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J-Term finally finalized for next year

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Winter break of 2013 is going to be 45 days long. After all of the hot cocoa drinking, sledding and holiday celebrating, Drake students are going to be looking for something else to fill their time. J-Term offers the perfect opportunity to fill up long winter breaks with required classes, fun AOIs and study abroad experiences.

The J-Term fair, held Feb. 29, gave the faculty a chance to promote their classes and the students a chance to sample their options for next year.

Many other schools have additional academic terms, like a January Term or similar May Term. These give students the option to take unusual classes they wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to take, like a skiing class at MIT or a Hawaiian food preparation class at Illinois Wesleyan. Drake goes above and beyond by offering travel experiences like a trip to the Galapagos Islands or a trek across central Europe following the timeline of classical music.

“These are a good way to fit in a class you wouldn’t have access to during the school year.” first-year Amber Gurican said.

The travel, or off-campus, programs are the only ones that require extra fees — tuition for the next academic year has already been adjusted to accommodate on-campus classes in the new term. Other than room and board, all fees for the class are already built in. According to junior Austin Cooke, that’s the best part of J-Terms. He sees them as “a great opportunity for extra credits. Plus, you’ve already paid for it.”

Several of these classes also offer a service-learning component, fulfilling the Experiential Learning AOI. This hands-on learning was often why each professor felt so passionate about his or her course. Because the J-Term courses are more specific and customized, like Urban Poverty in Des Moines instead of a general sociology class, the professors are able to teach a subject matter that they personally enjoy and get excited about.

Arthur Sanders, associate provost of curriculum assessment, has been basically running this whole program. He has worked hand-in-hand with Student Senate and Faculty Senate to determine what courses should be offered, when and how. He helped create what he calls the Drake Curriculum Task Force, which looks at general curriculum and how it accommodates the students. The task force polled a group of random students and determined that there was interest in a possible J-Term.

After long meetings of the January Implementation Task Force and its numerous subcommittees, the faculty and Sanders came up with 30-40 courses that the students had interest in taking and the faculty had interest in teaching. He says that much of the credit goes to faculty members, as many of them have had experience either taking or teaching J-Term courses at other schools and are genuinely excited to see the program get off the ground.

Sanders also mentioned that despite their organization, a lot of the efforts to create a J-Term have been more casual, partially because of how fast the entire process must take place. There was an initial registration request period between March 1-8 and then a secondary registration period from March 9-15 where students were informed if their desired class was too full or empty and given a chance to sign up for an alternate class. As soon as class lists are finalized, they will be sent to the housing department.

Sanders is glad things are getting off the ground and proceeding so swiftly, and has high hopes for the J-Term this year and in years to come.

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