SHERMAN, TEXAS —While many college students around the nation were still enjoying holiday break, Austin College students were returning to campus January 4 to begin the college’s January Term. During the one-month session, students take only one course – allowing them an in-depth study of a particular topic and the opportunity to travel across the nation or around the world to better understand that topic.
This month, nearly 250 Austin College students and faculty are traveling internationally in January Term courses ranging from “Brazilian Ecosystems” to “Medicine and Healing Rituals in Chinese and Tibetan Traditions” to “London Theatre.” Students can be found in Argentina, Brazil, various regions of China, Costa Rica, Cozumel, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, and Singapore. Several courses focus on language acquisition and cultural experiences; others emphasize history, economics, or science.
Other students don’t go as far afield, but also take advantage of the insights and experiences travel adds to coursework. The “Leadership in a New Era” course took students to Washington, D.C., to witness the change of presidential leadership. Others studying the art of improvisation traveled to Chicago to work with professionals and attend improve performances at The Second City Comedy Theater and other venues. Additionally, a number of students travel to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, a Presbyterian Church retreat and education center where one-month courses are offered in subjects such as photography, painting, silversmithing, writing, museum studies, and cartooning.
Another opportunity provided by the one-course term is the opportunity to pursue career exploration through internships and on-site study. Nearly 100 students can be found throughout Texas and as far away as California, Washington, D.C., and New York, working alongside, doctors, lawyers, ministers, dentists, teachers, political leaders, journalists, physical therapists, veterinarians, business leaders, and psychologists, or exploring areas of event planning, retail management, human resources, non-profit organizations, equine therapy, marketing, investment, archaeology, and city planning. Another 18 students completed internships and individualized study in Australia, Chile, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Iran, Israel, New Zealand, Russia, and Uganda.
Not everyone is away from campus for January Term. Many students remain on campus and take courses that might be outside their usual area of study, in-depth exploration, or courses that simply require more time and intensity than is available to students during the regular term. The “Prairie Restoration” involves work to restore prairie vegetation to the college's Sneed Environmental Research Area. Lectures and discussions focus on tallgrass prairie ecology, the track record of land degradation by humans, consequences of prairie transformation, restoration objectives, restoration techniques, and ethical considerations in prairie restoration. Fieldwork involves actual restoration work at the Sneed property.
An additional 35 on-campus courses included, for example, “Art Games: Contemporary Art and Architecture in Context,” “The Brain and Behavior, “Cowboys, Cotton, and Oil? Understanding the Economics of Texoma and North Texas,” “Research Methods in Cellular and Molecular Biology,” “Religion in the Age of Reason,” “Hitler Meets Lola: German History and Culture Through Film,” “Political Science Fiction,” “Growing Up on Sesame Street: How Sesame Street Supports Children’s Development,” “Computing With Robots,” and “Ethno-Religious Nationalism in the Middle East.”
The January Term offers a different pace for students, but those on campus continue their emphasis on servant leadership. The College’s student-led Service Station hosts JanServe each year, taking students into the community for an afternoon of volunteer work at area service agencies and mentoring at area youth centers. This year, in keeping with current events, the students also scheduled an Inaugural Ball to mark the nation’s installation of a new president.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located just north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.