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From 1968 to 2018

Celebrating 50 years of Interim

Dr. Rodger E. Stroup ’68 only had the chance to take one Interim while at Wofford. He was a senior 50 years ago, when the college implemented the January Interim. Still, that one, monthlong course, Dr. Lewis P. Jones’ Orbiting Seminar of South Carolina, greatly influenced Stroup for the rest of his life. 

“I went to Wofford intending to go to law school, but Dr. Jones made history so interesting that I decided to go to graduate school in history,” says Stroup, who retired in 2009 after spending 18 years at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, retiring as director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. “The Orbiting Seminar cemented my interest in social and cultural history and in preserving our history – not only the written history, but the preservation of archaeological sites, buildings and other artifacts.”

“So, Wofford, Dr. Jones and the Orbiting Seminar were pivotal in my career,” Stroup says. “I still keep my hand in the preservation of our history, working as a volunteer at the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro – Dr. Jones was a big railroad fan – and I am just now completing a book on the history of the South Carolina State Fair.”

Interim originated from the college’s desire to have a more cross-disciplinary approach, says Dr. Joe Lesesne, Wofford’s president from 1972 to 2000, who was the first Interim coordinator back in 1968. “We wanted to be less departmentally oriented and for students to experience more interrelations with disciplines, to prepare them for life after their studies.”

Interim courses had to be innovative and experimental, and participation had to be required to be effective, Lesesne says.

Among those innovative courses was Theatre Workshop, taught by Dr. J.R. Gross, in which students explored “creative possibilities of acting, directing and staging plays….” It was the beginning of Wofford Theatre and modern Interim’s Pulp Theatre, the all-student group that produces a provocative musical each January with limited faculty involvement.

A non-credit program during Interim is Leadership Wofford, operated by the Office of Student Affairs. Students participate while also taking a for-credit course. “The four-week series provides students with practical and applicable training to become strong and effective leaders,” says Roberta Bigger ’81, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “It’s an opportunity for students to explore their strengths, talents and values while gaining additional skills and discussing ‘hot’ leadership topics. January is the best time to offer Leadership Wofford, when students have time to dedicate to personal development.”

The advent of student study/travel abroad began with that first Interim, Lesesne says. He and a group of other faculty and staff took about 60 students to Mexico for two weeks to study the language and culture while living with families there. “Wofford’s whole foreign study program for students really came out of Interim.”

Peter J. Darling ’71, of Warner, N.H., a first-year student when Interim began, says, “Interim opened such incredible and diverse offerings – almost always way outside of traditional course work offerings. In many ways, I feel that Interim cut a path for much of Wofford’s more progressive classroom and cultural changes and opportunities that continue today.” His junior-year Interim, Origins of the American Revolution with Dr. Phil Racine, was his favorite. “It was more reading than I had ever done before, but has remained an interest, and those are the only academic books I have read again.”

Stroup says Interim also gives students a way to make lifelong friends. He and classmates Charlie Gray ’72, former director of alumni and parent programs and director of Lifelong Learning at Wofford when he retired in 2015, and Doyle Boggs ’70, retired executive director of communications and marketing at Wofford, organized an Orbiting Seminar “reunion” in the late 1990s and continued it annually for about 15 years.

He believes the original tenet of Interim was true for him, and remains true 50 years later: “Interim allows students to step out of their comfort zone and try something that they might not otherwise do, or it provides an opportunity to delve more deeply into an area that you were interested in learning about.”

Interim still harkens back to the original Interim proposal to give “both teacher and student the liberty to explore, to experiment, to try new approaches, and in doing so, to run risks that cannot be run during the regular semester when the emphasis is different. … The Interim program has as its keynote innovation and experimentation.”

By Laura Hendrix Corbin

Photos from Interim past and present:

Dave Sykes with students
Dr. Dave Sykes, professor and chair of computer science, spent the month working with students interested in creating a Wofford app.

Wofford students in Prague in 1969
Wofford students in Prague during 1969 watched history in the making during the Soviet invasion.

Alex King ’19 (left) and Megan Kuhn ’18 at Mount Everest 
Alex King ’19 (left) and Megan Kuhn ’18 traveled to Tibet and Nepal during the To the Roof of the World: Life in the Shadow of Mount Everest Interim with Dr. Tom Wright, assistant professor of mathematics, and Dr. Jeremy Henkel, assistant professor of philosophy.

Students hiking in Chile
Students found time to hike between rounds during the Clinical Observations and Cultural Aspects of Health Care Interim in Chile.

Students at the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
Dr. Phillip Stone ’94, college archivist, and Simon Stricklen, enrollment and scholarship officer in the Department of Military Science, invited Dr. Joe Lesesne, president emeritus of Wofford and the college’s first Interim coordinator, to speak to their class during a field trip to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. Their Interim — Remember the Cowpens: A Half Century Later — was a tribute to a similar Interim 50 years ago.

Stanley Porter ’89 fencing with  Dr. Constance Antonsen
Stanley Porter ’89, now a Wofford trustee, discovered muscles he didn't know he had during Dr. Constance Antonsen’s famous fencing Interim.

Bailey Wise ’18, Marion Smith '07, and Ashlee Moody Davis '15  in Washington, D.C.
Bailey Wise ’18 (right) interned at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., where both Marion Smith '07 and Ashlee Moody Davis '15 work.

Students in Pulp Theatre produced M. Butterfly during Interim 2018
Students in Pulp Theatre produced M. Butterfly during Interim 2018.

Wofford students and professors in the Forbidden City
In 2000 Wofford students and professors traveled to the Forbidden City during an Interim to China.

Fredy Madrid ’20 with Congressman John Lewis
Fredy Madrid ’20 (with Congressman John Lewis) and Wofford Bonner Scholars learned about community development in Spartanburg and Washington, D.C.

Wofford’s ROTC program offered a hang gliding Interim in 1982
Wofford’s ROTC program offered a hang gliding Interim in 1982.

Vera Oberg ’20 did independent research in the Philippines
Vera Oberg ’20 did independent research in the Philippines, where she studied children in poverty.

Students on a climbing wall
Students in Climbing ROCKS! with Dr. Kim Rostan, associate professor of English, and Ben Cartwright, assistant professor of accounting, explored the physical and intellectual elements of rock climbing.

Carter Rief ’19, Helen Cribb ’18 and Cristian Widenhouse ’18 in France
Carter Rief ’19, Helen Cribb ’18 and Cristian Widenhouse ’18 walked the French Way of the Camino de Santiago. They focused on tourism and pilgrim initiation.

Dr. Lewis P. Jones and students in his Orbiting Seminar of South Carolina in 1968
Dr. Lewis P. Jones’ Orbiting Seminar of South Carolina, first taught in 1968, inspired in many students a lifelong love of history.

Jared Henderson ’18 in Dakar, Senegal
Jared Henderson ’18 (shown) and Mark Matthews ’18 researched the influence of new communications technology on economic development in Dakar, Senegal. They presented a paper on their research at the South Carolina Political Science Association Conference.

Dr. Chuck Smith with students in Cambodia
Dr. Chuck Smith, associate professor of biology, traveled with students to Vietnam and Cambodia to compare old and new Asia.

Students working with a 3D printer
Students in Dr. James Bednar’s Inventor’s Lab experimented with 3D design and printing. Bednar is an associate professor of philosophy.