Baldwin Swimming with sharksis just one of the unusual ways Baker University students can earn course credit between semesters.
Nicole Kaszar is one business student who will be swimming with sharks long before she graduates.
Kaszar, a 19-year-old freshman, is one of 14 Baker University students who will drop from the side of a boat next week offshore from Walker's Cay in the Bahamas. If all goes as planned, hundreds of hungry sharks will be milling in expectation when the novice scuba divers hit the water.
The adventure in the Bahamas, which is called the Shark Rodeo, will earn Kaszar and the other students course credit at the liberal-arts college.
"I'm definitely a little bit nervous," Kaszar said Friday, gripping the side of the dive pool at Mask-Snorkel-Fin dive shop at 1305 E. 25th in Lawrence. "But they keep telling us the sharks are more scared of us than we are of them."
The sharks, mostly lemon and reef, are drawn to the Rodeo by a "chumsicle," a hefty block of frozen fish viscera and heads tossed overboard to attract them for the amusement of humans.
The course is one of more than a dozen interterm courses offered at Baker. While students at most colleges take a long between-semester break, most Baker students between Jan. 5-28 are studying a gamut of subjects ranging from taxidermy to sailing to applied psychology. One course, Gangs of the 1990s, considers how present gangs differ from those of the past. Other classes involve trips to Europe. The History of Baseball includes a trip to Cooperstown. An interterm course or internship is a requirement for three of the four years of undergraduate work. Pricey courses, such as the $1,700 scuba class, are made more easily affordable by the financial aid office.
"I think there's very few schools that do an interterm anymore," said Baker administration spokesman John Fuller. "There's been debate here about keeping it. The subject pops up every couple of years. It lengthens our school year a bit, plus it takes away holiday time. I think there's faculty who are for and against it. But there's a split among faculty on about any subject, so that's not surprising."
Rand Ziegler, psychology department chairman and interterm scuba class instructor, favors the practice.
"Interterm at Baker is kind of a unique time," Ziegler said. "It's kind of a leftover from the Sixties. All the courses are totally uncataloged. The teachers get really creative. What I've done is combine scuba training with travel to the Caribbean."
Ziegler, who has been taking students diving between fall and spring semesters since 1984, said the opportunity to take students to the Caribbean in January "is one of the perks of working at Baker. This is awesome."
Ziegler started diving in 1983 and enjoys it so much that when he married in 1988 he and bride Marci, a singer with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, did a "dive honeymoon," in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Marci also will make the trip to the Bahamas next week.
Not all interterm activity takes students far from campus.
"Interterm is a popular time for internships," Fuller said. "We have kids working at the American Heartland Theater in Kansas City, at the state Capitol, at KU Med Center, and at city hall here in Baldwin. They get credit for all that."
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