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ISSUE 116 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/21/2003

Organizing an Interim that’s worth the wait

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 21, 2003

With St. Olaf students studying across the globe each January, involved in such vastly different programs as mathematics in Budapest and biology in the Bahamas, it’s hard to imagine that all of St. Olaf’s 38 Interim programs are proposed, approved and organized right here on campus.

In order to offer St. Olaf students the unique opportunity to study a course enhanced by its off-campus location, a huge process of planning must first take place. “"For the faculty it represents at least a year and a half effort with these programs,”" Director of International and Off-Campus Studies Patrick Quade said.

All of the Interim programs start with an idea for a proposal, most of which come from St. Olaf faculty. “"The best programs come from faculty who are committed and excited about the programs,”" said Quade. Faculty members interested in getting a program together usually have some connection to the place where they are planning to lead an Interim, whether they’'ve lived at the location, studied there, or most likely because it provides the ideal setting for their course to be taught in.

Though program ideas usually come from faculty, some popular Interims came into being under different circumstances. About four years ago, Quade worked with a man in the Grants Office to develop a model for what is now known as the Hewlett Foundation Interims that focus on diversity. After the model was finished, Quade approached faculty members who he thought would work well with the program.

Interim leaders usually come into the International and Off-Campus Studies Office and talk things over with Quade early on in the process. At this point, he listens to their ideas and also may “set them up with the contacts that we may have in the places they are going.” Next, a form from the International and Off-Campus Studies Office including a course description, a listing of GE requirements that will be covered, and a preliminary budget must be filled out. Once the faculty member gets the program approved from his or her department chair, the form goes back to the office and must be turned in no later than Nov. 15 the year before the Interim, a full 14 months ahead of time.

Once a proposal is turned into the International and Off-Campus Studies Office, it goes to the IDOC (International and Domestic Off-Campus Studies Committee). Five faculty members, two students and Quade make up this committee that determines whether or not a program will become a reality. The committee looks at each proposal to see if it adheres to the guidelines of the International and Off-Campus Studies office’s policy, checks that the site is crucial to the curriculum, and makes sure that the faculty has the correct contacts. The committee proposes questions to the faculty member wishing to lead the program, and meets again at a later date to decide whether or not St. Olaf will offer the Interim to students.

If the program makes the final cut, plans will be finalized and it will be ready to go by Mar. 1. The new program will then appear in the new brochure of offered programs, and will be a part in the Off-Campus Interim Open House, which takes place Apr. 8 in Buntrock Commons.

Each year St. Olaf offers roughly four or five new programs, but some programs, such as “Theater in London,” have been running for over 30 years. Programs like these no longer need to go through the total process of a proposal, but whoever is leading them must still submit a letter of intent each year.

When the interim programs finish and students return to campus, the process continues as the trips are evaluated. The International and Off-Campus Studies Office uses student evaluations, on-site contacts and reports from the faculty members themselves to determine whether or not the more recent programs were successful, and if St. Olaf will continue to offer them.

Once a trip has run for three years it will usually continue running as long as there are students interested in going and faculty willing to lead it.

The faculty leaders of interims must also submit financial and narrative reports to the office when they return.

Besides the work involved with getting a program approved and evaluating it, the International and Off-Campus Studies Office also provides training sessions to prepare faculty and students for their upcoming experiences.

“In March we have a training session that is the first of three faculty orientations,” said Quade. During these orientations, they teach faculty members how to select good candidates for their programs, but also how to assume new roles they may have to take on while leading an interim. Though there are additional responsibilities attached to leading an interim, many faculty members embrace the opportunity. Professor of English David Wee said, “"It’'s my all time favorite teaching experience.”"

Though the never-ending process of running interim experiences takes a lot of work, the end result is a top rated International and Off-Campus Studies program that quite literally offers students at St. Olaf the world.

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