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Exploration Term-Contract Learning

Exploration Term and Contract Learning

Students in South Africa

What does hiking through Patagonia, swimming with dolphins, teaching in Harlem, or sailing a tall ship have to do with college? At BSC, everything! Birmingham-Southern offers a unique mini-term between the fall and spring academic semesters. Known as Exploration Term, or E-Term for short, these four weeks give students the opportunities to engage in hands-on learning both on and off campus.

E-Term is designed to enhance BSC's liberal arts education through practical experience and in-depth personal knowledge. Students must complete at least two Exploration Term projects during their time at BSC. Choose from on- and off-campus projects, independent study or research, group and individual study-travel, service-learning, and internships. You might attend the Sundance Film Festival with a film studies professor; see great works of art in New York and Paris; conduct an experiment with a faculty member; volunteer in Africa, San Francisco, or right here in Birmingham; read popular novels or study the origins of Southern cooking; explore the tropical rainforest or Galapagos Islands; produce a play in just three weeks; or take on an internship in your chosen field. See the 2015 E-Term bulletin here or check out past projects for more examples. The 2016 E-Term Bulletin will be published in late September.

E-Term projects include:

On-campus classes in a wide range of disciplines give you the chance to dig deep into a favorite interest or try something new without interrupting progress in your major. Explore the literature of graphic novels, the philosophy of martial arts, the reality of poverty, the chemistry of Breaking Bad, the art of cell phone photography, and so much more. You might also spend January working in a lab, art studio, or theatre with other students just as focused as you.

Independent study via contracted learning is for students who want to design their own learning experience, from individual research to traveling with a group of friends. Past contracted projects include a study of the monarch butterfly in Mexico, a history of the Japanese kimono, and an exploration of barbecue in the Deep South.

Study-travel offers the ability to learn while exploring abroad or around the United States. Past destinations include Mozambique, San Francisco, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, the Pacific Northwest, New York, Buenos Aires, Prague, Italy, and many more. Learn more about E-Term travel here.

Service-learning, which may be faculty-led or independently designed. Recent projects include exploring nonviolence with the Tibetan community in exile in India, volunteering at Glide United Methodist Church in San Francisco, and teaching English at the Bakpa-Avedo Basic School in Ghana. Students attend weekly orientation meetings during the fall term, research topics related to the project, and participate in team-building and training exercises.

Internships for academic credit consist of both on-site experience at community organizations and research and writing. Each requires a faculty sponsor who provides an academic component to the project; the college offers some E-Term internships, while others are independently arranged. For a list of internships advertised by local businesses and institutions, see the BSC Career Services database.

Registering for E-Term

First-year students will meet with their advisors in their first fall semester and receive information about registering for E-Term online. Each student will submit his or her top five E-Term choices; every effort is made to register as many students as possible in one of their top choices. All students then attend introductory meetings for their registered courses in November.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors register for E-Term via TheSIS in mid-October. Specific instructions will be emailed before registration begins.

Contract Learning

Students who wish to participate in an independent study or an internship for academic credit during the January Exploration Term must complete a contract under the supervision of a BSC faculty member. Contract learning opportunities are also available throughout the academic year. Past contracted projects include photographing the American West, investigating jazz music in New Orleans, and compiling an oral history of the homeless. Click here to find out more about how to go about creating a contract.

Dr. Katy E. Leonard
Office of Exploration Term and Contract Learning
(205) 226-4647
E-mail: or