Student Spotlight: Laura Berkholtz

Auditor, Tolkien and The Epic
Favorite text from this semester: Beowulf

For Mythgard student Laura Berkholtz of Sun Prairie, WI, auditing was the obvious choice. “I already have a Masters degree, but I also have a 7 year-old son and I knew that I couldn’t do justice to the class and be his mom,” says Laura. “He’s in first grade this year – he needs help reading – so that’s what I do during the evenings. But it’s perfect for me because I can read the material [and] if I don’t get to finish it I’m not killing myself. I can still listen to the lectures and the closing session and I get a lot out of it even if I haven’t read the entire assignment. It’s great – I really like auditing.”

To audit a course means that you enroll in a course and participate in it as actively as you choose to on your own level. You have access to the same content as the M.A. students, but you do not take part in the Discussion Sessions and you are exempt from having to write any papers. “As an auditor,” says Laura, “you have access to the forums and the lectures – and you can contribute by sending in questions.”

It’s a way to get in on that discussion – to feel like you’re still part of the intellectual discussion that you got in college…

Because of this, auditing is a very good choice for students who are new to the classroom experience, who haven’t been part of a classroom for a long time, or for people who have a busy home life. Laura Berkholtz agrees. “It’s really a great way to take part in the discussion of this great literature without having to go to a classroom. If you have a busy life, if you’re looking after your family, you can just sit there and watch the lecture – either live or recorded – whatever fits in your time schedule. It’s a way to get in on that discussion – to feel like you’re still part of the intellectual discussion that you got in college that you maybe don’t get anymore.”

And so far the first course has been a hit with Laura. “He’s a great lecturer,” she says of “Tolkien and the Epic” instructor Professor Olsen. “He takes the material and makes it really interesting and really brings it to life. Some of the works, like Beowulf and the Kalevala, you can imagine somebody else teaching it and it not being so lively or interesting.”

“The guest lecturers have been excellent. I’ve really liked Verlyn Fleiger. I met her at Mythcon in Albuquerque. I just think she’s a fascinating person as well as being a really great teacher.” Reacting to the news that Dr. Fleiger will be joining the Mythgard Institute to teach the Summer 2012 course on Arthurian Literature, Laura lit up. “I would not miss that for the world! I will definitely be auditing that class.”

Laura is already signed up to audit “The Making of Myth: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien” in the Spring. As for her 7 year-old, he could be a budding Mythgardian himself! “I’ve read him parts of The Hobbit,” says Laura. “And he’s got Thorin’s Map on the wall.”