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Hopkins Improv Class Helps Tech-Minded Students Communicate With The Rest Of Us

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A stereotype is defined as an oversimplified image of a person or group.

We’re all told not to stereotype people, but what if a group feels their stereotype is correct?

Like some Johns Hopkins engineering students, for example.

There’s a lot they understand that your average Joe cannot, but they have weaknesses, too.

“Public speaking is something that I’ve heard 90 percent of all people fear,” says Michael Hartwell, the education director for the Baltimore Improv Group.

Hartwell is also an adjunct faculty member at Hopkins, where he teaches improv to science and engineering students.

The students taking the class realize, no matter how smart they are, they will be judged by their conversational skills in the real world.

“Especially since I will be going into finance and doing quantitative analysis, but it’s so important to have the communication skills to be able to talk and explain what you’re saying,” says Megumi Chen.

They participate in exercises to improve their listening skills, and practice accepting what someone else is saying and adding to it.

“With improve, there are no solid answers,” Hartwell says. “There’s nothing objective about improv, it’s very subjective. It’s very go-with-the-flow.”

Some parents do question it.

“I told my mom in the beginning of the year and she was like ‘Raphael, why are you taking this class? Like you could have been taking another math class or something!,” one student says.

But her tune changed when he credited the class with helping him land an internship.

Other students also say their interactions with non-technical people have improved.

Tia Aquart also just had an interview for an internship.

“I was able to like, you know, kick it off with him and be able to have a good and meaningful conversation and a really good interview,” she said.

Hartwell is happy to hear that.

“I think that they’ll have a newfound confidence in their ability to talk to anyone about anything,” he says. “Not just the work environment, I think it helps you recognize that you can fit in anywhere.”

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