College Adds On-Campus Winter Term Projects


Jennifer Manna

Students conduct research on-campus during a recent Winter Term.

The College plans to implement changes to Winter Term to both encourage students to stay on campus as well as make off-campus Winter Term projects more financially accessible. These revisions come after recommendations from a Student Senate survey, The Academic and Administrative Program Review, and Winter Term program review.

The College has made three broad changes to Winter Term this year: increasing the number of projects on campus, creating a better sense of community, and increasing equitable access to projects.

This year, Oberlin is offering over 44 on-campus group projects. Such projects include 3D Printing 101, Photo-Sonic Composition, and Podcasting Oberlin News.

“The College is moving toward a model where more students are staying on campus for the Winter Term period, which means that more financial resources can be allocated to high-need students,” wrote College third-year and Chair of Student Senate Bridget Smith in an email to the Review. “At most colleges that have Winter Terms, students that want to participate in an off-campus project or internship must petition the College on the importance of that experience, which leads the norm to be taking a class on campus.”

According to Professor of History, Comparative American Studies, and Africana Studies Renee Romano, the number of on-campus projects this year has almost doubled — partly due to curriculum development grants that the Dean’s office offered this year.

These grants were intended to encourage faculty to design new Winter Term projects that would offer unique educational experiences.

“We wanted to give faculty the opportunity to pursue a topic or creative endeavor that does not fit within the [15]-week semester or that will inspire new pedagogical approaches or research,” wrote Dean of Arts and Sciences Laura Baudot in an email to the Review. “The result is a really exciting and varied list of Winter Term on-campus group projects. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to learn in a less formal environment and to forge unique bonds with their peers and faculty.”

The AAPR recommendation that requires faculty to facilitate a Winter Term project every four years will officially go into effect next year, which will also increase the array of choices that students have for Winter Term projects.

Another one of the administration’s goals was to make campus life more appealing for students during January.

“We are currently working with the [Student Finance Committee] and hoping that they will be able to reserve some money or spend some money on [more] Winter Term programming,” Romano said. “So there could be something like transportation for students to get off campus on the weekends.”

Three bus trips to Cleveland are already planned. Romano says that the College is also currently working on offering movie series, intellectual events, workshops in collaboration with the Career Development Center, and classes at the gym.

“This is sort of the first year, and I think that it will scale, it will continue to grow as we are able to build more of a foundation,” said Romano.

According to Director of the Office of Winter Term Deanna Bergdorf, there will also be opportunities to showcase projects before the start of the spring semester.

“There will be time at the end of Winter Term for students to share and celebrate their work in the two-day ‘Winter Term Festival of Ideas,’” Bergdorf wrote in an email to the Review.

Importantly, the College is also looking at ways to make access to Winter Term more equitable. One example of a change implemented this year is the new Winter Term meal plan.

“This year, the College was able to work with Bon Appétit to offer a month-long meal plan for $300,” Smith wrote. “The more students [that] choose to stay on campus, the less money each student has to pay for campus resources.”

Additionally, the Office of Winter Term is moving away from the merit-based approach previously used to allocate funding for student projects.

“Ensuring that all students have equal access to Winter Term experiences that are of uniformly high quality is a widely-shared goal, and making it happen is my top priority as Winter Term Director,” Bergdorf wrote. “For 2020, we are moving to a need-based model for all Winter Term funding awards. For the short and long-term alike, we take equity and accessibility as the first point of concern in program planning.”

According to Smith, the committee plans to fund students based on their demonstrated financial need and feasibility of the project. Still, the exact process for project funding has not been finalized.

“The committee is still discussing how the funding model will continue to change as the Winter Term model adapts,” she wrote.

The administration is also considering moving up the deadlines next year for professors’ project proposals and students’ applications. Currently, project applications with funding requests are due Nov. 15. Pushing the deadline back would allow both students and faculty more time to submit requests for funding.

“It’s not such a last-minute scramble if you find out you didn’t get the funding you needed to go wherever,” Romano said. “There is more space and more deliberation and intention around those funding decisions. Right now there are a lot of different deadlines, and it’s a bit … chaotic, so we are trying to [regulate] that as well, and the hope is that would go into effect next year.”

To ease the burden on students, the Office of Winter Term has also offered more support to first-year students planning their first Winter Term project.

“The Winter Term Office is offering 30-minute individual advising sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout [the] Fall Semester,” wrote Bergdorf. “We held the first drop-in advising session on Oct. 14 and we’ll have another on Nov. 6. So far, all of the sessions have been well-attended..”

The deadline to submit Winter Term projects with funding requests or international individual project proposals is Nov. 15, while all domestic group and individual project applications are due Dec. 6.