WinterSession participants watch as a member of the Worcester Center for Crafts gives a lesson in glassblowing.

Channeling Your Inner Everything at WinterSession

WinterSession 2019 celebrates learning for learning’s sake

December 10, 2018
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WPI is all about learning, and that doesn’t stop just because classes aren’t in session.

Whether you’ve always wanted to try your hand—or in this case, foot—at ballroom dancing or are interested in learning more about the entrepreneurial mindset and starting a business for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription, there’s likely to be a workshop at this year’s WinterSession.

One of last year's most popular workshops involved learning to use a potter's wheel, and will be returning this year.

Three years ago, Undergraduate Studies and WPI’s KEEN Entrepreneurial Mindset program revived the tradition of “Intersession” at WPI––a week of fun, interactive classes, and workshops on myriad topics. The student organization LaunchPad met with dean of undergraduate studies Art Heinricher, a faculty member, and an alumnus to create what’s now known as WinterSession. This year’s event will be held January 6–8, giving students, faculty, staff, and alumni a chance to foster new connections and explore new topics with each other in a variety of environments.

“This is a space for learning, for the joy of learning,” says director of special academic programs Debra Boucher. “There are workshops designed to reconnect students to their sense of curiosity and fun, away from the pressure of grades and graduation requirements.”

Over 30 workshops are available to choose from, many for free, and some for a nominal fee. Each workshop is situated on one of three tracks: Innovation & Entrepreneurship (this year’s highlight), ART, and FUN, giving participants the chance to focus their time on a single track over the three days, or mix and match focuses in a classic WPI fashion to give them a WinterSession experience that’s “uniquely them.”

Boucher has been working with this year’s WinterSession leads, juniors Andrea Claudio and Sara Fitzpatrick, to meet with students, brainstorm ideas, and tap into WPI’s alumni network in order to determine the broad expanse of workshops that would be offered this year. In the future, they’re also planning on hosting an open call for proposals to customize the event series even further. She can’t wait to see Claudio’s and Fitzpatrick’s work come together for the entire community at the beginning of next year.

There’s much to be impressed by regarding WinterSession, but the most notable is the fact that the workshops are facilitated by members of the WPI community. Everyone’s got a hobby, and WinterSession gives students, faculty, and staff the chance to share their passions with others while maybe even stumbling upon new ones for themselves.

Something for Everyone

Ditch those Instagram filters—you won’t need them after the course in photography, taught by none other than Art Heinricher and vice president for student affairs Philip Clay.

For those who feel just as passionate about quality handmade knitwear as they do protesting and politics, the workshop on knitting and craftivism, led by executive director for advancement events and communications Judy Jaeger, will be a perfect fit. Jaeger (who started knitting in college while working as a historical interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village and describes walking into a shop full of colorful yarns as “walking into a rainbow”) is excited to share her passion and skill with others.

“It’s a wonderful hobby and skill,” she says. “It can be meditative, stress relieving, healing. It can provide a sense of accomplishment when everything else in life seems to be off-kilter, and it can add that extra sparkle, that extra lift, when everything is going your way.”

“This is a space for learning, for the joy of learning. There are workshops designed to reconnect students to their sense of curiosity and fun, away from the pressure of grades and graduation requirements.” -Debra Boucher

Another offering comes from WPI’s ROTC program, where staff and cadets will host a workshop designed to take the leadership skills and techniques used in ROTC and apply them to everyday life. “WPI and ROTC are great partners in the development of officers of character for both U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army, and believe that the leadership principles taught in ROTC are applicable across all disciplines of work and life,” says Air Force Commander Lt. Col. Jack Skiles, who will lead the facilitation of the workshop.

The three-hour workshop might sound daunting, but according to Skiles, hosting a three-hour lecture is the last thing on their minds; instead, participants can expect to be moving around, tasked with challenging scenarios, and applying the skills they’ve learned to real-life situations, all while having fun.

“The leadership principles taught in ROTC are applicable across all disciplines of work and life,” he says. “Our goal is to better equip all WPI students and faculty with new leadership skills,” as well as fond memories that’ll transfer over to the workshop they’re already planning in the hopes of next year’s WinterSession.

Explore and Work Together

Workshop registrations are open through January 4, 2019. While Boucher herself loves the art-related workshops, if given the chance, she would sign up for an entrepreneurial workshop because it offers a low-risk way to learn and grow, something that’s exactly in the spirit of WinterSession.

“We’re excited about the program,” she says, “and are looking forward to filling Foisie with WPI community members exploring and working together.”

- By Allison Racicot

Join Us for WinterSession 2019

Reignite your curiosity and learn something new at WinterSession. Check out the workshop descriptions and register for a couple of your favorites, or make a day of it and select even more. We're looking forward to seeing you back on campus in 2019!