Latest Norris Mini Courses Cater To Varied Interests

Lia Lehrer

By Lia LehrerContributing Writer

Roland Liang is only 19 years old, but he’s already teaching a college course at Northwestern.

In his Guitar Fundamentals class last week, Liang called out chord names and instructions, teaching his eight students Howie Day’s “Collide.” The Communication sophomore said most students in his class have no guitar experience, and some never learned music.

“It’s challenging because the students learn at different paces,” Liang said.

Liang is one of about 30 people who teach Mini Courses through Norris University Center. About 450 NU students signed up for the courses this quarter, on topics ranging from the arts to foreign languages to food appreciation, said Chris Tondini, Mini Course coordinator.

Mini Courses are also open to the local community. About one-third of participants come from outside NU, according to the Mini Courses Web site.

Many of the classes already have started, but students can register any time during the quarter if space remains. The courses range in price from $35 to $92. This year, in addition to six-week classes, students can also sign up for one-day workshops such as mask-making, dream interpretation and South-Asian-style cooking.

“Mini Courses are fun ways to get to know people interested in the same thing you are,” Tondini said. “You can take a break from classes and build or discover a talent.”

Liang heard from a friend in the Mini Courses office that students were interested in a guitar course but needed a teacher. Since he previously had taught guitar for a group at his church, he submitted a syllabus for the class.

“We’d love to give undergraduates the opportunity to teach if they’re qualified,” Tondini said.

While many of the teachers come from the NU community, some instructors, such as Ingrid Albrecht, are Chicago or Evanston professionals who use the Norris classes to share their talents with others.

In her third year as a Mini Course instructor, Albrecht, a Chicago artist, teaches the elements of design and color through demonstration, hands-on lessons and group critique. Her students learn the importance of art to convey emotion.

“An artist (has) a lonely job,” said Albrecht, who teaches Intro to Watercolor. “Teaching allows me to have an interaction that’s so valuable.”

Randy Hooker, also of Chicago, works in personal property, but he has been teaching dance Mini Courses at Norris since 1978.

He said his goal is to teach people “real-world” dance moves, but since everyone moves differently, he adjusts his class to fit the specific group of students.

“I learn more from my students than they learn from me,” he said.

McCormick junior Tom Cohlmia is in Hooker’s Latin Rhythm & Salsa class and took his Ballroom Dance class last year. He said Hooker often demonstrates difficult dance moves with girls from the class.

“(Hooker) will lead her and she can follow him,” Cohlmia said. “He teaches us how to lead so you can dance with someone who hasn’t even taken the course.”

Reach Lia Lehrer at [email protected]