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Getting to Know Yo(u)rk: Demystifying Night Classes

November 14, 2023
Students during a night class.

Written by: Nathan Leakway '25

On the second floor of Wolf Hall, Javier Pioquinto ‘24 (Lancaster, PA) is flicking a hallway light switch on and off. When switched on, the hallway is flooded from overhead by four large fluorescent lights; when switched off, two of the four go dark. It’s a small change, one that casts the far end of the hallway in a dark shadow and mutes the yellow tint of the wall paint to a moody blue-gray. This seems to please Javier. He looks around at the group of students standing around him and they all agree; off is better. 

These 12 students are part of an independent study in Narrative Filmmaking that meets on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. They’ve just concocted a short scene that they plan to cast, set up, and shoot before class ends at 9 p.m.

In figuring out how to set up and light the scene, the group has been encouraged to experiment with their environment in a way that wouldn’t be possible during the day when the building is packed with students and faculty. They’re opening and closing doors, plugging in extension cords (called stingers on movie sets), and playing with every light switch in sight.

The energy level here is pretty high for a Tuesday night, and perhaps uncharacteristic for a night class.

After struggling to make it through a lab that was held in the evening last semester, Pioquinto doesn’t take signing up for night classes lightly. “It depends on whether the class is interesting or not,” he says. “If it's not [interesting], I can almost guarantee that you’ll find yourself falling asleep.”

For students who work or have other obligations, however, night classes can often be the only practical choice. Dr. Travis Kurowski, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, has taught Intro to Creative Writing and Novel Writing off and on at night for a few years. “[Night classes] allow students to have more flexible schedules,” he says. “They’re especially helpful for students who work a lot or have families.”

Dr. Mike Zerbe, Professor of Communication and Writing, taught Technical and Scientific Communication as a night course at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, before coming to York College, and he understands why some students might hesitate to sign up for night classes. “I think the once-a-week night course puts them off,” he says. “They are long, and we live in an era of short attention spans.”

Drs. Kurowski and Zerbe both recognize the need to tailor their instruction given the length of the class. Often, that involves encouraging more personal responsibility. “[Professors] need to encourage [students] to be self-monitoring much more, as you go an entire week between meetings,” says Dr. Kurowski. The long classes do have their upside, says Dr. Zerbe. They provide an opportunity to “take a deep dive into a complex topic without it being broken up over a whole week.”

There are other benefits. “There isn’t much competition for night courses,” says Dr. Zerbe. “Students might meet a greater variety of people in a night course, like older working professionals. This variety can provide valuable perspectives that a student might not get in a day class, and it might provide…networking opportunities for internships and jobs.”

Dr. Kurowski believes the change in atmosphere on campus at night lends itself especially well to creatives, something Javier Pioquinto and the other burgeoning filmmakers in Wolf Hall are realizing every Tuesday night. “It’s a different vibe… at night,” he says. “There’s a benefit of relaxation and quiet on campus that can be more freeing for art production, contemplation, and writing.” That relaxation and quiet can shake “students…out of their habitual ways of thinking, which can help learning happen.”