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J-Term: From the traditional to the quirky

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Graphic novels. Wedding planning. Western Feng Shui.

For students returning to campus after winter break, these are just a few of the unique course offerings of the January Term (J-Term).

The J-Term, an optional three-week session sandwiched between fall and spring semesters, is an opportunity for students to squeeze in a few extra credits or zero in on a unique topic or experience. This year, 1,980 students are enrolled in J-Term, 75 percent of the total spring semester enrollment. Mercyhurst, now in its second year using the 4-1-4 academic calendar, is the only regional university to offer a J-Term.

Course offerings change annually. In addition to more traditional courses like art appreciation and human biology, J-Term includes a number of niche courses for students looking to pursue specific or quirky interests in an academic context.

“Our goal during J-Term is to provide students with unique opportunities,” said Michele Wheaton, assistant vice president for academic services. “Faculty have been incredibly creative in coming up with course topics this year.”

The offerings under the umbrella of Literary Studies (ENG 200) and Philosophical Studies (PHIL 150) have been especially inspired, Wheaton added, leading to classes titled Reading the Riot Act, Institutional Sociopathology, Film and Philosophy and Happiness.

Other one-of-a-kind classes include a math applications class on baseball analytics; Apocalypse to Zombies, a Religious Studies course on apocalyptic literature; and a behind-the-scenes course looking at natural history museums from educational, management and legal perspectives (field trips included).

Students also have the opportunity to pursue international trips through the Faculty-Led Study Abroad program (FSAT), with about 145 students traveling this month. Most programs include a week or two on campus followed by a study-abroad trip with a faculty member. FSAT class offerings include Narrative, Film & Spanish Civil War in Spain, Learning Guyana/Society and Culture in Guyana, Aquatic Ecology in Belize, and volcano study in Costa Rica, as well as courses in Ireland, Portugal, Haiti and France.

The condensed time frame – the term lasts Jan. 5 to 23 – usually means classes meet daily. But for those hoping to study dance appreciation in Paris, or differentiate slugging percentage and on-base percentage for their favorite baseball team, there’s no better time to do it.