“Gothamization” introduced at King's
Olasky introduces new concept into curriculum--By Chris Ross
“Gothamization” is a term that sounds more at home in a Batman film than at a liberal arts college. King’s Provost Marvin Olasky is trying to change that. Since joining the college in 2007, one of Olasky’s goals has been to incorporate New York City—with its many educational opportunities—into the classroom.
“What makes King’s unique is the combination of great ideas and great location,” Olasky said. “We’re wasting our pricey real estate if we teach a course the same in Manhattan as we do in Manhattan, Kansas.”
One way Olasky incorporates his Gothamization plan is through a new course, Introduction to New York City. One of four new offerings this fall, the course is taught by renowned urbanologist Dr. Anne Hendershott, who joined the college's faculty this year after having spent 15 years at The University of San Diego.
Intro to the City, as students call the course, is now part of the common core curriculum. The class offers a unique chance for students to experience urban studies while utilizing the college’s prime location in midtown Manhattan. Students study the development of the American city in general and the development of New York City as America’s most important city, according to Hendershott.
Gothamization is “easy to do in our course because it lends itself so well,” Hendershott said, while explaining she tries to “integrate it into the readings and the films.” For example, she plans to bring in a former gang officer with the New York Police Department while discussing New York’s checkered past.
Aside from lectures, readings, and films, Hendershott uses the City as an extension of the campus. Students in the course have visited two museums this semester, including the Fraunces Tavern (a museum housed in a pre-Revolutionary war building, one of Manhattan’s oldest) and the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum (an interactive experience describing the plight of early 20th Century immigrants).
It is opportunities like these, Hendershott said, that “makes the readings come alive.”
Students agree. “It’s fun and interesting taking an in-depth look into where we’re living, especially for someone who has lived in small-town Ohio his whole life,” said Michael Radigan, a freshman from Westerville, Ohio. Growing up, he said, information about New York was scarce.
Danielle Perkins, a sophomore from Orlando, Fla., enjoys the unique learning experience of visiting places such as the Tenement Museum. “I feel like I understood more about the immigrants in the context of what these buildings actually were.” Because she spends so much time in the Lower East Side, where the museum is located, she especially enjoyed learning about the Five Points area, one of the most notorious slums in the world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Junior Matt Kaal thinks the school’s intentional infatuation with the city is good for students because it allows them to “speak more effectively in our city.” He especially enjoyed the visit to Fraunces Tavern, best known as the place where George Washington bid farewell to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War. He’s also learned more about 34th street, the East-West corridor that runs past the Empire State Building. “We learned there was a battle fought on 34th street back when it was a wooded area,” he said. “You don’t think of herds of tourists walking over a battlefield or dead bodies.”
That may be the college’s only connection to Batman, who considered Gotham his battleground. But for King’s the city isn’t a battleground as much as it is an intellectual jungle gym. And Olasky’s Gothamization encourages students to go outside and take advantage of it during recess and class. As Olasky says, “It makes King’s a different place than others.”
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