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Education, Adventure for Spring Option Students
Kabi Hartman (l.), senior adjunct assistant professor of English and director of F&M’s Spring Option, meets with Alex Flynn ’14, a member of this year's Spring Option class.
Mary McNutt '12, a member of F&M's 2009 Spring Option class, spent three months learning survival skills and hiking mountains in Colorado, Wyoming and Ecuador with Outward Bound.
Kabi Hartman smiles as she rattles off a list of adventures taken by Franklin & Marshall’s 2011 Spring Option students. One student spent the fall coaching squash, while another graduated from The French Culinary Institute in New York. A group of students studied in Florence, Italy, on a study-abroad program through New York University.
And another assisted with surgery—including open-heart and brain surgery, no less—at a hospital in the Republic of Georgia.
“Spring Option students bring a wealth of life experience to the classroom,” says Hartman, senior adjunct assistant professor of English and director of F&M’s Spring Option. “I feel strongly that their experiences add to the campus when they get here.”
Now in its fourth year, Spring Option offers a way for students to take a short break between high school and college. Many of the students use the time to pursue an individualized and challenging program, in consultation with Hartman. This year’s class includes 33 students whose diverse experiences helped prepare them for life as liberal-arts students.
While it is not necessary to obtain academic credit in the fall, some students take courses toward their undergraduate degrees before enrolling at F&M. Drew Mitchell ’13, a member of the 2010 Spring Option class, completed a semester at the University of Connecticut at Stamford in the fall of 2009. He also used the semester to acquire emergency-medical training by joining an ambulance corps.
“I got to diagnose myself when I had a collapsed lung,” Mitchell says. “I woke myself up in the ER, and the doctors and nurses were asking what I was doing. I was interested in what was happening.” At F&M, Mitchell has become a leader of the student-run EMS program.
Alex Flynn ’14 took a gap year after high school before enrolling at F&M via Spring Option. He used the time to study at The French Culinary Institute in New York and gain work experience at Mario Batali.
“I developed a sense of independence by living and working in New York, which is extremely helpful in preparing for college,” Flynn says. “I saw a great opportunity to take advantage of my passions and skills.”
And then there is the story of Nodar Kipshdze ’14, who traveled to the Republic of Georgia last fall to work on an Alzheimer’s project at a local hospital. Kipshdze used part of the time to work on his second novel (his first, Cheating the Hangman, is available on Amazon.com). He also learned to play the piano. But most memorable was his assistance with numerous surgeries at the hospital where he was working, including two reconstructive skull surgeries and one coronary-artery bypass graft.
“The surgeon allowed me to help with suturing, and I even touched the brain,” Kipshdze says. “Now I definitely know I want to study medicine.”
“When you look at a liberal arts school, it’s about personal development,” Mitchell says. “Spring Option allows you to do that. Even if students didn’t like what they were doing, at least they [had the experience]. But most people I’ve talked to loved what they did.”