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2022 First-Year Experience (Pilot Program)

The purpose of the first-year J-Term experience is to help students apply reflective, experiential learning to achieve our mission: meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship. 

The first-year J-Term experience is a zero-credit opportunity that falls under the umbrella of J-Term.  J-Term at Drake University encompasses travel seminars, retreat experiences, and virtual courses as part of the first-year experience. 

J-Term begins on January 3, 2022, and ends on January 21, 2022. Each class will follow a different format within the J-Term period.

There is no tuition charge to first-year students for participation in the first-year J-term experience. Any experience-specific fees, such as travel costs, will be disclosed at course registration.

2022 Experiences (Courses)

The 2022 First-Year J-Term Experiences include 9 experiences.

Click the title to learn more, including the course description, meeting dates, cost, and instructor information.

Retreat Experience

Virtual Experiences

Travel Experiences - register through Terra Dotta

  • Ethical Chocolate: How does that cacao actually get into my chocolate bar? (Belize)

Every Bulldog a Changemaker

Learn about the inner workings of a local non-profit, Easter Seals Iowa, and various strategies to create change in this immersive experience held in Des Moines. Easter Seals provides exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in a summer camp experience in the winter, including bunking in the on-site cabins, eating camp-style, and enjoying the campgrounds (hiking, frisbee golf, rec center, game room).  You’ll learn from Easter Seals staff on how their organization engages in the various paths found in the Pathways for Civic Action and Social Change, including direct service, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and more; participate in service projects on site; and take part in hands-on experiences to gain empathy. The immersive experience will begin at Easter Seals late afternoon Wednesday, Jan. 19 and conclude the morning of Jan. 22. There will be one virtual meeting scheduled prior to the experience. Transportation, lodging, and meals are provided.

  • January 19 - 22
  • $35 non-refundable deposit; remaining program costs are donor supported
  • Students are subject to a disciplinary check
  • Instructor Amanda Martin
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2294 


Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid is the assistance offered to a person developing a mental health condition or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate support and treatment are received. The goals of Mental Health First Aid include: 1) preserve life when a person may be a danger to themselves or others, 2) provide help to prevent the problem from becoming more serious, 3) promote and enhance recovery, and 4) provide comfort and support. Mental Health First Aid teaches learners how to recognize symptoms of mental health conditions, how to offer and provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate professional resources.

  • Thursdays 1 - 4 PM
  • Instructor: Sarah Grady
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2298


Mindfulness: what, why, how?

Mindfulness and meditation practices have gained momentum in education. A growing body of research demonstrates that secular contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation have a positive impact on individuals’ mental and physical well-being, learning, as well as building a sense community and interconnectedness. Mindfulness practices support personal development, mental health and community feeling through increasing the capacity to concentrate even in the presence of internal and external distractions and help reducing stress and anxiety. The fast-paced nature and immense learning that takes place on our campus may leave us feel tired, disconnected, and overwhelmed. The purpose of this course is to introduce mindfulness, provide a space and facilitate a variety of mindfulness and meditation practices for students to explore ways to integrate mindfulness into their daily lives.

  • Tuesdays 10 AM - noon, Wednesdays 10 - 11 AM, & Thursdays 10 - 11 AM
  • Instructor Bengu Erguner-Tekinalp
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2291


Prevention Ambassador Training

Drake's commitment to providing a safe, inclusive and productive environment is a job for everyone. The Prevention Ambassador Training is a course that will allow students to take an active role in addressing sexual and dating violence prevention on campus. During this course we will unpack harmful social norms, the impact of safe environments, bystander education skills and how to facilitate prevention conversation with the broader campus community.

  • Two sections
    • Tuesdays 1:30 – 4 PM; Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2295
    • Wednesdays 9:30 AM – noon; Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2296
  • Instructor Lynne Cornelius


Social Change Leadership

Leadership development is a critical component of the college experience. In this seminar, students will dive into understanding their personal leadership style while also seeing how it fits into a group setting. Utilizing the Social Change Model Theory of Leadership, students will be introduced to the “7-C’s of Leadership” and will be able to define how to lead as an individual, in a group setting, and in the larger community.

  • Wednesdays 1 - 4 PM
  • Instructors Rudy Trejo & Lorissa Sowden
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2297


Unchain Your Motivation

Unchain Your Motivation will empower students to visualize their future success. By participating in Unchain Your Motivation, students will discover more about themselves, investigate WHY these goals motivate them to action.

  • January 10 - 14, 1-3 PM daily
  • Instructors Michelle Laughlin & Laura Shell
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2293


Unleashing Your Genius

Why do some people consistently achieve much greater success with less effort, while others - who work just as hard, are just as intelligent, and even work in the same environment - achieve much less? This course will uncover the data behind natural talents which have no statistically significant correlations between performance and any specific talents. The two acquired skill sets (Self-Awareness & Authenticity) will be promoted through this course with students better understanding their own natural talents and how to leverage them for success throughout college and life after.

  • Tuesdays 9 AM – Noon
  • Instructor Trent Grundmeyer
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2299


You DU Follow Through

College employers describe responsibility, accountability, and dependability as a crucial set of skills required for personal and professional success, but few college students find a system to practice this well. Instead, most students use complicated calendars, apps, and systems that leave them forgetful, burnout, and disorganized. Instead of using this haphazard approach, data suggest that implementing a simple system of routines and habits is crucial to creating an organized life, lowering stress, and staying focused. Join us for this interactive J-term experience to learn how you can become impeccably dependable as you develop set of “life admin” skills that ensures your calendar, to-do list, and daily routine can be trusted to match your priorities without fear of missed deadlines or commitments. Less stress, less hot mess? Come join us to learn how.

  • January 10 - 14, 10 AM – noon daily
  • Instructor Kristin Economos
  • Register on MyDUSIS using CRN 2292


Ethical Chocolate: How does that cacao actually get into my chocolate bar? (Belize travel course)

The Toledo district of Belize produces some of the finest chocolates in the world. In our trip to Belize, we will look at all stages of the production of chocolate. We go to the forest to see the tree that produces the cacao bean, we’ll see (and most importantly, taste)  the finished chocolate, and we’ll look at all the stages in between. We will also talk to people who are involved in the production of chocolate and learn how one organization ethically and sustainably treats both the ecosystem and the workers that produce chocolate. To provide context and contrast, we will visit other food production facilities in Belize including a large-scale banana plantation, an agro-forest, and small-scale farms.  We will meet with farmers and managers to learn the benefits and challenges of the different systems. To complement the experience, we will travel by boat to TIDE’s ranger station in the Payne’s Creek National Park as well as have fun exploring diverse ecosystems and participating in an array of adventure and cultural tours to experience Belize.

  • Students will depart from the Des Moines airport on Sunday, January 9 and return on Tuesday, January 18
  • Program price $3,890, including $500 non-refundable deposit
  • Students are subject to a disciplinary check
  • Instructors Dan Alexander & Deb DeLaet
  • Register through Terra Dotta  

Additional Information

Information for Students

Participating in the first-year J-Term experience gives students the opportunity to actively live out Drake’s mission while making a mark on their transcript. These virtual, travel, and retreat experiences provide students the opportunity to expand their academic profile.

Students can sign up for a maximum of two experiences, as long as there is no conflict with course meeting dates and times.

Course registration begins Thursday, September 9 @ 7 AM and will continue through Tuesday, September 21, or until classes are filled. To register for retreat or virtual experiences, follow these Instructions. To register for travel courses, apply via Terra Dotta.

These experiences are zero-credit, so they will not fulfill degree requirements, including Areas of Inquiry. However, they will be included on your Drake University transcript.

With the 2022 first-year J-Term experiences being offered virtually and through travel courses, on-campus housing will not be available to first-year students during the J-Term experience.



Course Proposal Information for Faculty & Staff

Drake University faculty and staff are invited to submit course proposals for the first-year J-Term experience to help students apply reflective, experiential learning to achieve our institutional mission.

Each FY J-Term course should focus on one pillar of the university's mission: responsible global citizenship, meaningful personal lives, or professional accomplishments. Each course should actively engage students for about 10 contact hours. The structure of the course is adaptable and can be determined by the instructor to fit the needs of the class and material.

Course proposals are being accepted until August 6. Course proposals will be reviewed, and instructors will be notified of their proposal status by August 21. All instructors are asked to saved the date for a mandatory instructor development session and the information fair on Tuesday, September 7 from 4:30 - 6 PM.

Qualtrics Course Proposal Form

FYE J-Term Proposal Form (viewing only)

Questions about the first-year J-term experience can be directed to Laura Shell (


Questions about the first-year J-Term experience can be directed to Laura Shell (

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