Minicourses provide 'continuing education'
Princeton NJ -- Beaujolais is light, fruity and can be served chilled. Pinot noir is "smoky on the nose" -- a function of the soil in which it is grown. Barbera d'Alba, on the other hand, has a classic medium body and can be drunk with pasta or duck, but not steak. And do yourself a favor -- never drink white zinfandel.
Class was in session, as Patrick Walsh, a wine expert from the Corkscrew Wine Shop in Princeton, shared some of his knowledge with 50 members of the class of 2001. Seated around tables covered with fruit and cheese in the basement of Frist, they chatted and sipped, wine glasses in hand.
The program, designed by the senior class officers, brings the Princeton community together to provide, as senior class president Justin Browne said, "the opportunity to do a lot of things (the seniors) have been wanting to do but never got a chance to, and to hear from some of our great faculty members. We have a really broad range of courses."
They range from fun classes to more serious academic classes, he said. In addition to wine tasting, seniors can choose from classes and lectures on topics including how to fix a car, how to find an apartment, what the Bible is about and hip-hop dancing.
Some of the courses required seniors to sign up on the class Web page -- seven were full four hours into the online registration. The lectures, however, are open not only to seniors, but also to other members of the University community. (For a schedule, visit this Web site: <www.princeton.edu/2001/minicourse>.)
Professors including Uwe Reinhardt, Jeff Nunokawa, John Fleming, Lee Silver, Peter Singer and Sean Wilentz are lecturing for the senior class, and administrators, including President Shapiro, will be leading discussions.
Singer, for example, is delivering a lecture on global ethical issues. He hopes to "encourage people to look at things from a global point of view rather than a national one, and to consider what that means in terms of ethics."
"It was an honor -- a great honor (to be asked to participate)," said Wilentz, who does not yet know the topic of his lecture. "I'm delighted that the senior class would want to hear from the likes of me."
Several of the courses will be taught by seniors themselves, giving the class a unique opportunity to share with each other skills or interests that they have developed over the past four years, said Browne.
Jennifer Scotese '01 always has been interested in photography, but really got into it during her sophomore year at Princeton. Scotese, who is pursuing a visual arts certificate in photography and just finished her thesis show, will be co-instructing the photography course with two of her classmates. Because the class will be only an hour and a half, she is planning a "fairly intensive" schedule, covering everything from types of cameras and film to how to compose, frame and print a picture.
"I'm excited for the course. Photography is a talent of mine, and I wanted to share it with people. I hope I can do it well. Teaching photography and taking photos yourself are very different," said Scotese, who hopes to become a photography instructor. "I'm interested to see how it works out."
If reaction to the program so far is any indication, Scotese's course should succeed with flying colors.
"It's great because Princeton students often don't have time, so they get a chance to do all the things they didn't have time to do," said Alli Brayton '01.
Suzanne Munson '01, who planned to attend the "How to Fix a Car" class -- in part because her car is broken -- agreed, adding that "(the minicourses) are a good way to relax with people from your class that you never got to hang out with before -- it's good class bonding."
Browne and his fellow officers hope that the "Senior Minicourse" program will become a Princeton tradition. "We successfully established that there was a demand for this kind of thing, and we filled it," said class social chair Steve Kruse. "I really hope that it carries over."
Browne also said that he hoped future classes would expand upon what they've done -- perhaps by "incorporating more faculty members and offering a broader range of classes."
The program speaks volumes about Princeton students in general, Wilentz said. "It's admirable that the senior class can overcome their fatigue and well-deserved desire to veg out, and actually use the time for more intellectual pursuits," he said.
Even in the wine tasting class, 40 days away from
graduation, the seniors passed around pens, jotting down
notes and raising their hands before asking Walsh questions
about wine legs or production. That was why they had shown
up for the class in the first place, after all. As Alexandra
Blasgen '01 said, "It might come in handy later on in life
-- wine is a useful ."