By Sadie Gibson
At LaGrange College, the Interim, or “JanTerm” is a month-long period between the Fall and Spring Semesters that allows students to take courses outside of their major studies and even travel abroad. The period offers a less stressful time of the year because for many courses students can choose pass/fail credit, and they don’t have to worry about the maintenance of other course assignments. They can also choose to go outside of their own interests and explore topics that can open their minds to new ideas and subjects that were unavailable at high school, home, or in their majors.
Students may find that these new experiences may open up interests they never knew they had, or they may discover that these courses enhance their major. Lizzy Clements, for example, is a senior Musical Theatre major. She took a course on computers and music during the Interim her freshman year. The course taught her how to code sounds on the computer and operate software like GarageBand to create original pieces of music.
“This class gave me a new perspective of music and how it is created,” Lizzy says. “It allowed me to meet faculty in the Music Department I wouldn’t normally take classes from and the skills I learned I learned have helped me to compose an original musical I will be performing for my senior thesis project.”
In addition to the JanTerm being an opportunity for students to pursue their interests, faculty are also given the chance to teach courses that they would not be able to teach in the Fall or Spring. Dr. Amanda Plumlee is using the upcoming JanTerm to teach a course called “More Than Just Pets,” which will focus on the gift of the human-animal bond and our culture’s responsibility to take better care of animals and the planet we share with them.
“This is something very near and dear to my heart,” Dr. Plumlee says. “I think animals enrich our lives and I’ve been fascinated with this topic for as long as I can remember. I get excited about this because I think we should be aware of how blessed we are to have these four-legged beings in our lives.
On-campus courses are only part of the Interim experience. Study-away courses to all parts of the world focus on service, history, art, or sports. Students can use their travel voucher or apply for scholarships to make their dreams of studying abroad a reality.
For Dr. David Ahearn, this will be the fourth year to lead a study-away course to the Philippines. The course will allow students to do service work in impoverished communities through the United Methodist organization Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, a non-profit that works to provide job training, nutrition, and education to the people of these slums. Students will work closely with the social workers and church organizations as well as the people they serve and get the chance to form close relationships due to English being a common language in the Philippines. The course has a second phase that takes students to some of the most bio-diverse coral reefs in the world and gives them the chance to see them up close through scuba diving.
“The reason I have this second phase is if you think about if someone came to America and only saw slum in Chicago, you would tell them to see Yosemite or the Grand Canyon,” Dr. Ahearn says. “The people of the Philippines are very proud of their country and want us to see how beautiful it is. The people in these slums used to live in fishing villages and farms, very close to nature. I want the students to see where they came from.”
Dr. Ahearn also described the Interim as a personal and academic “adventure” because the on campus and study away courses take students to places beyond their comfort zone and experiment with people, ideas, or even food that they are unfamiliar with. In a world that is continually becoming more globalized, the JanTerm can give the skills and mindset they need to live in this world.
“We can either run from this global environment or embrace it by developing skills that allow us to succeed.” Dr. Ahearn says.
The interim is a unique time of year that offers exploration and adventure without the stress of other courses or academic obligations. Whether it is learning about how other cultures treat animals versus our own, creating original musical compositions through computer software, or making bonds with people from halfway around the world, the Interim offers students a chance to explore new ideas and according to Dr. Sarah Beth Mallory, Associate Provost, is not something students should take for granted.
“The Interim is a time when students and faculty can focus on just one thing,” says
Dr. Mallory. “It’s a chance to branch out and broaden interests. It is a gift for students to have time to have new experiences with their peers that they should take advantage