J-Term Brings Remarkable Experiences

For three weeks in January, Drake’s classrooms stretched from Des Moines to the Bahamas, the Galapagos Islands, and Ghana, as well as to Poland, Austria, and London. These locations and many others were the destinations of Drake’s inaugural January Term (J-Term) offerings, in which students devoted three weeks to in-depth study of a single subject, often on location.

During J-Term, 25 students traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the presidential inauguration under the guidance of Rachel Paine Caufield, associate professor of politics. They also worked with national leaders and scholars, conducted fieldwork assignments, met with professionals in their fields, blogged, and created a culminating documentary.

“Throughout our time in Washington, D.C., Drake alumni were all very willing to meet with us and explain what it is like to start a career and live in the nation’s capital,” writes Lucas Mueller, a junior actuarial science and finance double major, on the group’s blog. He noted that Drake alumnus Zachary Nunn, as’02, director of cybersecurity policy for the National Security Council, arranged for the class to go bowling in the White House’s Truman Bowling Alley.

“For me personally,” says Mueller, “this was an amazing experience that I will never forget.”

In another popular offering, students served as crew on the Liberty Clipper, a 125-foot schooner, while being mentored in leadership by Tom Westbrook, professor of education. The students spent two weeks in the classroom learning leadership attributes and the technical aspects of sailing, and then practiced what they learned while exploring the Bahamas Out Islands for six days.

For junior health sciences major Sarah Mooney and her watch team, a swiftly moving storm provided one of many tangible lessons in leadership. “The winds were blowing like crazy, waves were crashing up over the boat,” says Mooney. “We had to act fast and deal with the situation, because the storm wasn’t going anywhere. It was an incredibly pertinent leadership lesson because when you encounter an unexpected obstacle, it’s important that you react in a calm but efficient manner to transcend the obstacle, whatever it may be.”

Other J-Term courses took place closer to home—such as producing the musical Chicago, studying the biology of winter, and building and programming robots. But all offerings took advantage of the ability to accomplish much in a compressed, intensive time frame.

“With J-Term, there are a lot of things that you can try that you might not be able to do in the regular semester,” says Arthur Sanders, the Ellis and Nelle Levitt Professor of Politics and associate provost. “J-Term allows us the opportunity to offer those kinds of choices.”

—Jill Brimeyer

Take a trip with J-Term

Whether it meant immersing in consumer culture on the streets of Krakow, Poland; engaging Ghanaian children in learning games; building specialized robots; or chatting up luminaries at an inaugural ball; Drake’s 2013 J-Term students had a full semester’s worth of learning and adventure in just three weeks.

Many J-Term students and professors created photo galleries, blogs, or video to mark these educational journeys. Below are just a few highlights.

Leadership at Sea—Bahamas
This Tumblr gallery depicts Professor Tom Westbrook’s ’ J-Term adventure—teaching students to lead while they learn to command a tall-mast schooner in the Bahamas, tackle service projects, and even compete in (and win!) a Bahamian marathon.

International Advertising—Poland
Associate Professor Dorothy Pisarski blogs about her class’ first-hand, immersive experiences in the world of international advertising.

Presidential Inauguration—Washington, D.C.
Video by students in Associate Professor Rachel Paine Caufield’s J-Term class in Washington, D.C., offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the presidential inauguration experience.

The Washington, D.C., J-Term class chronicles their experience with photos, blogs, and additional video on the Drake in D.C. website.

Robot Programming and Control Theory—Des Moines
Associate Professor Michael Rieck’s video captures his students’ debut of their Lego Mindstorm NXT robots, which they created to solve programming and engineering challenges.

Avian Winter Ecology—Des Moines
A photo gallery highlights Assistant Professor Muir Eaton’s J-Term class as they learn to catch and handle birds, take measurements, and assess characteristics before banding and releasing them.

Education Opportunities for children Living in a Developing Country—Ghana, Africa
Numerous student videos serve as a travelogue for Associate Professor Jill Caton Johnson’s J-Term trek to Ghana, where students got plenty of hands-on time in and out of the classroom with young students.


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