Norris University Center offers mini courses for fall 2021


Wendy Klunk/Daily Senior Staffer

Fanrui Sha works with clay in Introduction to Wheel throwing, a beginner ceramics class.

Catherine Odom, Reporter

Inna Melnikov worked in a steel mill in the Soviet Union for two years after she graduated from college. Now, she is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine starting her 13th year teaching a tai chi Mini Course at Northwestern.

Melnikov’s class is one of 26 Mini Courses offered this quarter through Norris University Center. The program began in 1973 with the mission of providing community members and NU students recreational courses as a break from their regular academic and work schedules.

These classes are open to all NU students and Chicago area residents. Mini Courses run for four to six weeks and span a wide range of subjects, including creative arts, wellness, cooking and dance. Classes run in October, January, April and July.

“The courses are meant to be a way for students to de-stress and take the pressure off of other classes that they’re taking here at Northwestern,” program manager Linda Luk said.

Luk said some of the most popular offerings are ceramics and wine appreciation courses. New courses this quarter include podcasting for beginners and American Sign Language, both of which are taught online.

A limited number of Mini Courses were held virtually throughout the pandemic, starting in March 2020. One of those was Melnikov’s tai chi course. While the online class was well-attended and helped her improve her online teaching skills, she said she’s glad to be in-person again.

This quarter, in-person courses are still subject to the University’s COVID-19 guidelines. Masks are required for all in-person students. NU students must follow the University’s vaccination requirement, and community members must be vaccinated in order to attend.

Third-year chemistry Ph.D. student Fanrui Sha is taking an introductory pottery class through Norris this quarter. She also took an online Mini Course in color theory last year.

“I did a lot of pottery in high school and undergrad, so I was waiting for my qualifying exam to be over so I could come back to it,” Sha said.

Sha said she has enjoyed her mini course experience so far and encourages others to take advantage of these classes. 

Mini Courses aren’t just for students. Tiffany Tuck (School of Professional Studies M.A. ’09, Communication M.S. ’19), 47, and Joel Lerner (Medill ’85), 58, are Rogers Park residents enrolled in a ceramics class. 

Both are NU alumni, which Tuck said is how she heard Mini Courses were in-person again. She registered for a Mini Course that was canceled last spring.

“I’m just really happy these courses are open to the public,” Tuck said. “I didn’t get a chance to do it while I was a student.”

Mini Course pricing ranges from $27 to $137. Subsidies of $20 to $30 are available to help students pay for courses. 

These classes offer students an accessible way to take enjoyable and recreational classes, Luk said. 

“The program is a wonderful way to learn something new,” Luk said. “They are very affordable and a short time commitment as well.”

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