Spring term classes allow students to explore, immerse

Washington and Lee’s 12-week, 12-week and four-week school year gives students flexibility with scheduling in the spring

Elyse Ferris

Washington and Lee’s spring term is a unique four-week period that encourages students to explore specialized topics.

Spring term courses often focus on a specific material that may not be able to be taught in the fall and winter semesters.

Students may choose to take courses abroad with other Washington and Lee students and professors. This year, Washington and Lee is offering 13 spring term abroad options.

One course, Economics/Religion 246: Caste at the Intersection of Economy, Religion, and Law, will spend the term in Nepal studying the impact of social hierarchy on all aspects of life in the country.

The course is taught by Economics professor Shikha Silwal and religion professor Tim Lubin. Students will study the South Asian caste system’s influence on social identity, economic roles, legal status and religious practice, according to Washington and Lee’s Center for International Education.

The course has been offered once in the past, but the Nepal earthquake of 2015 have prevented travels to the country since.

This year, students will stay at the Tewa Centre in Kirtipur, Nepal, near the capital city of Kathmandu. Students will hear from expert speakers and experience both the city and countryside on excursions to temples, villages, a wildlife sanctuary and Buddha’s birthplace.

“It’s always nice to find a good opportunity to bring W&L students to a distant part of the world to learn about things on the ground that otherwise we’re learning in the classroom,” Lubin said.

Brie Belz, ‘20, looks forward to the opportunity to immerse herself in Nepal’s culture.

“Nepal is at a pivotal point in its history with grappling with how to meet the expectation of the modern world and maintain its history and inherent culture,” she said in an email. “I’m incredibly excited and fortunate to have a chance to immerse myself in the culture and study how the caste system intersects with the economy, religion and law and, if it is possible, to reform one without detracting from another.”

Some courses stay at Washington and Lee but also take prolonged field trips, allowing students to experience spring term both on and off campus.

Business Journalism professor Alecia Swasy will lead Journalism 377: Media Management & Entrepreneurship, which will spend three days with the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, N. C.

The seminar will examine trends and challenges in media management, including a close examination of industry economics, changing reader and viewer habits, revenue and profit pressures and labor management issues unique to the news profession, Swasy says.

The class will brainstorm ways to attract more millennials to the Charlotte Observer.

“It’ll be a great opportunity to go to Charlotte and hear firsthand what they have to say about the business and the economy of the industry,” Elly Cosgrove, ‘19, said. “We’re going to see how we can pull more younger readers.”

Cosgrove said she thinks Swasy’s enthusiasm for the course and for students’ achievement will give something extra to the class.

“One of the great things is being able to structure [the course] based on current trends in the media. The world of digital media is spinning fast, and we all need to figure out new ways to distribute legitimate news to where readers want it,” Swasy said.

Economics/Religion 246 and Journalism 377 illustrate examples of the range of possibilities for Spring Term.

“I’ve been told there’s no wrong answer for Spring Term. It’s just to create a good experience. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think we’ll all learn something,” Swasy said.