Story by Molly Longman
Several faculty members and the provost at Drake University are working to make it possible for first-year students to participate in J-term.
For three weeks during the month of January, Drake’s campus is buzzing with students and faculty engaging in various extensive learning opportunities and participating in travel seminars.
First year students, however, are not included in J-term. For these students, winter break is extended to a seemingly endless seven-week period.
When asked to describe their prolonged winter break, first-years summed up their experience in three words: “Way too long.”
While home for break, most students get to hibernate for those seven weeks, but the bliss of Netflix binges and home cooking is soon overshadowed by boredom.
“Seven weeks is a long time,” first-year Caleb Potratz said. “If we had a shorter break it wouldn’t be so bad, but having to spend so long away from college made transitioning back into it hard.”
Some professors have noticed that the long break makes things harder for their first-year students when they arrive back on campus for spring term.
“If you have that long a break, and you’re not getting up at a regular hour, not studying and organizing like you have to here, it’s really hard to get back into the swing of things,” said Associate Dean of the School of Journalism and professor David Wright.
Wright teaches a journalism course which primarily consists of first-years, and in his role as faculty Senate president, he intends to work with the provost to figure out what Drake can offer for first-years during J-term.
Sophomore Phoebe Phillipson took the philosophy based J-term course, “Moral Fiction: Infinite Jest,” taught by Jennifer McCrickerd this year.
Phillipson said she was glad to get back to campus earlier and that the course was challenging but helped her get into the swing of things for the spring semester.
While almost everyone agrees it would be beneficial to include the first-year students in J-term, there are two factors halting the process.
For Associate Provost Arthur Sanders, it all comes down to cost and logistics.
Adding the first-year students to J-term will involve hiring more faculty and opening up more residence halls, and neither of these endeavors is cheap.
The second issue will be coordinating and engineering the registration process.
Registration for J-term 2015 will take place in April 2014, long before first-years arrive on campus. This early registration is necessary because early commitments and deposits for trips are crucial.
Depending on the financial health of the university, at the very earliest, J-term 2016 may be in the cards for future first-year students.