Snow and bone-chilling temperatures did not deter nearly 50 Trinity undergraduates from participating in a new program that offered innovative half-credit courses during the hiatus between New Year’s and the start of the spring semester.
The J-Term, or January Term, which was approved by the faculty in April 2013, was launched as part of a three-year pilot program to assess campus interest in nontraditional classes held during the winter recess. The classes required students to attend for 20 hours to receive the half credit.
Six courses were offered, including “Culture, Conflict and Competition,” taught by Robin Sheppard, professor of physical education; “The Godfather: Art of Hard Choices,” taught by John Alcorn, principal lecturer in language and culture studies; and “Reproductive Justice in America,” taught by Theresa Morris, professor of sociology.
From the outset, the goal was to have a minimum of six courses, a threshold that was met. “The enrollment is very good for the first year,” said Associate Academic Dean Sonia Cardenas. She said administrators intend to evaluate the program–from the perspectives of both the faculty and students–to see how it can be improved and possibly expanded. “But,” she added, “48 students is a pretty healthy number for the first run.”
One of the benefits of offering a course during the J-Term is the flexibility in scheduling. Professors are able to configure the hours any way they choose. For example, some courses met two hours a day over the two weeks, while others gathered for four hours a day for one week.
Morris said she enjoyed participating in the J-Term in ways that she didn’t anticipate, including having a closer relationship with students that is more difficult to replicate during the regular semesters.
“Meeting for an abbreviated number of days but for longer stretches of time during those days really fosters a more intimate class environment,” Morris said. “I feel like I have gotten to know the students much more quickly than is possible in a seminar that takes place over a longer time period. This includes having discussions in which there are no right answers and on which not everyone agrees. Teaching a J-Term course has been quite fun, and I think the students are enjoying it as well.”