After three weeks away from the hilltop, during which the community rested and recharged, one would think the first question members of the Blair community would have for one another is, “How was your break?” But, as friends, roommates and peers reunited around campus in early January, that’s not what they were asking.
“What’s your J-term?”
It’s a greeting synonymous with “what’s up?” or “how are you?” in the Romano Dining Hall and DuBois Theatre during this annual “mini-mester” that serves as a kickstart and transition into the second term at Blair. For four years, students have selected their top choices from an expansive catalog of nearly 40 courses, designed and co-taught by Blair faculty before being placed into classes of a dozen or so students of different ages and interests. From “Startup Sprint: 28 Hours to Entrepreneurship (with AI Tools)” to “Street Photography” and everything in between, faculty and students alike immersed themselves in a 10-day learning experience that culminated in the sharing of final presentations—in myriad forms—with the entire Blair community taking part. Students created artwork, shared posters, gave presentations, played a musical performance, made and screened a film, and even prepared culinary dishes in an effort to communicate their key takeaways with fellow students, faculty and staff.
“Over the last week and a half, our students and faculty have engaged in hands-on learning in a variety of topics and disciplines that took them on adventures up and down the East Coast—with some traveling as far as Africa,” Head of School Peter G. Curran P’27 ’27 said. “It has been inspiring to see their interest and enthusiasm for this signature Blair program, which culminated with our classes sharing their experiences during a series of presentations.”
This year, travel during J-term courses was at an all-time high under the direction of Director of Experiential and Intercultural Learning and language department chair Joyce Lang. While a cohort of students spent time at two schools in Kenya, operated by the independent non-profit Blair in Kenya, others traveled to Washington, D.C., for a three-day excursion and even more ventured out on day trips around Blairstown, utilizing the vast network of the Blair community and connections to parents, alums and friends. Students visited caves while learning about bats, delivered blankets to local animal shelters, and studied adaptive reuse of architecture as far away as Yale University and as near as Blairstown’s Main Street.
Traveling for the first time in 2024, “Equality for Women: Are We There Yet?” took students to Seneca Falls, New York, to visit the birthplace of the women’s rights movement in the United States. For a final project, students independently selected a woman they admired to research and highlight in a presentation to the community. From Ida B. Wells and Susan B. Anthony, to the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and women’s soccer star Mia Hamm, the projects were varied and wide-ranging.
“Throughout J-term, we were able to discuss and learn about the remarkable women who fought for our rights; we would have never received those rights without their desire and perseverance,” Sam Kowalick ’25 shared at the end of J-term. “We were also able to talk about women who were simply trailblazers and accomplished unthinkable goals. This course has given me a deeper appreciation for these women who gave me the right to vote, speak in public, share my opinion and so much more.”
On campus, many J-term courses benefited from the expertise of members of the extended Blair family. Director of Alumni Relations E. Courtnay Stanford ’95 teamed up with fellow alum and Assistant Athletic Director Rhett Morosses ’13 to bring their professional experience and institutional knowledge into the classroom for “Campus Enhancement: A High-Stakes Game of Musical Chairs!” to teach students about philanthropy. The class called on experts like Blair’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Frick and marketing specialist CJ Palanca to help students gain a greater understanding of how Blair operates and communicates with its constituents.
“J-term was a great opportunity for me to work with people I don’t typically see on campus,” Kaleb Nelson ’25 said after his group’s presentation of a new dining hall proposal to a packed Cowan Auditorium in the Bogle Science Center. “It offered a behind-the-scenes look at our campus and gave me a greater appreciation for all that goes into a Blair education.”
While every course is different, the objective of J-term—and the overarching mission of Blair Academy—remains the same: knowing students well and making our community a place where they are empowered to realize their full potential and better understand themselves and the world.
“J-term offers students and faculty learning opportunities that are inquiry-driven, collaborative, experiential and, in some cases, place-based," Mrs. Lang explained. "Outside experts, some of whom are Blair alumni, contribute to the experiences that our students and faculty enjoy. Some J-term courses include day trips, others travel overnight, and in some cases international journeys are the main focus of the learning. At the end of eight intensive days of exploration, reflection and creation, students share their learning with the entire community through presentations, movie showings, musical performance and gallery walks.”
Click play below to watch a video highlighting the 2024 J-term experience.