Students and teachers reflect on first December term

By Ollin Garcia Pliego

On Dec. 1, 2014, December Term—widely known as D-Term—opened its doors to students who decided to further enrich their curricular experience at Lawrence. This program consisted of 10 days of classes, concluding on Dec. 12.

Although there were originally 18 courses offered, only five opened up due to the low number of students who registered: Ancient & Byzantine Coins, Deep Listening and Creative Self, The Shakespeare Intensive, Behavior of Worms & Whales and Jorge Luis Borges.

Carol Lawton, Ottilia Buerger Professor of Classical Studies and Professor of Art History has taught at Lawrence since 1980. She conducted Ancient and Byzantine Coins, which looked at a wide range of coins that go from ancient Greece all the way up to the Byzantine Empire:

“The range is very interesting. The Greek coins [starting in sixth century B.C.] depict typically Greek deities … then in the Hellenistic period after Alexander the Great, the Kings depicted themselves, Roman Emperors depicted themselves, and Byzantine Emperors too but half way through the Byzantine period we have Christ appearing on coins [beginning in seventh century A.D.].”

Students chose the coins that most interested them so that they could later set up a coherent exhibition. Altogether, students came up with a method to divide the coins chronologically, writing the text and labels designed for the display, which is called “Heads Up.”

Lawton acknowledges that her D-Term class significantly differed from a regular one in that “it [was] much more intense and much more hands-on.” Lawton usually teaches students about coins in the context of Greek or Roman Art History; however, D-Term allowed her to “concentrate on the coins entirely… and the collection, [as well as] for the students to go and work on it,” she said.

Only five people took the Ancient and Byzantine Coins class, which had a wide range of student backgrounds. According to Lawton, “it was a great mix,” since there were “undeclared freshmen who just thought it sounded interesting and [there were] senior art history and art majors.”

Junior Alex Damisch, a double-degree student majoring in clarinet performance and math took this course. D-Term gave her the opportunity to study a field outside of her major disciplines, “I would never have had the chance to take an art history course during the regular school year because my schedule is so full with math and music classes,” she stressed.

Damisch said that this course was different from a regular one since,

“we got so hands-on with the coins so soon. Literally on the first day of classes we put on the white gloves to go to the galleries and started handling them,” she pointed out.

“I’m hoping that maybe next year when people have more advanced warning there can be a larger course selection. I would definitely be interested in doing it again.” As for the coin exhibition, it opens to the public on Friday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center.

Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies Gustavo Fares, who has been at Lawrence since 2000, taught a literature class that focused on analyzing important literary works from Jorge Luis Borges, “…we examined works that were presented for the first time in Freshman Studies but the idea was to explore those same works, two or three years later, with new insights in the original language,” he said.

In addition, Fares was interested in exploring Borges’ works that were not offered in any other class, including “Borges’ poetry, essays, prologues, anecdotes, Borges in film and lectures about [him],” which gave students the chance to re-discover and re-interpret the Argentine writer’s works.

Borges’ course opened up only with three students because the advertisement was not distributed on time. Fares explains that “there were many courses offered and most of them were undersubscribed so they decided to keep the five that were the most subscribed and one for each division of the university.”

Students enrolled in this class had the opportunity to contextualize Borges: “Not only talk about the stories, poems, and essays but talk about the period in which they were written and set,” Fares said. Borges plays with space and time, narrating from a certain point in time either about the past, present or future, which allows the reader to interpret the content in different ways.

Overall, both faculty and students think that there needs to be changes so that more people take advantage of the D-Term offerings. These changes are the advertisement, which was not enough, and to explore the possibility of allowing students to maintain their financial aid for these courses.

Damisch said “more notice of the course, I know that D-Term was only announced at the very beginning of this past fall term and also I think financial aid was a large barrier for a lot of people.”

Fares also suggests that concentrating the services would be a good idea “for instance, some kind of communal living because some of the students were the only ones in their dorms and they felt isolated.” Last but not least, “the food offerings were adequate but it was monotonous so that can maybe be explored as well,” he said.