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For 25 students, an 'amazing' January@Brown

The second year of January@Brown only attracted a little more than one-fourth of the projected attendance, but it earned positive reviews from students who saw it as a way to expand their academic and social experiences without the pressure of grades.

"Oh it was amazing!" said J.D. Andrade '10, a chemistry concentrator who took "Workshop on Studio Art." "I loved the small class setting, the freedom to do what we wanted in class and the new people I met," he said.

"All the feedback we got was extremely positive," said Robin Rose, associate dean of continuing studies.

The program took place from Jan. 9 to Jan. 18 and offered five classes - "Workshop in Creative Nonfiction," "Chemistry 33T," "Storied Neighborhoods: Race, Place, and Narrative," "Workshop on Studio Art," and "Persuasive Communication" - that met for three hours a day. The 25 students lived together in Littlefield Hall and did activities like ice skating, visiting the RISD Museum, and meeting with Career Development Center and Swearer Center officials. This year's January@Brown attracted six more students than it did last year and was two days longer, Rose said. The term cost students $640 including room and board, with financial aid available.

Though many colleges offer January courses for credit, Brown does not.

"Courses would have to be more rigorous than they are now," Rose said. "Now students are getting a great introduction or sampling to different topic and course areas."

At the end of the 10-day program, students met with administrators to discuss how the January session had gone.

"Students were very mixed in terms of receiving grades and credit for their work - some students were very interested and some liked the more relaxed approach to learning without the stress of grades," said Rose, who added the work the students put into their classes equates to about two-thirds of that needed for getting credit. Rose said the Office of Summer and Continuing Studies is still unsure of how or if they will change next year's program.

"For me it doesn't really matter - I think instead of focusing on credit the focus should be on meeting new people and taking a class without the pressure of grades," said Daniel Lim '10, an engineering concentrator who took "Persuasive Communication."

"The plus side for credit is that we are spending so much time working anyway that we should get something on paper to show that. But at the same time offering it for credit would attract a huge amount of people and increase class size - and I feel the size gave us individual attention and a lot more freedom," Andrade said. Students agreed that they should receive some sort of recognition for their effort, though not through letter grades. "Making it S/NC or for half credit would be best," Andrade said.

Some of the course instructors thought the lack of grading was ideal.

"We put in way more time than the three hours we had every day," said Charles Gonsher, an adjunct lecturer in visual art who taught the studio art workshop. The five students in this class worked on creating a T-shirt design and building a table. "They really challenged themselves, not because they wanted a certain grade but because they really cared and were having fun."

"I was surprised at how much effort students put into the class even thought they weren't getting a grade - I think students were maybe more relaxed," said Matthew Delmont GS, an American Civilization student who taught "Storied Neighborhoods: Race, Place." The class's small size - only six students participated - enabled good class discussion and strong personal connections between classmates, Delmont said. "Their level of work should be acknowledged with some kind of grade or recognition."

"I would only want my class to be S/NC - it's January and no one wants to do tons and tons of work," said Christian DuComb GS, who taught "Persuasive Communication."

The winter session allows for academic and social opportunities not available during the rest of the year. Visual Arts 0100 "is really hard to get into and this was a chance for people who didn't get in or don't have time in their schedule to take an art class," Gonsher said.

Lim, the engineering concentrator, said he enjoyed meeting people outside his concentration. "Normally I interact with engineers and I got to meet a lot of humanities people," he said.


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