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BSC celebrates 50 years of E-Term

BSC celebrates 50 years of E-Term

BSC celebrates 50 years of E-Term

Unique January program allows students to explore the world, gain experience

In 1968, Birmingham-Southern College introduced a new “curriculum for tomorrow,” and with it a new schedule replacing a quarter system with a fall and spring semester plus a January interim term.

When the new calendar was introduced, the goal was to “move the student and the teacher out of the classroom and into the laboratory, the library, studio, faculty study, seminar room, public stage and…off the campus itself,” Academic Vice President Dr. Cecil Abernethy ’30 said at the time.

In its 50 years of existence, the interim term – now called Exploration Term or “E-Term” – is a beloved part of each academic year, creating memories that last a lifetime and providing experiences that can change the course of a student’s life.

That’s the case for Dustin Massey ’12, whose E-Term class helped lead him to the career he has today. He ended up taking a photojournalism class his first year because he didn’t get into his first two options. The business major – who worked at Wells Fargo and UAB – now runs his own photography company.

“That experience helped me realize I had always been creative but never expressed that in high school. It showed me the fun of telling a story through a frame. I ended up getting a minor in photography,” Massey said. “Now my career is about capturing a story with one click of a button, which is really what Birmingham-Southern College allowed me to do.”

Today, there are a wide range of E-Term options. Some students job shadow or conduct internships, or conduct in-depth research or creative projects in studio art, music, and theatre.

Others take courses on campus (called “projects”) that dig deep into a topic or find a new way to look at a subject; the E-Term’s flexible schedule allows more time for discussion, watching films, and activities like trips to local museums. On-campus projects this E-Term include “Searching for Novel Antibiotics in Our Own Backyards,” “The Fringe Benefits of Failure,” “The Art of Stand-Up Comedy,” and “Digital Detox: Mindfulness Meditation in the Modern World.” (See a full list of E-Term projects in the 2018 E-Term Bulletin.)

One of the highlights of E-Term is faculty- and staff-led trips across the world. This year, students will head to the Galapagos Islands to study ecology and conservation, to the Czech Republic to learn about agribusiness, to Uganda to teach in a village school, to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to look at the market for independent films, to Cuba to examine the politics and culture, and more.

Mersedes Engle, a senior from Corvallis, Ore., spent her January 2017 E-Term traveling to Ireland on the project “Black, Green, and Between: Human Rights Study in Alabama and Ireland,” led by Dr. Sandra Sprayberry, Robert E. Luckie Jr. Professor of English, and Erica Brown, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Along with several other students, Engle presented research and attended panels at the fourth annual Transatlantic Connections conference in Bundoran, Ireland.

“Having the opportunity not only to travel abroad but to present research in an international setting was amazing,” Engle said. So was getting to spend time with faculty, staff, and a small group of students in a non-academic environment, she added.

For students concerned about paying for travel during E-Term, there are several scholarship options available. Engle received funding toward her trip from the Dr. Evelyn Wiley Travel Fund, established in memory of Wiley, a 1938 BSC graduate and longtime history professor who passed away in 2005. Wiley helped shape the January term as an integral part of the BSC undergraduate experience.

A number of other scholarships provide assistance for students seeking an off-campus E-Term experience, including the Robert D. Dortch Memorial Scholarship for Interim Studies. Dortch worked in the Admission Office for 34 years, and took an interest in helping students who wanted to study abroad after graduation, assisting dozens of students with their applications for international travel scholarships.

To honor the silver anniversary of BSC president Dr. Neal Berte, students created a scholarship for peers participating in service-learning projects during E-Term. The Koinonia Scholarship provides financial support to a student or group of students whose independently-contracted E-Term project concentrates on service issues in the global community; this January, Koinonia recipient and junior Tatiana Neuman will be working with sloths at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Costa Rica.

To learn more about E-Term, take a look at the 2018 E-Term bulletin, or follow the hashtag #BSCEterm throughout the month of January.