Every alum has a favorite course they took while at Illinois State—that one professor who spun them off into their career, that one research project that changed everything.
Each year on STATEside, we take a closer look at three new courses being offered for the first time during the fall semester, to find out why they were created and to meet the professors who crafted them.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset (IDS 113)
Taught by Mark Hoelscher, director of the George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and Laurie Merriman, assistant dean in the College of Fine Arts
Entrepreneurs look at the world differently, and that’s exactly what students in this new course will do.
The 26 students enrolled in this interdisciplinary class come from majors across campus—agriculture, fine arts, economics, and philosophy, among others. They’ll get a conceptual overview of entrepreneurship, but one that’s grounded in lots of class discussion, project-based work, and analyses of real-world case studies.
Students will get a unique opportunity to “start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up,” said Merriman, a dance professor who is team-teaching with Hoelscher, who has a Ph.D. in business. Students will learn how to identify opportunities in their fields they might be able to “pounce on,” Merriman said.
“We argue that entrepreneurship is born of passion. Not of business, of passion,” said Hoelscher. “So you start with a passion, and then you need the tools to fill it in.”
One recent class session started with a brick. Students were told to look at a brick, then spend 5 minutes coming up with 15 unique ideas for “what this is, other than a brick,” Merriman said.
Merriman and Hoelscher hope The Entrepreneurial Mindset will become the first course in a new interdisciplinary entrepreneurship minor they hope to start in the next few years. A dance major who wants to open her own studio, for example, could take an entrepreneurship minor too. (This would be separate from the entrepreneurship and small business management sequence in the College of Business.)
The goal, and the stated intent of Illinois State’s Coleman Fellows program that Hoelscher and Merriman co-direct, is to spread entrepreneurship across campus.
“We’ve got a really good mix,” Merriman said of their 26 students.
Topics in Stage Movement: Rapier and Dagger (THD-329.02)
Taught by Paul Dennhardt, professor in the School of Theatre and Dance
A group of Illinois State-trained actors will have a leg up on their peers thanks to a new course that teaches them how to professionally fight on stage while staying in character.
Acting majors take two “movement” classes during their sophomore year—learning how to meld character with gestures, breathing, balance, and other physical fundamentals. But theatre faculty wanted to reinstate a third movement class for juniors and seniors, something that could change each semester based on which professors were available, said Dennhardt, a stage fight expert.
Dennhardt’s Rapier and Dagger course is the first installment. His 15 students will train all semester, culminating in a two-part final—a fight performed within the context of a scene and a workshop conducted by a guest artist from the Society of American Fight Directors, which certifies the actors.
Rapiers and daggers are common in Shakespeare plays such as Romeo and Juliet, which features extensive dueling with those weapons. An actor with this training might have a better chance of being cast in a Shakespeare production as a result, said Dennhardt. (Future “Topics in Stage Movement” courses will change each semester, such as “sword and shield” or other non-combat techniques.)
“It gives our students an opportunity to leave here not only with a solid foundation, but with a special set of skills that makes them more marketable,” Dennhardt told STATEside.
Reading Literature with Children in the Classroom (TCH 474)
Taught by Sherry Lynn Sanden, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning
A revamped College of Education course will give practicing teachers who are pursuing their master’s degrees a better theoretical understanding of how their students respond to literature.
Sanden lead the course redesign, prompted in part by changing requirements from the Illinois State Board of Education for reading specialists and the International Reading Association for literacy leaders. There are 13 students enrolled, all currently teaching in Illinois classrooms.
“It’s so important for our teachers to have the theoretical basis for the decision-making that they carry out in their classrooms,” Sanden told STATEside. “This course definitely supports that.”
The Department of English currently offers great courses on children’s literature from a “literary” perspective, such as the author’s craft or illustrator’s style, Sanden said. Her revamped course approaches it from a classroom perspective— honing in on theories of reader response to diverse literature.
“A lot of the class time is spent in discussion,” Sanden said. “We all come at these theories from different perspectives.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.