While some campuses in colder climates virtually shut down during the month of January, the Middlebury Institute has a history of offering a range of fascinating short-course and “in the field” immersive learning opportunities during the January winter term (affectionately nicknamed “J-term”).
Kelly Bohan MAIEM ’18 was part of a group of International Education Management students who traveled to France to visit the Middlebury Schools Abroad site Centre Madeleine in Paris.
“This trip was such an incredible opportunity academically, professionally, and personally,” says Bohan. “I was able to connect the knowledge and skills I gained in my first semester at MIIS to the observations, projects, and conversations we had on-site, while making connections with great people in the field. Now that I’m back on campus, I feel that I have a wealth of new understanding of the real-world applications of what I am learning in the classroom, and I feel better equipped for my professional career.”
More than two dozen course offerings over J-term 2018 included a seminar in international marine law, a short course on language teacher education, and the two-week Frontier Market Scouts impact investing certificate course. In addition to the Paris course Bohan participated in, immersive learning offerings included opportunities to visit Cuba to study the history of U.S.-Cuban relations and revolutionary politics, to visit Peru to work on community-based sustainable development projects in the Sacred Valley, and to visit the Czech Republic to conduct experiments with at a nuclear research reactor. The Institute also offered its well-regarded DPMI Certificate in International Development and Social Change in both Monterey and Rwanda.
Lauren Howerton MAIEP '19 traveled to Peru to work with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD), co-founded by Institute alumni Aaron Ebner MPA '11 and Adam Steiglitz MPA '11. "I chose the AASD for their bottom-up approach. My experience helped me hone in on interview skills, integrative research, and enhance my proficiency in Spanish. I'll forever take the lessons learned with me in my future career."
“Our approach to immersive learning at MIIS is designed to provide students with hands-on experience and to provide opportunities where students can have an impact even before graduation,” said Carolyn Taylor Meyer MAIPS ’05, director of professional immersive learning and special programs for the Institute’s Graduate School of International Policy and Management. “January on-site courses provide students with unique co-learning experiences across cultures, experience working with organizations in their field, and the opportunity to better understand the reality on the ground around complex global issues.”
J-term opportunities aren’t limited to regular course offerings either; directed study under the supervision of a faculty member is another option. “Since last Spring, I have been working with the Raechel & Jackie Foundation (RJF), an organization that partners with local community leaders in rural Nicaragua to bring access, quality, and relevance to education,” says Miranda Meyer MPA/MAIEM ’18. “This past fall, I took Program Evaluation with Dr. Beryl Levinger in which we needed to work with a real-world client. My team chose to work with RJF to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) design for their Teacher Training Program. This led to RJF offering me the opportunity to go down to Nicaragua for 10 days [during J-term] to work with the country director and guide him through the M&E plan we had developed, while also collecting impact stories from community members.”
Meyer is grateful for the opportunity J-term offered to expand her skills and put them to use in a real-world setting. “This experience it exposed me to a lot in a short amount of time. I gained more fieldwork experience and was able to see first-hand what community and partner development looks like. Working in Nicaragua reminded me that context and culture is so important to keep in mind when doing this work! Having hands-on experience is always a benefit in any career.”