This winter break, Gettysburg College launched its inaugural virtual January Term (J-Term). The free, hands-on program—inspired by early aspirations for the College’s new strategic plan—interwove curricular and co-curricular instruction in innovative ways to build upon our students’ classroom learning with tangible college, career, and life skills.
The J-Term garnered nearly 1,000 student registrations across all four class years. These dynamic sessions were led by many of Gettysburg’s most distinctive programs, including the Eisenhower Institute, Center for Public Service, Garthwait Leadership Center, Center for Career Engagement, and Peace and Justice Studies.
The sessions proved rewarding, with 96 percent of all student respondents giving the experience a positive score in a recent College survey.
“The courses offered through the J-Term were extremely informative, allowing students to increase their knowledge in a variety of topics,” said Jason Chase ’24. “Taking part in the J-Term establishes a greater understanding of real-world problems and solutions, while supplying students with the opportunity to connect with Gettysburg alumni. It was excellent.”
J-Term programming was intentionally divided into four core competencies to help Gettysburg students translate their personal and professional goals into concrete action for the greater good. The competencies focused on leadership, networking, college and career skill-building, and advocacy.
Within the College’s leadership competency, Lead with Purpose and Principles, students engaged with four of Gettysburg College’s most distinguished alumni leaders through an interview series spearheaded by Susan Eisenhower, Chairman Emerita of the Eisenhower Institute and granddaughter of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The interviews featured David Brennan ’75, P’00, retired Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca PLC; Jennifer Bryant ’82, an award-winning author and writer; Lt. Gen. Flora Darpino ’83, the first woman appointed The Judge Advocate General (TJAG); and Troy Datcher ’90, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for the Clorox Company.
“I thought Ms. Eisenhower truly led an incredible four-part series,” said Nicole Cesanek ’24. “I thought all of the speakers were unique and taught me valuable information that I will take with me as I further develop my leadership skills.”
In addition, the Garthwait Leadership Center hosted a two-week leadership development intensive centered on teamwork skills related to leadership, group dynamics, and decision-making. Engaging in teams of five or more, students participated in a Mount Everest expedition simulation to learn and apply teamwork principles.
Build your Gettysburg Network—the J-Term’s networking competency—was designed to assist students in becoming career-ready by expanding both what they know and who they know. To support these efforts, the Center for Career Engagement and College Advancement coordinated two career meetups, one focused on health and science and another on business—popular sectors represented by our strong Gettysburg Network. The meetups featured a dozen Gettysburg alumni and parents who served as panelists. The meetups were preceded by prep sessions educating students on effective networking and why it matters.
“I loved the Business Meetup,” shared Allie Acero ’23. “The panelists were great and engaging, and clearly passionate about their jobs.”
Later this spring semester, each student who participated in the Gettysburg meetups will be offered the opportunity to connect in a one-to-one meeting with a J-Term panelist, as facilitated through Career Engagement.
Recognizing the essential nature of practical skill-building within both academic and professional settings, Hone your College and Career Skills empowered students to take their performance to the next level. The J-Term sessions centered around cultivating habits of highly successful college students and improving time management. The offerings were hosted by Academic Advising and Student Support Services.
Did you participate in this year’s J-Term? Share your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within the competency, Gettysburg College also provided sessions on oral communication and presentation skills—specifically, how students can reach their audience, facilitate discussion, and acquire presentation techniques that help them to stand out from the crowd.
Aligning with Gettysburg College’s 4th Annual Peace and Justice Week, the J-Term’s final competency—Become an Advocate for Change—underscored the importance of serving others and sparking meaningful progress within our communities and around the world.
Peace and Justice Studies delivered a series of in-depth offerings on how to elevate your voice on issues of consequence, while the Center for Public Service likewise provided powerful sessions that moved audiences to get engaged through cross-cultural dialogue with influential change leaders.
“The Peace and Justice session on Gaining Tools for Organizing was great because it not only provided two incredibly experienced political organizers to share their experience, but gave us the invaluable opportunity to actually engage with them in a small group setting,” said Isabelle Fiore ’21.
Logan Grubb ’21 added, “I particularly enjoyed the CPS sessions because the partners were talking about history, activist work, and experiences we are rarely exposed to in the classroom. I hope we can begin to incorporate more opportunities like this, both as events on campus and as part of the normal curriculum, especially given the College’s curriculum review.”
Learn more about Gettysburg College’s vision to provide students with more vibrant educational offerings like the J-Term through its ongoing curriculum review and strategic planning process. For more information about the J-Term, visit www.gettysburg.edu/jterm. Watch our 2021 J-Term sessions on the College’s YouTube channel.
By Mike Baker
Photos by Miranda Harple and Adrian Cooke