January Term ReflectionsGustavus alumni who also serve as faculty and staff at the College reflect on their own January Term experiences.
Posted on January 24th, 2022 by

“In January of 1992 I spent J-Term in San Francisco. Bob Moline taught the class San Francisco: The City and its Region. We spent three weeks in San Francisco, staying at a hostel and learning all about the city and the surrounding areas (San Jose, Napa, and Sonoma Valleys). We took public transportation most of the time and our final project was to lead the rest of the class on an informed walking tour of a particular neighborhood that we studied. It was a great experience for a girl from a small town in Iowa!” – Laura Boomgaarden ‘93, Administrative Assistant in Physics and Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics

Natalie Jahnsen holds “Patrick” the corn snake, as she volunteers in the Gustavus biology department, helping with animal care and husbandry for her January 2022 service-learning project.

“I was fortunate to travel to New Zealand and Australia for Sports Ethics with my coach, Dr. Steve Wilkinson. The course was a once-in-a-lifetime travel and learning experience on every level. We attended the Australian Open, swam in the Great Barrier Reef, and studied local sports cultures and ethical dilemmas. The course provided an incredible bonding experience for my teammates and classmates, and posed questions that would lead me into a career studying and teaching sports ethics and philosophy of sport.” – Tommy Valentini ‘02, The Steve Wilkinson Endowed Professor of Sports Ethics in Philosophy and Head Men’s Tennis Coach

“This is a tough question, because I really enjoyed all of my J-Term courses!  But I think my favorite was Radio Theatre taught by John Braun. In addition to listening to the original broadcast of ‘War of the Worlds’ and other plays from the Golden Age of Radio, we recorded and performed a play (‘Seance at Brockman Manor’) that was then broadcast on the local radio station. I loved learning how to make sound effects (e.g. the sound of someone walking down a road was a styrofoam cup and a box of gravel) and doing the old school tape editing/splicing (i.e. an X-Acto knife and tape). We were immersed in every aspect of production and it was fun to brainstorm about ways to spark the imagination of the listener. Shameless plug: If you want to explore documents and other materials from previous January Term courses, visit the College Archives!” – Michelle Twait ‘98, Professor and Chair, Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library

“As a first-year I took a course called Game Show Theory with visiting physics professor Daniel Young. Every day we would learn the rules of a game show, practice them, and then play them as a class—everything from Survivor to Jeopardy! to Deal or No Deal. We learned about the power of rituals, genre of games, and strategies.” – Jenna Ryan ‘20, Admission Counselor

“January of my junior year I took the Sports Ethics course with Steve Wilkinson where we traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. After a rigorous week of on-campus discussion and preparation, the trip was a wonderfully enriching experience, as we spent time at the Australian Open getting to know Aussies and reflecting on sportsmanship and fair play during the tournament. We also went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, watched Julius Caesar at the Sydney Opera House, went bungee jumping at the original commercial site, the Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, NZ, and much more. Many of the friendships and memories made on that trip have lasted over 20 years!” – Angela Erickson ‘01, Director of Alumni & Parent Engagement

“My sophomore year (1985) I took a Music Therapy class at Augsburg. We had an exchange program where you could take a class at another MIAC school providing there was space available and you didn’t need housing. It enabled me to live at home in Bloomington and work while still taking a class. The best part was that my two friends who went to Augsburg took the same class so we got to hang out together all month!” – Wendy Bachman ‘87, Admission Campus Visit Coordinator

Students in the January Term 2022 course Astrobotany explore the possibility of growing plants on Mars and in space.

“I took a J-Term on campus all four of my years here at Gustavus. My favorite one was Media in Education taught by Paul Gathercoal in 1991. We discussed how media influences us (wow, have things changed!), and throughout the class we made commercials and videos of our own. We were able to use the editing room (literally tapes) to edit and put our video to music. I still have the VHS tape of my group’s video somewhere in a bin in my basement. Not only did we learn a lot, we were able to create a lot. It seemed extremely techy at the time. It was a wonderful class and I will never forget it!” – Heidi Carlson ‘93, Director of the Swanson Tennis Center and Assistant Women’s Tennis Coach

“I was on campus for three out of four J-Terms during my time as a student. My first one was Fairy Tales with English professor Matt Rasmussen. It was the only creative writing class I had the opportunity to take at Gustavus, and one of my favorite assignments of all time was to write my own fairy tale. My favorite J-Term class, however, was the 3 Crowns Curriculum music exploration class with Justin Knoepfel. This class was filled with my closest friends, and we listened to and studied music from all ages. We even had the opportunity to travel to St. Paul to listen to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.” – Kelsey Backer ’18, Assistant Director of Alumni & Parent Engagement

“One really cool experience from my first year at Gustavus was a series of lectures delivered in the Rundstrom Hall lounge called the last lecture series. Three or four professors gave what would be their last lecture if they suddenly were told they were dying. John Kendall gave one based on the Kenny Rogers song The Gambler. I’m a little embarrassed that I remember this many details about it. My sophomore year I designed an independent study to create a discography of music for the trumpet. This was in the days before the internet and so everything was laborious and difficult. I also formed, with two friends, a brass trio called the Hoffalo Lake Trio (because we were from Hoffman Estates, Buffalo, and Rice Lake). We spent the month playing gigs at various churches.” – Lisa Heldke ‘82, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Nobel Conference

Students experience a luau during the “tourist” part of their January Term Hawai’i trip in 2019.

“As a sophomore, I took PE-48 Winter Expedition, an outdoor education course taught by former registrar David Wicklund and former soccer coach and physical education instructor Larry Zelenz. We conditioned for the entire year leading up to the course, including working out together the fall semester prior to the course. Before leaving campus, we learned about winter survival and the natural and indigenous history of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota, and then we traveled there for a two-week journey by dog sled and cross country skis, winter camping our way through the wilderness. It was among the top of my experiences at Gustavus.” – Jeff Dahlseid ‘90, Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology, and Chemistry

“I took an Environmental Sustainability & Urban Planning in the Pacific Northwest travel course in January 2001, led by Mark Bjelland in geography. It was a three-week trip to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia. We met with city employees and local organizations to understand how sustainability influences urban planning. It was an immersive experience that focused on the environment, the culture, and the people of the Pacific Northwest, and it demonstrated for me the power that strong values and new ideas have on shaping communities.” – Charlie Potts ‘01, Assistant Vice President for Student Life

“I loved my J-Terms and both had meaningful impacts in shaping me at really pivotal points in my life. However, Race and Religion of The Wire was especially meaningful to me. It was the most racially diverse class I was a part of during my time as a student. Every day, we watched an episode or two of The Wire in the library AV room and talked about class, power, gang violence, the impact of religion, and different systemic issues in the U.S. I remember reading The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. When I think about J-Terms, I think about how important it was to set aside time completely outside of my normal studies to be entirely focused on something I had never been exposed to, but that dramatically changed the way I saw the world after.” – Skylar Abrego ‘20, Graduate Assistant in Sports Information


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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