A different approach to education

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Every January, St. Mary’s College of California’s campus is emptier than normal and filled with talk about operas, bikes, films and culture.

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Students study outside of the St. Mary's College campus.
During the first month of the year, St. Mary’s has what is called January Term. This is a short term between their two main semesters where students take a course that is simply of interest to them.

“January Term at Saint Mary’s College is our special opportunity to explore what traditional semesters cannot so boldly accomplish,” states the January Term booklet. “In Jan Term we go beyond the standard curriculum and its constraints to offer courses and events that allow all of us to engage tradition in new ways, to forward new ideas, to explore topics in great detail and to provide for flexible inquiry challenging the ordinary.”

It offers classes that pique interest and wouldn’t normally be offered. Some of these courses include café culture, creating true peace, exploring fairy tales, event planning and even Sundance Film Festival where students get to travel to Utah during the annual event.

Michael Montafi, vice president of student affairs with the Associated Students of Saint Mary’s College (ASSMC), the student government organization at the College, and a senior at St. Mary’s studying politics, took Jan Term to study things that were of interest to him.

“Freshman year I did one on opera,” Montafi said. “The next year I did one on the Holocaust and we had a professor that is a former Hitler Youth who is writing a book with a Holocaust survivor. Then my junior year I took a course on the history of the bicycle.”

January Term is also a prime time for students to be able to study abroad.

“St. Mary’s really encourages students to study abroad,” said Freddie Silveria, president of the Associated Students Executive Council. “I went and studied abroad in Tonga and studied environmental change. Jan Term allows you to go away and experience something outside your major for a month, and that’s really cool.”

This term is set aside to help students gain a more well-rounded education and be able to take classes for pure enjoyment rather than requirement.

“In Jan Term it really lets you broaden your horizons and become a more well rounded person with your education,” Silveria said.

 

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