While winter and January may feel far off still, now is a good time to consider a decades-old St. Thomas tradition: January Term.

Known affectionately as J-Term, January for St. Thomas students represents a break between fall and spring semesters, and an opportunity to take advantage of any number of month-long options:

“I see J-Term as a great time for students to stay engaged with their college experience while also doing something a little different. Many students love J-Term classes because they like the concentrated study – focusing on only one subject intensely for the month,” said Wendy Wyatt, associate vice Provost for undergraduate studies.

“Of course, J-Term is a great way to experience study abroad. I’m a big fan of semester- and year-long programs, but many students who aren’t sure about study abroad find that a J-Term class is a great way to test the waters. I can’t tell you how many students have decided to pursue a longer experience after doing a J-Term course abroad.

“And J-Term is also a great time to work on co-curricular projects such as undergraduate research. Like faculty, students love the focused time to really get immersed in a project. When I was in Communication and Journalism [Department], I was seeing more short-term, project-based internships available for students. For some students, J-Term is a great time to pursue those.”

A long-standing tradition

St. Thomas is one of just four Minnesota universities or colleges to have J-Term, which has roots at the university dating back to the 1970s: Starting in 1975, noncredit, free classes were offered on everything from canoe building to meteorological education focused on the cold. Undergrads were required to complete two courses before they graduated (transfers only needed one and special projects could qualify as substitutes).

J-Term courses became for-credit starting in 1985 (they were originally offered as free before huge student enrollments forced them to be charged as regular credits by 1988). While some schools like St. John’s and St. Ben’s dropped J-Term in 2001, enrollment in St. Thomas January courses (especially study abroad) and other university programming grew throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

A buffet of options continues to buoy student engagement with the university over J-Term, helping bring life to Tommies – both on campus and abroad – over their winter break.

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