Tag: D-term

D-Term in London: Exploring entrepreneurship past and present

Lawrence students and faculty gather for a photo in London during D-Term. (Photos by Samantha Torres)

By Marty Finkler and Claudena Skran

The D-Term course Entrepreneurship in London: From the Mayflower to Brexit featured a variety of different aspects of entrepreneurship, both contemporary and historical.

Additionally, we explored different types of entrepreneurial ventures including: private for-profit, social not-for-profit, and public/ private partnerships. A significant portion of the course was devoted to the regeneration of economic activity for parts of London that had deteriorated and fell into disuse and then have benefited from unique entrepreneurial initiatives. Students selected initiatives to explore in an oral presentation and often revisited these sites.

Our Lawrence traveling classroom was led by two faculty — Marty Finkler and Claudena Skran — and included 10 students representing majors in music, philosophy, art history, biology, psychology, government, economics, theatre arts, and global studies. 

We arrived in the Rotherhithe area of south London just after Thanksgiving. The group began with a historic tour of the area, learning about the launch of the Mayflower ship in 1620, and the many connections between seafaring and the subsequent development of the community. At the Brunel Museum, its founder, Robert Hulse, stressed that we were standing inside the tunnel that made possible the very first underground train system in the entire world. Students also celebrated a public theatre event, starring members of the Bubble Theatre group, and volunteered with community members at Time and Talents, one of the oldest social enterprises in the area.

More D-Term: Lawrence students study history of video gaming

From Rotherhithe, the group moved further east to the Docklands area of London, which thrived in the 18th and 19th century and part of the 20th century but lapsed into abandonment by the early 1970s with the rise of large container ships that the Thames River was not deep enough to accommodate. The globalization of the production and trade in material goods further diminished the economic viability of east London in general and Docklands in particular. 

As finance for such globalization became a new source of income for London, the city began to expand, but central London could not cost-effectively provide the space needed for such expansion. This led to the development of Canary Wharf, which one of our speakers (Ralph Ward) actively participated in. He briefly described this high rise lavish commercial and financial sector development as well as the need for less lavish housing in east London.

Ward led us on a walk that literally went across the tracks to one of the poorest neighborhoods of London known as Poplar, where he introduced us to Danny Tompkins, who heads Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association). Tompkins led us around the area and explained how Poplar HARCA regenerated housing opportunities for its residents through a mix of private and public funds and developments. He pointed out the controversy related to selling some of the land for private development in order to have funds for social housing.

Ten students and two faculty members spent the two-week D-Term in London.

The following day we focused on another regeneration effort in the Docklands known as the Canada Water project. This new project envisions a buildout of commercial and residential developments over the next 10 to 20 years. The project director, Roger Madelin gave us an in depth tour of the area, which already features a significant increase in activity around the Canada Water transit station and some of its entertainment venues. Madelin showed us a physical model of the development and explained the different influences and problems that needed to be resolved to complete the project.

Madelin previously led the development of the regeneration of Kings Cross, another area we explored in depth. Kings Cross had fallen into disrepair and disrepute as industrial activities left London in the second half of the 20th century. The development over the past decade took advantage of the two major transportation centers (Kings Cross and St. Pancras) to provide significant office space for Google, Facebook, and Nike as well as many commercial activities. For the most part, these commercial venues now serve upper income groups. 

A guide at the Visitors’ Centre provided us with an overview of the history and prospects for the development. On their own, students then explored the fascinating architecture of the new buildings before getting together for lunch and discussion of their observations.

After 10 days in London, we headed to Oxford, to consider how both innovation and entrepreneurship have shaped this historic university town. Students visited the Oxford Foundry, a hub for start-ups, attended a talk by Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria at the Refugee Studies Centre on humanitarian aid, and had lunch with Gil Loescher, the distinguished professor who was awarded an honorary degree from Lawrence.

The student experience

Samantha Torres ’20 was among the students taking part in the D-Term class in London. She shared some of her observations:

I participated in the London Centre program in the Fall of 2018. I had no idea when I’d return, but when I saw the opportunity to go back during D-Term, I knew I had to go back. However, what I thought would become an add-on to my past experience became a stand alone, standout program that offered a completely different taste of London that could only be obtained through insider connections. 

Having both professors who’ve previously lived in London made it truly one of a kind and remarkably immersive. Alongside tours, we experienced the idiosyncrasies that make up London. From learning about the inception of the Mayflower to the current debates on Brexit, my cohort was able to identify the complexities that continue to define one of the oldest cities in the world. 

During my time at Lawrence, I’ve found the most impactful experiences have been those of the traveling classroom. I’ve had the fortune of traveling to London and Jamaica with Professor Skran, a big advocate for this unconventional learning. And I couldn’t agree with her more. The traveling classroom model has taught me that there are intangible lessons that cannot be learned through lectures or textbooks.

Life lessons I’ve learned were ones that provided personal development and an independence that traditional classroom settings simply can’t challenge you to do. There’s a whole world out there, and sometimes you need to experience it to learn from it. As a Lawrentian, we are encouraged to go beyond. Because of the traveling classroom, I’ve been able to go beyond places I could ever imagine.

Marty Finkler is the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the American Economic System and a professor of economics, and Claudena Skran is the Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and a professor of government.

D-Term course has students playing, studying old-school video games

Rehanna Rexroat '20 sits on a couch and plays "Missile Command" on the Atari 5200 in the Kruse Room of the Mudd Library.
Rehanna Rexroat ’20 plays “Missile Command” on the Atari 5200 in the Mudd Library during the “History of Video Games: 1977-1996” D-Term class. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Watching college students enthusiastically play Mortal Kombat II on Sega Genesis controllers while friends look on — minus blood mode but with plenty of talk of cheat codes and jump punches — might put you squarely in a dormitory circa 1994.

Nah.

This is the Kruse Room on the fourth of floor of Lawrence University’s Mudd Library, and it’s early December 2019. The eight students taking turns on the sofa are duking it out in a video game that is considered a classic, but one that 25 years after its release for home play is a bit primitive when compared to the slick graphics and realistic play of today’s most popular games. It’s part of a history lesson these Lawrence students are happily absorbing in History of Video Games: 1977-1996, a D-Term course being taught for the third time by reference and learning technologies librarian and assistant professor Angela Vanden Elzen.

“I did not grow up playing pretty much any video games,” said Miriam Syvertsen ’22, a mathematics major from Madison who is among the students who signed up for the two-week D-Term class. “But, and this is going to sound really nerdy, I like analyzing cultural products and the cultures they come from. Video games are cultural products and I really just like watching and studying the progressions.”

Fall Term at Lawrence ended in late November. Most students headed home for a five-week break before Winter Term begins. But a couple dozen students signed up for D-Term — or December Term — classes, some for this one on video game history, some for a class exploring entrepreneurship in London, and others for a class on improved learning and memory.

An Atari 5200 controller is used to play "Missile Command."
Students are using the original consoles to play the old video games. Here, an Atari 5200 controller is used to play “Missile Command.”

Video games as scholarship

The Vanden Elzen class isn’t just an excuse to play old-school video games. This is about exploring the history and influence of the gaming world over the past four decades. Other pop culture mediums such as movies and television have long been in the mix for scholarly exploration; video games not so much. But that has started to change.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to create this class,” Vanden Elzen said. “Working in the library, I noticed more and more video game scholarship coming out, and it was all very interesting and coming from so many different academic disciplines. It was coming from media studies, it was coming from gender studies, it was coming from history, from computer science.”

Vanden Elzen taught the D-Term class in 2016, 2017, and now 2019. Come Winter Term in the 2020-21 academic year, she and Film Studies support coordinator Jose Lozano will co-teach a new course, Introduction to Game Studies, that will be added to the Film Studies curriculum.

“That course has been a long time in the making,” Vanden Elzen said.

She said she first started pondering such a class in the late 2000s. A visiting teaching fellow had offered a couple of courses focused on virtual worlds. Those classes, Vanden Elzen said, drew interest from the Gaming Club on campus and sparked an idea that eventually led to the D-Term video game course and now the expanded gaming course coming a year from now.

“It really resonates with some students, being able to study one of their passions,” she said.

For Amy A. Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor, the introduction of the new class simply takes the curriculum where the students already are. Students have been pursuing new media projects for independent studies and capstones for several years now, an indication that there was an appetite for this type of course.

“Visual culture is one of the strongest and most pervasive influences on our contemporary culture, and film and video is just one component of that influence,” Ongiri said. “We want to explore as many aspects of visual culture as possible within our program. The new game studies class will help us expand the focus we already have in new media studies in classes offered by John Shimon and Anne Haydock. It will allow students to engage not only in the act of creating games but also to understand their aesthetic and cultural importance through the study of the history and theory of games.”

Angela Vanden Elzen watches as Jake Yingling '20 plays Ms. Pacman during the D-Term class.
Angela Vanden Elzen is teaching “History of Video Games: 1977-1996” during D-Term for the third time. Here she watches as Jake Yingling ’20 plays Ms. Pacman on the Atari 5200.

A two-week immersion

The D-Term class is broken into two parts each day. For the first hour, the class studies a particular slice of video game history, analyzing media from the time and digging into how gaming has influenced societal trends and cultural debates. The second hour is spent in the Kruse Room, where the students play selected games from yesteryear on the consoles that existed at the time the games came out. An analysis of the game follows.

In advance of Monday’s Mortal Kombat II gaming session, the class discussed violence in video games, the earliest games that introduced fighting, and the development, for better or worse, of the video game rating system.

“Growing up, I always played a lot of these old-school video games, and it’s just interesting to study them from a more historical perspective,” said Dylan McMurray ’22, a neuroscience major from Chicago.

“There was an article we read about the parallels in video game subjects and what was happening in world politics at the time — the Cold War, nuclear weapons crisis, and terrorist attacks like 9/11, and the trend toward first-person shooter games,” Syvertsen said. “It’s just really interesting, and getting a little bit of literacy about video games because I did not grow up with them is really helpful.”

Vanden Elzen launches her D-Term course in and around 1977, when video games began to emerge in the mainstream. She takes the class in fairly rapid order through the rise and fall of Atari — Space Invaders, anyone? — early video game marketing, the crash of 1983, high-stakes battles between Sega and Nintendo, the use of music and sound in games, early sports franchises, ties to movie themes, the introduction and evolution of violence in video games, gender and other representation, the development of marketable characters, and more.

“Video games have been such a major part of our culture in the United States and worldwide for a really long time,” said Vanden Elzen, a dedicated gamer herself. “Just by studying the games it gives us insight into that time when the game was released. Games can provide so much insight. They are so immersive and they can be such interesting forms of art and creativity.

“It’s important to study video game history to really understand where we’ve come from with video game technology, content, representation, narrative, and how that ties in with our culture and society. It tells us a little about ourselves.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

An A+ for D Term: Students Offered a Rich Array of Experiences During Winter Break

From Appleton to London to Hong Kong, Lawrence faculty and students used D-Term 2018 to explore ideas, art, research skills and the wider world. D-Term, or December Term, is a two-week mini-term that offers brief, intensive enrichment courses. This year, students had the opportunity to engage with questions of sustainability and historical resilience to disasters, bring a liberal arts perspective to wellness and sharpen practical skills in design and data analysis.

Read more about this year’s D-Term classrooms, whether it’s a room in Main Hall, an urban garden in Hong Kong or the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, through insights from faculty members.

Hong Kong: Sustainability, Livability, and Urban Design

Group of Lawrence students with Hong Kong skyline in background
Students taking part in the D-Term trip to Hong Kong stand on Victoria Peak, overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.

This combined discussion-and-travel course examined sustainable, livable urban design through the lens of contemporary Hong Kong. The class, taught by Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek and Associate Professor of Government Ameya Balsekar, spent one week on campus reading and preparing, followed by several days in Hong Kong for on-the-ground study, including meetings with local NGOs, government officials and business leaders. Below are excerpts from Jason Brozek’s daily reports on the opportunities for students during the on-the-ground study portion of the class:

Day 1: The first day of the on-the-ground portion of our class on livability, sustainability and urban design in Hong Kong focused on the city’s history, British & Chinese influences and its emergence as a global trading and financial hub. We visited Chunking Mansions to engage with “low-end globalization” (a concept and case study from one of the books we discussed during our week of prep on campus), did a mapping activity with a scan of a vintage 1930 map of Kowloon, visited the Hong Kong Museum of History and hiked at Victoria Peak. We ended the day by having dinner at the Happy Valley Jockey Club with KK Tse (’81) and Wendy Lai.

Day 2: We focused on the preservation of things like urban green space and historic buildings—the  kind of things some cities have lost as they tried to build and grow quickly. We did a slow-looking activity in Kowloon Park (inspired by Freshman Studies), then compared it to wilder green space by hiking across the Wan Chai Gap trail to the reservoir on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Connected to a different class discussion, we also visited some preserved historic sites. They included a former army barracks in Kowloon Park, the 1912 Wan Chai Post Office (now the Environmental Resource Centre) and the international award-winning Blue House.

Day 3: We kicked off with Rooftop Republic, a nonprofit that helps corporations and schools build rooftop farms. At this site, they grow on top of a shopping mall and donate the produce to local food banks.

Then we met with Rick Kroos ’66, who was the engineer for the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong’s financial district (as well as many other projects). Rick connected us with a wide range of other speakers, including Billy Wong, deputy head of research at the HK Trade Development Council; Anneliese Smilie from Redress, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing waste in Hong Kong’s garment industry; and Bernard Chang, an architect with the firm KPF.

Day 4: We spent the morning with the staff of Department of City Planning to learn about the HK2030+ strategic vision. Overall, Hong Kong is focused on livability, sustainability and integration with the broader Pearl River Delta (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Macau and other nearby cities in China). The students asked terrific (hard!) questions about how this plan intersects with climate change, affordable housing, green space, waste management, historic preservation and land reclamation. In the afternoon, we visited the new Kowloon terminal for the high-speed rail connection with mainland China, which is controversial in Hong Kong. Many people here see it as encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy, which is guaranteed under the Basic Law and One Country, Two Systems principle.

You can view the full gallery of photos from Hong Kong here.

Bebop Language and Innovations

Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion writing musical notations on whiteboard.
Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación and students make musical notations.

All instruments were welcome in this course exploring how to improvise using bebop language. Among the activities, students studied solo transcriptions of musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, and applied improvisational concepts. 

 

 

With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres.

Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación shares that, “the music, it is always about the music and the musicians of that time period. Their wisdom, understanding, imagination, creativity, commitment and contributions to the music inspires me to introduce it to students. With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres,” continues Encarnación. “I like for my students to listen and understand the tradition of this important American art form called ‘jazz’ and the many transformations it took on along its history. In my teachings, I encourage my students to listen, learn and develop respect for the past so they may add their contribution, knowledge and new light embodying the richness of the past and freshness of the new.”

Introduction to R and Excel for Data Analysis

Careful data analysis has become central to decision-making in areas from politics to sports to medicine. This D-Term course introduced students to collecting, cleaning and manipulating messy, real-world data with powerful programs R and Excel.

Professor Arnold Shober stands in front of a graph in a classroom.
Arnold Shober explains how to manage and analyze data to students in his D-Term class.

For any of the natural and social sciences, quantitative data analysis is a core skill,” explains Associate Professor of Government Arnold Shober.  “It is like reading a book–but for most of us it is more like reading a book in a language we’re just learning.  And just like learning a new language, we make lots of mistakes.  The D-Term course lets my students make those mistakes in a low-stakes, focused environment.  Then, when it really counts, on their own projects, they can focus on their analyses and not the mechanics.  They can write paragraphs–not spell words.”

Happiness: Meditation and Science

Constance Kassor and students meditating at a table.
Professor Constance Kassor and students participate in a guided meditation exercise.

This course took a liberal arts approach to meditation, tackling the question “What is happiness and how is it achieved?” by engaging with ideas of Buddhist philosophy of mind and investigating the ways in which they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists. This D-Term offering is also an extension of Lawrence’s commitment to student wellness and the whole student.

My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.

“This course stemmed from my research and teaching interests in Buddhist thought and meditation,” explains Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Constance Kassor. “Not only did we read about suffering and happiness from both Buddhist and scientific perspectives, but we also spent time engaging in the different meditative practices that we studied. Students were also required to commit to 10-30 minutes of meditation outside of class every day and report on their experiences. My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.”

Plague, War, and Fire: Disasters and the Making of London

Three students pose on top of St. Paul's Cathedra with the London skyline in the background.
Students participating in the D-Term London study course stand atop St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Between 1642 and 1666 London experienced war, plague and fire. This December, Lawrentians traveled to London to examine these catastrophes and explore how the city’s responses shaped the future of not merely London, but other cities across the globe. Students visited museums and historical sites and considered how London responded to crisis, commemorated it and confronted it again when German bombs fell during the twentieth century.

“London is such an incredibly rich landscape on which to study history,” notes Frederick, whose D-Term class grew out of an earlier course he taught at Lawrence’s London Centre in 2016. “During these two weeks we were in constant contact with the deep history of this fascinating city, from walking past walls erected by the Romans, to having a lecture from an archeologist about the 14th-century plague skeleton he had laid before us, to exploring the rooms from which Churchill defended the defense of England during the Blitz. I can teach students a great deal about history in the classroom, but there is something to being in the place where it happened that just can’t be replaced.”

(Frederick also adds a dispatch about the updated London Centre: “We got a tour of the new London Center. It’s awesome!”)

Adobe Creative Suite

Associate Professor of Art Benjamin Rinehart developed a workshop setting to introduce students to the Adobe Creative Suite programs, which include Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. “Students, staff and faculty are eager to become proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite programs,” observes Rinehart. “This course is valuable for any field of study and has many applications beyond being an artist or designer.”

Student at computer editing image in Photoshop.
A student explores Photoshop during D-Term.

From creating art to presenting data, knowledge of design principles and programs gives Lawrentians another tool to enhance their own work and offer a broad array of talents to prospective employers. The class is project-centered, allowing each student to explore the multifaceted and contemporary nature of each program. In just a couple of short weeks, students are exposed to methods in image construction, graphic design, typography and more. Students also visited the Lawrence University Office of Communications to speak with designers and see how these programs are used to advance an organization’s materials and mission.