New 'J-term' offers exciting course options
By Anne Bromley
Students have new choices. They might visit Florence and gaze at Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel ceiling and other Renaissance masterpieces, or talk face-to-face with Angela M. Davis and Michael J. Smith, co-chairpersons of U.Va.’s Commission on Diversity and Equity, or explore Pueblo ruins in northwestern New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. They might also focus on the modern visual arts — drama, film or singing — or delve into current events from Virginia politics to nation-building in Iraq.
Whatever they choose, undergraduates have a bevy of new ways to spend the latter half of their winter break in January, thanks to a new program, the January Term or “J-term,” developed by the provost’s office. Implementation of the J-term has required a hybrid collaboration involving the Summer Session office, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the International Studies office.
Intensive two-week courses are being offered Jan. 3 through 14 with a heavy emphasis on creative engagement through faculty-student contact and small-group seminar or lab experience. Similar to summer session, many of the J-term courses are worth three credits — that’s 40 contact hours — or the equivalent of a semester-long class.
“These [classes] are new and spectacular,” said J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, who oversees the pilot program. The special J-term courses will allow students to study topics they might not otherwise be able to fit in their schedules, as they fulfill their major
requirements. Likewise, faculty may be able to teach new concepts or methods that wouldn’t necessarily work in their other courses, Adams said.
Not every class lends itself to the condensed format of meeting four hours per day for 10 days. Not every course proposal was accepted, he said. The focus is meant to give faculty a unique opportunity to be creative and experimental and to give the students a taste of what research is like or how to synthesize information and ideas through interdisciplinary scholarship.
File photo / Rebecca Arrington
|The Grounds will be busier this winter with the start of the University’s new J-term, an intensive two weeks of courses, which will be in session Jan. 3 through 14.
Adams and others are convinced that students will have a great time, but Dudley Doane, who directs the Summer Session office and is managing the J-term, added a cautionary note: “This program is not for the faint-hearted.”
Because having the University in session between semesters has implications for many units, Doane heads an operations committee that is planning for the kinds of services that will be needed, such as some in Student Affairs, Student Financial Services and Housing, to name a few. Students who reside in University housing during the fall and spring semesters may use their University residence during J-term.
Both tuition for a J-term course and faculty salaries are based on summer school rates, Doane said, and financial aid is available. The fee for in-state students is $522 for a three-credit course, and $2,232 for an out-of-state student. Faculty pay is based on full-term salary and rank. J-term courses require departmental as well as school
The program provides a way for undergraduates to work intensely with senior faculty, Adams said. Although the bulk of courses approved so far are in humanities, all faculty and schools are invited to submit proposals, he said. New courses are still being added to the 17 on the roster. (See the list on the Web site at www.virginia.edu/januaryterm.)
With short overseas trips arranged, Adams said the J-term also helps the University address its goal of having more students study abroad. The Renaissance art course in Italy filled up immediately.
As part of its periodic curriculum review, a committee in Arts & Sciences recommended the idea of offering students, including those in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program, this new enrichment component. The J-term does not take the place of the required number of hours for full-time students each spring semester. Some programs, like the course in Valencia, can be counted toward a student’s major.
The students’ registration period is Nov. 29 through Dec. 10, except for the study abroad courses for which registration has already taken place.