In lieu of typical Wintersession programs such as a handful of assorted classes and research, the January Project was vaguely introduced this year as a plan “designed to engage students in purposeful action grounded in interconnected communities, leadership development and reflection.”
When the global pandemic struck, the Fall Planning Committee decided to take some agency. Erin Konkle, the Career Education program director at Wellesley College, said the January Project was “not just in response to COVID, but [was] intentionally [planned] during COVID,” describing the program as a “bridge.” She hopes that this project will help students “build peer-to-peer relationships and connections that help students stay connected to Wellesley no matter what direction they are going.”
According to Konkle, this project is being “planned away from the academic curriculum” in order to create a cohesive experience that brings students together. While this experience is still in relatively early planning stages, it focuses on bringing students together in a time of mandated distance.
The January Project intends to feature a series of out-of-classroom learning opportunities such as service, Hive Internships, reading experiences and leadership development. The project will guide first-years and sophomores in building peer-to-peer connections and assist juniors and seniors with their specific career paths. At this time, program groups are still meeting to figure out specific events and ideas for the project, and no specifics could be offered to the Wellesley News at the time of this article’s publishing.
The Albright Institute currently plans to host another year of fellows, albeit remotely, with the fitting theme of “Rebuilding Global Institutions”. While the Albright Institute has been contributing to the January Project, they are not involved in its planning. Instead, they are planning their own slew of virtual activities, such as inviting a diverse array of speakers, and focusing on what it means to create a cohort of students. The current hurdle for the Institute is how it will make this event accessible and interactive for students, given the challenges presented with the virtual format.
In the past, Wintersession has been an opportunity for students to take classes or do shorter study abroad experiences. In particular, intensive language programs are the most common program offered during Wintersession.
Sara Clark ’22 went to Berlin earlier this year as a part of the German 202 Wintersession program. She was a fan of the program because it gave her an opportunity to study abroad and practice one of the languages that she knew without “being away from Wellesley for that long.”
Both Clark and Neeraja Deshpande ’23, who studied Russian 101 over Wintersession last year, stressed that the experience of Wintersession bonded students. Working in a smaller group enabled the both to know their classmates better and do things they would not normally do during the school year.
This project, while different from the typical Wintersession, hopes to capture some of the benefits of Wintersession and bring them to all students remotely.
Though classes will no longer be offered, students can still look forward to the research projects in the Science Center and Biochemistry Research Week. The members of the planning committee are eager to share more about this project as it develops, and hope that remnants of this original pilot program will remain in the Wellesley Wintersession for years to come. They plan to get student input before and after the program.
In a year “with so much disappointing news,” this committee hopes to bring something new, helpful and exciting to students with the January Project.