The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Students head beyond campus for J-term

By Noah Westreich

Though Macalester no longer has academic requirements for January term, known around the college as “J-term,” many students use the time to supplement their transcripts and perspectives with study trips and independent study projects. In the past decade, the number of independent study projects has decreased by over 50 percent, from 167 projects in 2001, down to 86 in 2011. However, the popularity of independent study projects jumped in the past year, from 73 in 2010 to 86 this January. Thirty-three students had internships this J-term, and 41 students studied away through the college.

“Students benefit greatly from a time to concentrate on one activity for an exclusive period of time,” Registrar Jayne Niemi said.

Niemi, a Macalester graduate herself, recalled what was then called ‘intersession’ as a much-welcomed time to concentrate on a single course.

In recent years, the number of Macalester-sponsored J-term study away trips has fluctuated. Some academic departments lead annual or semiannual trips, such as Classics and Psychology. Niemi said that dire economic times and the busy personal lives of faculty mean students are seeing less and less J-term study away offerings, although the number of trips that go varies from year to year.

“J-term trips are not the easiest things to set up, so it’s a function of how much time, energy, and willingness a particular faculty has to plan one,” Niemi said.

Macalester used to operate on a 4-1-4 calendar, which required students to take four courses during fall semester, one course during intersession, and four courses during spring semester. As changes were made to graduation requirements and the college calendar, the number of courses offered on campus during J-term decreased until the intersession requirement was phased out.

Joey Frankl ’14, studied away during J-term in Egypt and Italy with the Classics department. The program, offered annually for two credits, is designed to expose students to the history of Rome and Alexandria, two Mediterranean cities famous for their historical significance. When not studying the cities with the group, students had free time for exploration and interaction with locals. The trip is also a way for Frankl, and other possible Classics majors to get involved with the department, and plants the seeds for a semester abroad later on.

The Hispanic Studies department and the Civic Engagement Center offered a one-credit study trip called “New Orleans J-Term Cultural Survival Seminar.” In New Orleans, students met with community groups and activists to learn about the recovery process following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Co-chair of the Macalester chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), Skyler Larrimore ’12, became interested in the trip because of the opportunity to learn and understand the roles that community groups and activists play in their societies.

“One week was a short time but it was just enough to appreciate how different New Orleans is from the rest of the United States,” Larrimore said.

Other students took a more individual approach to earning credit during J-term. John Bennett ’14 produced and starred in a one-man show. The show, “So, I Killed a Few People,” revolved around a convicted serial killer on death row whose court-approved last wish is to perform his life story in front of an audience.

“I rehearsed with my director and friend, Peter Noss, every day during J-Term except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, December 26th, and New Years Eve,” Bennett said.

Along with the many rehearsals and performances, John earned his credit by keeping a journal and speaking regularly with his adviser in the Theater department. The show was performed four times throughout the month of January at Comedy Sportz Theater in Uptown Minneapolis.

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