Why one university is launching an inclusive ‘J Term’

Loyola University in New Orleans is giving students a free opportunity to explore social issues through a unique, two-week academic period in January.
By: | December 15, 2020
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A commitment to inclusive excellence. That has long been a mission for Loyola University in New Orleans but most especially since it created its Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2016.

Since then, Loyola has drafted a strategic plan to achieve a “more just world” by committing to a number of initiatives on its campus, including increasing the number of underrepresented faculty members as well as expanding curricular offerings that focus on diversity, equity and social justice.

As awareness continues to spire around social issues throughout the U.S., Loyola is continuing to press forward with its mission to bridge gaps that still exist.

In its latest academic offering, Loyola announced it is launching its first January Term (J Term), with an exclusive focus on race, equity and inclusion. It not only will give students a chance to cover any learning losses that occurred because of COVID-19 but also an opportunity to get immersed in social topics they have been calling for. The biggest bonus: they are free and students will receive three credit hours for completing them.

President Tania Tetlow said: “The new January term gives us a meaningful way to keep our students moving forward and on track toward graduation while providing them a critical look at issues facing us all today.”

The academics behind the program

Loyola’s unique J Term – which will take place Jan. 5-14 – will feature instructors who typically only teach law or graduate-level programs. The majority of those who will be conducting the courses will be from underrepresented groups.

The undergraduate course topics from several disciplines are bold, with a focus on DEI and social justice issues, and are being offered in three different modalities – hyflex, online and in person, including:

  • Race and Mass Incarceration: A look at the path from school-to-prison for many underrepresented communities and the “disproportionate representation of marginalized groups.”
  • Octavia Butler Now! Reading Race, Justice, and Critical Futures: Explores the writings of science fiction author Octavia Butler, her influence in the literary realm Afrofuturism and the current socioeconomic environment.
  • Equity: Case Study New Orleans: A close look at the challenges and struggles facing the city’s black, indigenous and people of color and those from low-income groups.
  • Reimagining the American Experience: A focus on four areas of media – news and criticism, film and television, podcasts and digital media – and how they have shaped experiences and characters.
  • Diversity in Science: The course will address the question: “Why aren’t there more people of color in STEM fields?”
  • Health disparities: The course will address the health and economic disparities that exist in those from underserved communities, along with potential solutions.
  • Say Her Name: This explores why Black women in the U.S. have notoriously been underappreciated, disrespected and neglected; and
  • Examining the “Own Voices Movement in Young Adult Literature” as well as Black Heroes and Black Respectability.

“Loyola has historically demonstrated a commitment to being an institution where social justice takes center stage,” said Dr. Kedrick Perry, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion who helped select the courses along with Cheyenne Williams, chief diversity officer of the Loyola Student Government Association and others. “J-Term reflects that we don’t shy away from those difficult, yet necessary, discussions and debates that are centered on race, class, and inclusion and that impact our campus and nation.”