McDaniel College on Wednesday. (KEN KOONSSTAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

While many of their classmates are at home, trying to enjoy the last throes of winter vacation, a number of McDaniel College students are hard at work experiencing a term featuring some the most unusual classroom options the school has to offer.

Throughout the January term, students have the opportunity to learn the art behind hand-animation, the basics of electrocardiography, the role of civil religion in American life, all while keeping active with a number of opportunities for physical activity through the school's floor hockey, badminton, weight training and fitness games classes.

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McDaniel spokeswoman Cheryl Knauer said the "Jan. Term" classes are a perfect way for students to broaden their horizons with unique classes they otherwise wouldn't experience.

Many of the courses provide students with real world experience in a way standard courses do not. "Starting Your Own Business," taught by Barbara Rowell, aids students in preparing the documentation they need before deciding to start a business.

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Each student, or group of students, in the class prepares an idea for a small business. Proposed businesses have included a green building company, sports bar, clothing store and an app for international students researching life in the United States.

At the end of the course, each group presents its business model to a pair of judges, who decide on the top three pitches. The first place proposal wins $300 to go toward eventually opening the business. Rowell said this was the first year McDaniel has offered such a course.

"The idea is providing a space where students who are not business majors can come up with and achieve these kinds of ideas because they're creative too," Rowell said.

Throughout the course, students discuss the creation of business plans, how to get loans, focusing on profits and losses and planning for the correct business climate.

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Carly Weetman, a junior from Westminster, has partnered with Mount Airy junior Katlin Murphy for an event planning company and venue with an on-site photographer. Weetman said she has worked as a photographer in her spare time for the past several years, and she is learning how to apply the lessons of the course to her side business.

"I've never really sat down with the numbers before," Weetman said. "I never thought about how much you need to focus on the income and if it's covering your costs. When I looked at the around I was charging, it was like I was making $2 an hour for what I was doing."

Roxana Aviles, Victoria Mansfield and Clive Richardson are planning to open a sports bar-night club in Fairfax, Va. In the early evening, the restaurant will serve as what Aviles described as an upscale Buffalo Wild Wings before transitioning into a music and entertainment venue at night. Aviles said she and her partners decided on the concept by imagining a place they wanted to exist.

"The thing that sets our restaurant apart is incorporating [Richardson's] Caribbean background with my Mexican background to expand our menu from typical bar food like wings and burgers to Mexican dishes and Caribbean food, which is very scarce in the area," Aviles said.

"We want to focus on giving authenticity. It's the tiny details, like making our own tortillas instead of buying manufactured ones. That's what's going to appeal to the Latino population. When you go to a restaurant that's not authentic, you don't come back, but if it is, you will pay that extra dollar."

Rowell said she had to keep the students focused on the financial realities of running a business.

"Because only three people have any business experience, they're a mix of music majors and environmental science majors and English and Spanish students, they're interested in the creative side," Rowell said. "The biggest problem they face is they're green. They pitch ideas with like 3,000 moving parts and it's like, OK, you have to hone the idea down."

Across campus, as these students learn the intricacies of opening their own businesses, the members of the International Simulation U.N. tried their hands at solving a global crises. The students, taking the personas of U.N. representatives from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, fulfill all of the duties of the actual U.N. including making treaties, arguing among themselves and researching geopolitical connections.

At the end of the course, some of the students will make the trip to Boston for the annual Harvard simulation U.N. alongside thousands of other students. Professor Debora Johnson-Ross said she feels this kind of alternative classroom activity is an important learning experience.

"They take it more seriously than they would a regular class. In a straight lecture they learn it and just forget it," Johnson-Ross said. "In this, they have to use what they learn in the simulation. They're the ones in the committees actually running the debates. They engage in the diplomacy. They have to learn to collaborate with the other teams, identify their allies, identify who might be an enemy and figure out if they can turn them into an ally."

Cody Knipfer, of Ellicott City, attended the model U.N. last year, and is leading the group this year as a head delegate. He said the trip is incredibly intellectually stimulating.

"It's pretty hard core. We spend a good portion of the day debating the topics we're given to focus on," Knipfer said. "It's one of those few experiences where you really get a feel for how the world works. It's just a bunch of college kids coming together to try and solve all of the world's biggest problems."

Alex Seiler, of Essex Junction, Vermont, said this will be her first year attending the simulation, though so far, the format of the class has been enlightening.

"It's a great chance to apply the theoretical knowledge that I get in other classes," Seiler said. "I don't usually get a chance to actually work with these things I'm learning. We're building these unique relationships around the classwork we're getting in other classes."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

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