KINGSTON, R.I. – February 20, 2014 – The University of Rhode Island quadrupled the number of students it expected to enroll in its very first Winter J Term, which ran for a two-week period in January.
“We were hoping to enroll between 100 and 150 students,” said Dean Libutti, vice provost for enrollment management. “Instead, we enrolled 404 students and even had to turn some students away as our classes were at capacity. It was a great success thanks to a campus-wide effort and we look forward to growing and expanding our J Term offerings in the future.”
Even more impressive than the numbers were the reactions to the program. Ninety-five percent of students polled said they agreed or strongly agreed that the J Term was a positive experience. And 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend J Term courses as a way to get ahead.
“This was the best class I could’ve ever taken,” said one survey respondent. “I will definitely consider J Term again next year.”
“(Communication Studies Lecturer) Mark August was amazing, the class helped me improve so much, and the longer class times helped me learn better. I am so glad I did this,” said another responder.
And a graduate student commented: “I love the opportunity to earn credits in such a short period of time. It really lightened my schedule for spring semester, which as a busy graduate student, is a huge benefit. I am very happy with my participation in URI’s J Term.”
The J Term offered 21 undergraduate- and graduate-level on-campus, online and 9 travel courses. Provost Donald DeHayes said the Winter J Term was designed to provide students with a range of academic opportunities, from getting a chance to complete a prerequisite before the spring semester, to catching up on a needed general education course, or traveling internationally to learn new subject matter not possible within the confines of the traditional classroom or academic semesters.
The concept of a new winter term began two years ago when a group of faculty approached the Provost’s Office with the idea of creating new, exciting educational opportunities for students during the winter session. Developed by Libutti, and a team of faculty and staff from across the institution, the rollout of the Winter J Term concept was officially announced to faculty members last May.
The 404 students enrolled in the program broke down this way: 35 graduate students, 158 seniors, 79 juniors, 82 sophomores and 50 freshmen. Ninety-three students studied abroad.
“Students who took classes in person or studied abroad said being able to focus daily on one course really helped them learn the course content and helped foster stronger connections to other students and faculty,” Libutti said.
Kelly Watts, faculty-led education abroad programs coordinator, said students might have selected J Term study abroad experiences because of internships, job commitments, or academic requirements they have to meet during regular semesters.
“During our pre-departure orientations, a significant number of seniors said this was the last time they would have the chance to study abroad,” Watts said. “In their evaluations, students said they loved being with the local people, eating the local food. They said all of the things students say about standard study abroad programs, along with the greater connection to URI faculty.”
Watts said four students who went to Belize talked about their experiences during a returning students program Feb. 6. “They could not stop talking about places they went, people they met, and the things they experienced. It sounded like they had been there for months. Even a short duration trip can have a lasting impression on students.”
Peter Carellini, a first-year film media student, joined eight students in Belize for a Winter J Term program.
Photo by Kile Stetson.