New Spring Break program aims to introduce students to humanities

Mariana Alfaro, Assistant Campus Editor

For the first time, Northwestern students who aren’t planning to leave campus during Spring Break will be able to participate in a week full of activities as part of a new program from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

The Humanities Plunge includes activities ranging from improvisation classes at The Second City comedy club to attending a performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during a five-day immersion in Chicago. The program is an opportunity for students to gain a stronger background in the humanities, said Thomas Burke, assistant director for the Kaplan Institute.

“We’ve been thinking about developing new ways to expand the number of students that we can interact with and develop interest in the humanities,” Burke said.

The Kaplan Institute offers a series of courses and events throughout the school year relating to the humanities, including trips to the opera and speaker events, and heads the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program, a four-course program for first-year students that seeks to introduce students to the liberal arts.

According to Burke, the Kaplan Institute aims to give students a “condensed” version of the Institute’s programs through the Humanities Plunge.

“We wanted to make it available for students across campus with full course loads who might not be able to take a humanities course,” he said.

The course, which will be for credit, is open for all undergraduate students. Applications were due Jan. 18 and, according to Burke, the Kaplan Institute received a strong applicant pool.

“We are shooting for 20 to 25 participants” he said. “We received many times that number of applications.”

The program will be held from March 23-27. Students are responsible for their own housing during the program. Residence halls and colleges will remain open during the break.

The Kaplan Institute will provide tickets to events, transportation and some meals that, according to the website, might include Peruvian, Polish and Ethiopian food.

The program’s schedule was planned with the help of Derek Mapson, a dramaturg who has worked with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Goodman Theatre, said Kasey Evans, director of the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program.

“We worked to create a diversity of different kinds of opportunities,” she said. “We didn’t want to have all museums or all dance performances. We wanted to explore as broad a swath of Chicago as possible.”

Yannik Kumar, a Communication freshman from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, applied to the program.

“It seemed like a great opportunity mainly because you get to explore Chicago’s cultural offerings in a way that’s neither superficial nor perfunctory,” he said. “And it’s completely free.”

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