â€œEXPERIMENTAL COLLEGEâ€ GIVES HAVERFORD STUDENTS OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXTRACURRICULAR EDUCATION
Interested in practicing classical Indian dance? Want to get your hands dirty learning pottery and ceramics? Or do you need instruction on how to use Philadelphia's public transportation system? Look no further than Haverford's Experimental Collegeâ€”Ex-Co. This non-credit course program gives students the opportunity to share their unique interests and talents with each other.
Ex-Co is run by a student committee whose responsibilities include running sign-ups for students who want to teach and take classes, updating the official Web page with class information, reserving rooms and equipment, publicityâ€”â€œReally anything and everything needed to run a class except the actual teaching of it,” says Jessica Mausner '06, the current committee chair. Classes are held during the second quarter of each semester, run for approximately five weeks, and take place in a variety of locations across campus.
Ex-Co began as a plenary resolution passed in 1997, when David Kanthor '99 was an undergrad. He recalls that similar small liberal arts colleges throughout the country had started their own extracurricular course programs around that time.“We thought, â€˜We're just as creative as they areâ€”why don't we have something like this?'”
Kanthor was one of five people instrumental in the creation of Ex-Co. He was a member of the first Ex-Co committee and also taught a ceramics class, after collaborating with friends to create a pottery studio in the basement of the Dining Center.“Twenty-seven people signed up for my class,” he says,“but there were only four wheels.” Still, the number of interested applicants was indicative of the student body's enthusiastic response to the program.
During his years at Haverford, Kanthor not only continued his successful ceramics course but also teamed up with a friend to teach“Rochester Cuisine,” a celebration of his hometown's culinary delights (including the appetizingly named“garbage plate”).“It's fun to take the skills and expertise you've accumulated in your short life and share them with others,” he says.“It also seems that anyone who takes a class then gets inspired to teach another, and new people learn what Ex-Co is all about.”
This holds true for Pankhuri Agrawal '06, who took a class on sound technology and radios her freshman year and now co-teaches“More than Bhangra and Bollywood” Thursday nights with her friend Amanda Lewkowicz '05. Born in Bombay, Agrawal has been learning Manipuri dance since the age of six, and has performed at many cultural and classical dance shows.“What ultimately motivated me was the fact that I feel that people have a very narrow vision about India and Indian dances,” she says.“I want people to know that Indian dance is â€˜more than just Bollywood and Bhangra.' We have seven classical dance styles and Manipuri (from Northeast India) is one of them.”
Like Agrawal, Amanda Lewkowicz was inspired by taking an Ex-Co class herselfâ€”last quarter she took“Introduction to Wheel Throwing” with David Kanthor.“I thought there would be no better way to end my time at the â€˜Ford than by teaching a course,” she says.
Sarah Hallenbeck '06 took the“Knit 'n' Bitch” class offered last fall and now teaches her own session. Every Wednesday night, students gather in the basement of the DC to, well, knit and bitch.“I get to meet new people and share something that I enjoy doing,” she says.“I'll definitely do it again.”
Jessica Mausner feels that the combination of education and camaraderie is the key to Ex-Co's popularity.“I love that students are able to share their interests and talents with people in an atmosphere somewhere in between a normal course and sitting around with friends on a Saturday nightâ€”it's the only place on campus we have to do that.”