by KYLE CLOSE
Between the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, the University of Mary Washington is offering students a chance to take something that has not been offered by the university before: a January term. The January term or J-Term will start on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 and run through Friday, Jan. 22, with grades due on Tuesday Jan. 26. The short, three-week semester will not only give students the chance to pick up credits during the winter break, but will allow students to do so by taking classes that are unique to the J-Term and not offered at any other time during the spring, summer or fall semesters. In total there will be thirty classes offered throughout the university, representing a wide range of topics from Movies and Management to Cryptocurrency and Philosophy.
Some professors will be teaching classes during the J-Term they have not taught before. Of the four professors interviewed who are teaching this J-Term, all four are teaching their classes for the first time. Dr. Alexandra Dunn, a professor in the College of Business, is teaching BUAD 471 Movies and Management. For the class, Dunn wants to take the opportunity that the J-Term provides to “try something different and unique” and “to give students the opportunity to see the management material and theories come to life through film,” she said.
The material and theories from the movies students watch will further be explored through student-led discussions, as well as group work and individual assignments. Even though movies help make up the material for the class, students will still need to be prepared to put in the work with the rigor that comes from a 3-credit class. “My motto going into this class is, work hard, play hard. We are going to have fun watching movies, but I still will have high expectations for my students like I always do. I think it will be a blast,” said Dunn.
From the College of Business to the College of Arts and Sciences, the J-Term is a chance to catch up on credits and explore topics or ideas students have been wanting to dig deeper into. One class will let students explore some of life’s biggest questions, all in three weeks: Dr. Joe Romero, a classics, philosophy and religion professor, is teaching CPRD 100D Three Big Questions: Love, Death, Justice. “The humanities are a great place to ask the big questions. Imagine taking three weeks of your life to test what you think you know about love, death, and justice? Who knows? You might even end up a little wiser,” he said.
As a two-credit class, the workload will be about 30 percent less than it normally is.“I love the focused concentration we can give these topics in three weeks. That we can do so with variable credits (in this case, two , not three) lets us meet enough to be engaging and meaningful but not so much as to burn us out before the spring term,” said Romero.
In a similar vein to Dunn’s class, Dr. Jennifer Barry, a professor of classics, philosophy and religion, is teaching RELG 231 Podcasting Religious Studies 101. The asynchronous class will work through the podcast “Keeping it 101,” which labels itself as “a killjoy’s introduction into religion.” According to the course description, “the podcast will help initiate class discussions on topics such as, Who gets left out of religion? And What does it mean to be religious?”
According to Barry, “RELG231 will also serve as an introduction to what the Religious Studies degree has to offer…. Assignments will help students navigate the variety of courses available in the Religious Studies program as well as spotlight our fantastic faculty.”
Professors are taking the J-Term as an opportunity to be creative in the content discussed and the flexibility offered. If, for years, a student has been hearing about Bitcoin or blockchains and finally wants to discover more about them, then they will be in luck and in good company as Dr. Michael Reno is teaching CPRD100F Cryptocurrency/Blockchain and Philosophy. Like Reno’s current classes, CPRD100F will “largely be discussion based using Zoom and Slack” and will discuss questions like, “What is money? How should we organize the economy? Can we use blockchain technology to solve issues which crop up in democracies, like ensuring voting is accessible and vote counting is transparent?” Reno said. Students do not need any prior knowledge or experience with cryptocurrency or philosophy to take the 2-credit class.