Spring Term Means Unusual Learning Opportunities
Spring Term at Alma College means the exploration of important
cultural sites in China, the restoration of a Jewish Holocaust cemetery
in Poland, an analysis of ethnic politics in Scotland, and the study of
medieval literature in London.
It also means a mathematical investigation of the fourth dimension, cultural trips to Chicago and New York City, heart health fairs for Gratiot County sixth graders, and a musical theatre performance of “The Threepenny Opera.”
Spring Term at Alma, this year scheduled for April 29 through May 24, is a one-month immersion in a single academic topic that offers learning experiences not typically available during the more traditional 15-week fall and winter terms.
“A lot of colleges have January or May terms, but I am not aware of any other college as committed to May Term as we are in making singular course content interesting and innovative for our students,” says John Ottenhoff, associate provost and English professor. “For me, there is an intensity about Spring Term that I really enjoy. I can meet with students every day and have sustained discussions.
“For example, when I go to London with students, we’re meeting together every day, traveling together, going to plays together, and talking about what we saw,” he says. “It’s not just about the academic experience; it’s the whole immersion together on a single topic. It’s the sense of faculty and students living and learning together that is seen as unusual by others but is important to us.”
Ottenhoff, like many Alma faculty members, has taught several Spring Term trips over the years. He takes students to London and Stratford-upon-Avon every other year for in-depth study of Shakespeare’s plays in performance.
“Spring Term fits into the whole ethos of Alma College,” says Ottenhoff. “We don’t have to urge faculty to teach their expected Spring Term course every other year; they are eager to do it. Our students are required to take two Spring Term courses, but many take three.”
For many students, a Spring Term travel course is the first time they have traveled overseas.
“I’ve had students take their first plane trip to London, and it has whet their appetites for more,” he says. “They want to go back to London, or travel overseas for a semester of study or return after they graduate.”
This year’s Spring Term offerings cover a wide range of disciplines.
History Professor Liping Bu is offering her fourth Spring Term trip to China. Students will see first-hand the economic developments and social changes taking place in China, with visits planned to the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and other important cultural sites.
German Language Professor John Arnold’s Spring Term class on the causes and legacies of the Holocaust features a significant service component that includes restoration of portions of the New Jewish Cemetery in Wroclaw, Poland, and visits to Auschwitz, Prague and Berlin.
Psychology Associate Professor Marc Setterlund will take students to Vienna, Munich, Leipzig and Berlin to gain a greater appreciation of the sources of American psychology. English Professor Ute Stargardt will lead students on a tour of England for a study of medieval literature, with visits to museums, galleries and castles.
Students in Britt Cartrite’s political science class will visit Scotland to explore Scottish identity through its literary and political expressions. Chemistry Professor Melissa Strait and her students will visit cultural and scientific sites in Argentina.
Myles McNally and Mark Seals are taking students to Ecuador to study Spanish culture and engage in specialized learning activities, such as classroom teaching, hospital observation, and biology studies in a cloud forest.
Closer to home, Michael Bishop and biology students will follow spring bird migration paths to the Upper Peninsula and observe research stations along the route. Other travel courses include an American Studies trip to Chicago; explorations of contemporary art, dance and theatre in New York City; and investigations of Key West writers in Florida.
But Spring Term isn’t all about travel. More than two-dozen campus courses offer a wide variety of special topics, from a mathematics investigation of the “fourth dimension” to an introduction to digital media to the making of the atomic bomb to current controversies in U.S. politics.
Students in Robyn Anderson’s health science class will conduct Heart Health Fairs with Gratiot County sixth-grade students to raise awareness about heart disease risk factors.
Murray Gross will teach a course on musical theatre techniques that will result in full-length public performances of “The Threepenny Opera” in the Remick Heritage Center Theatre May 21 through 23. Call (989) 463-7304 for ticket information.
Posted: Thu, April 26th, 2007 at 3:03PM