January Term 2012 courses offer learning in ‘less familiar settings’

Jan. 9, 2012
Contact: Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

“Every student's program of study centers on the familiar work of classroom and laboratory, library and studio. Yet important learning also takes place in less familiar settings, where the student is called upon to adapt to a new environment, to act without one's customary support system, to develop trust in one's own resources of intelligence and discipline. It is to encourage that kind of learning, so critical to personal maturity, that the College makes available a variety of special programs.”

So reads a portion of the Maryville College catalog that explains the College’s attitude toward learning by experience. In a nutshell, it’s vital to a student’s education. And January Term is a great time for students to earn experiential learning credits.

Classes during this three-week academic session occur between the fall and spring semesters and typically begin on the Monday following New Year's Day. Since the length of the term is compressed, classes are longer and more frequent (generally between 9 a.m. and noon each day) for more intense and concentrated study.

Students enroll in one course during J-Term and usually earn three credit hours, which are applied toward the 60 credit hours needed to fulfill general education requirements. Off-campus trips scheduled as part of course syllabi can last an afternoon or two weeks and can take students places as near as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or as far away as South Africa.

During J-Term, freshmen are required to enroll in First-Year Seminar 130: Perspectives on the Environment. In this course, students, in classroom and field settings, explore how human beings have changed and adapted the local environment of the Southern Appalachians and how human beings have used environmental resources in the development of their culture.

Seniors often take the opportunity during J-Term to enroll in Ethics 490: Philosophical and Theological Foundations of Ethical Thought. A senior capstone, interdisciplinary course, ETH490 asks students to consider the ethical dimension of the human experience, including historic and contemporary ethical frameworks designed to engage the students' ethical stances.

Experiential education courses vary

What about sophomores and juniors? A variety of courses are open to them. “The History of Latin America Through Food.” “Career Development and Life Planning.” “Wilderness First Aid.” “Tile Making.” “Wildlife Photography.”

Students enrolled in Preston Fields’ “Action to Advocacy: Exploring Theory and Practice of Community Engagement” J-Term course will prepare for – and participate in – a project that aims to count every homeless person (sheltered and unsheltered) in Blount County on Jan. 26.

“The ‘Point in Time Count (PITC) is mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to determine the amount of federal funding that each county receives for homeless support and programming,” Fields explained, adding that communities across the country will be engaged in similar projects on Jan. 26. “We will be the primary volunteers assisting the Tennessee Coalition to End Homelessness for the PITC in Blount County.”

Students enrolled in “Action to Advocacy” also will be required to contribute 20 hours of community service at the Maryville Housing Authority, Family Promise or the Blount County Community Action Agency.

Fields, director of community engagement at the College, also requires students to attend “reflection sessions” and complete a final reflection group project.

Kim Trevathan, assistant professor of writing and communication, will have 15 students reflect on out-of-doors experiences and record them in story, essay or poem. His “Words and the Land” J-Term course includes “offsite excursions” to places like White Oak Sinks, Fort Loudon and the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.

“We also learn about nature writing by doing a bit of reading. Though this is mainly a course geared toward the facilitation of creative writing, we borrow information and approaches from many different subject areas – biology, ecology, folklore, history, sociology, ethics, literature, speech, psychology, meteorology, business, and political science/public policy,” he said.

Two groups enjoy J-Term abroad

There are also two study abroad options for J-Term 2012. One trip, “Celtic Connections with Appalachia,” takes students to England, Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland to experience the culture, history and geography of the area and recognize the influence that the Scots-Irish have had on Southern Appalachia. Led by Dr. Lori Schmied and Dr. Paul Threadgill, the tour takes students to major international cities such as London and Dublin but also makes stops at a former mining village, castles and the walled city of Chester.

“Culture and Service in Southern Africa” follows in the footsteps of famous explorer, missionary and humanitarian David Livingstone. The tour, led by Dr. Scott Brunger and Dr. Ariane Schratter, begins in Johannesburg, South Africa, and travels to Zambia and Botswana, where students will take an African safari, visit Victoria Falls and camp and hike throughout Southern Africa. The group will also focus on children’s needs in the African country due to impoverishment and volunteer in schools and orphanages.