Revive J-Term to Celebrate Curiosity and Offer Students Unique Experiences

Every January, students return from a long winter recess to old and new friends, academic endeavors and experiences. In my experience, the excitement is palpable. However, the slog of winter weather and the acceleration of coursework quickly ensues. We are back on the metaphorical gerbil wheel. One does not have to look beyond our institution’s own history for a distinctly different and enriching post-holiday re-entry. 

For a 25-year period from the mid-60s to the late 80s, Colgate’s academic calendar included a mini semester roughly spanning the month of January. Known as “J-Term” or “Jan-Plan,” the program was unique in its length and beyond. Students were tasked with enrolling in one course or equivalent, earning 1 credit for the month. Course offerings were often more unorthodox and exploratory in nature compared to the unique offerings in the FSEM selection. Alternatively, students were awarded a credit to complete an experience beyond the classroom such as a professor-led educational trip, professional internship or independent study. 

Roughly identical programs are currently employed by peer institutions such as Middlebury, Colby and Bates. I believe this program should be resurrected in a similar fashion at Colgate for a multitude of reasons, and its effects would further enhance the student experience and the collective spirit of the Colgate community. 

The most attractive characteristic of J-Term is the unique opportunities it would promise, sprouting from Colgate’s robust and accomplished community of students, faculty, and alumni. I feel that J-Term would bring these three groups together like never before.

Students could expand their academic perspective by embracing an intensive study of a distinct, inspiring course topic. Faculty would be given liberty to teach these outside-the-box courses. Additionally, alumni or parents could teach a class, as they now at Middlebury. These courses would be especially spellbinding, with the alumni and parents teaching courses rooted in their personal expertise gained in the professional world. Furthermore, this would allow some faculty to utilize the month outside of the classroom for scholarly research, a trip with students or another experience. 

A program such as this would produce a special blend of learning and experiences for students, faculty, and alumni. Absent of the typical four-class schedule, students would be able to focus on one specific course as well as more capably relish the experiences that Colgate, the Village and surrounding area offer. Getting off the gerbil wheel promises to enrich the student experience and community as a whole. 

Beyond Colgate’s campus, J-Term would grant students the independence to craft an equally empowering experience. Students could harness Colgate’s alumni network for a month-long internship in a sector of interest. This opportunity would be significant in providing a more complete experience than a shadow day. 

Additionally, students would be able to pursue a professional experience on top of the traditional summer internship, learning closely with an alumnus and earning some spending money to boot. Aside from an internship, students could propose an independent study, approved by a faculty member, to explore an area of interest not offered in the academic or professional realm. 

This opportunity would further expand the dynamic opportunities of J-Term and given the curiosity of the student body, I think there would be no shortage of fascinating and fruitful experiences to come from it.

J-Term would promise a special opportunity for students in bringing the Colgate community together for unique academic and professional pursuits and an overall inspiring month on and off-campus. Let’s harness the impeccable resources present in the Colgate community to propel curiosity and experience. Bring back J-Term.