Even though this is Franklin College’s first immersive term during the pandemic, the promise of engagement remains.
Most years, students spend January on travel experiences, internships and non-traditional classes that are more hands-on. But, due to COVID-19, 2021’s immersive term study abroad opportunities were canceled, various internships were required to take place online and non-traditional classes might keep students apart.
Despite the changes, Franklin College offered 16 courses, the same number of classes as previous years. All but one class is taking place in person.
The college took the opportunity that not all of the student body would be on campus for the term; making in-person classes easier to manage because more big rooms are available for social distancing. Each class consists of more than 20 people thanks to larger classrooms.
Kristin Flora, acting vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, said she is pleased with how this immersive term is going under the circumstances.
“Faculty have worked very hard to try to still make a meaningful course under the current set of circumstances, so have fun with it, enjoy the opportunity to learn about something that may be completely different than what you're here to study,” Flora said.
Professors found alternatives to bring experience to the students. For example, Stacy Hoehn, associate professor of mathematics, is teaching an immersive class on the math of Pixar where the class took a virtual tour of one of the studio’s sites in Florida.
“So, it's still trying to cultivate that feeling of immersiveness that you're breaking outside the walls of Franklin College to experience something else, but again, in a way that is safe and responsible,” Flora said.
Freshman Chesney Loehr is experiencing her first immersive term, but she is enjoying it to its fullest, regardless of the pandemic. Loehr is taking a class called “Let’s talk about sex,” taught by Ryan Rush, assistant professor of psychology. This class talks about behavior, culture, discrimination and sex in society.
Loehr has been interested in sex education and opening up to discussions that not everything about sex is taboo.
“I was really intrigued by the fact that I was finally [going to] see a class, in all the years of my education, that like, spoke to something I was really interested in,” Loehr said.
She has really enjoyed the class and is learning things she ‘had no idea that was even a thing.” Loehr said that she feels immersed in the content and applauds Rush because he engages the students in conversations.
“We're young adults and we're still trying to figure out what we want to do, and by taking these fun classes, that kind of breaks you out of the academics you've been doing,” Loehr said. “I think it's a nice mental break and it also allows you to reevaluate what you want to do with your life.”
As students experienced during the summer and fall of 2020, internships needed to fulfill a list of requirements to keep students safe from catching the virus. Most internships are required to be held online for the student’s safety.
But Kirk Bixler, director of career development, said even during the pandemic, students have found the opportunity to find internships this month, whether they did so remotely or helped professors conduct research on campus.
Bixler said that this year, Franklin College has less than half of students completing internships compared to previous years.
His advice to students is to be patient. He encourages students to contact him so he can help them find internships that are COVID safe.