Gettysburg students, alumni build enduring skills during J-Term

Student speak to other students
Students learned about their own strengths as leaders as part of an immersion experience organized by the Eisenhower Institute in Washington, D.C.

This winter, more than 800 Gettysburg College students and alumni broadened their knowledge and sharpened their enduring skills during the January Term (J-Term). Through this dynamic hands-on experience, they learned how to transform their aspirations into action, putting their consequential education into practice for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success. Programming included virtual sessions with Gettysburg faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as immersion trips organized by the Eisenhower Institute (EI), Center for Public Service (CPS), Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC), and the Center for Career Engagement (CCE).

“J-Term provides students and alumni with an opportunity to further develop the enduring skills most valued by employers and graduate schools,” said Associate Dean of Co-Curricular Education Jim Duffy, who oversaw J-Term. “Students, for example, engaged with topics that provided an opportunity to identify their personal leadership style, communicate effectively and network with others, create a landing page for an entrepreneurial initiative, and adapt to life beyond Gettysburg.”

Prof. Patturaja Selvaraj presented
Prof. Patturaja Selvaraj presented on situational leadership and emotional intelligence during J-Term.

In 2021, The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) identified a preparedness gap between college graduates’ readiness to execute certain skills and the importance employers place on those specific skills in the workforce. That same year marked Gettysburg’s return to J-Term programming, opening the door for students to take free courses outside the scope of the standard academic curriculum.

This year, from Jan. 2-12, students were offered 13 different virtual sessions focusing on networking, leadership, well-being, design thinking, communication, and more. Courses covered a broad range of personal and professional subjects, all designed to build enduring skills most valued by employers today, including communication, adaptability, and creativity.

The Center for Career Engagement led several sessions focused on professional development, including “Making the Most of the Gettysburg Network,” “Level Up Your Resume and Cover Letter,” and “Career Planning: Jumpstart for Liberal Arts Students.” These sessions along with Political Science Prof. Scott Boddery’s course about applying to law school helped students realize the potential they have to pursue any career they can dream of thanks to the broad-based offerings at Gettysburg. More than one-third of all students participating in J-Term attended these career-based sessions.

“Prof. Boddery and two recent alums, now in law school, showed us how to prep for the LSAT, write personal statements, and produce an overall stronger application,” said German studies and history double major Peter Wildgruber ’24. “They emphasized the strength of Gettysburg College’s reputation and the importance of networking during your JD. I feel more confident about following a path in law and have new strategies to draw upon for my applications.”

The Center for Career Engagement online meeting
The Center for Career Engagement hosted a panel of alumni to engage with students about using the Gettysburg Network.

Additional courses included instruction from Gettysburg’s first-class faculty, such as Management Prof. Patturaja Selvaraj, as well as alumni teaming with College staff from Information Technology, EI, and the Office of Student Activities and Greek Life. Additionally, J-Term featured entrepreneur and venture capital investor Henrik Scheel, who presented a course called “Marketing Tactics for Student Entrepreneurs.”

“Henrik Scheel's presentation on landing pages and digital marketing gave me the opportunity to learn about analytical tests marketers use with landing pages,” said business, organizations, and management major Michaela Carroll ’25. “As an aspiring marketer, I enjoyed the understanding Henrik had on the career of digital marketing.” 

While students gained valuable knowledge and developed enduring skills as part of the J-Term virtual programming, they also had an opportunity to engage with Gettysburg alumni and expand their network. With more than 32,000 alumni across the world, the Gettysburg Network is an open resource for students to utilize for mentoring and connecting.

“As an alumna, it was exciting to be able to connect with the current students and see how they are thinking about their career journeys—whether that be as a first-year or a senior,” said Elizabeth Hilfrank ’18, who is currently the senior content marketing manager at Drift. “I credit a lot of my career journey thus far to the power of the Gettysburg Network, so any way in which we can continue to enhance that narrative with the classes that come after us is very important to me.”

Gettysburg students in Senegal
Gettysburg students travelled to Senegal to explore its history, culture, and educational system.

In addition to the virtual courses open to students, the month of January featured a series of immersion trips organized by CPS, EI, GLC, and CCE. These experiential learning opportunities—a core element of the Gettysburg Approach—allowed students to directly engage with some of the most important issues impacting our world.

Through CPS, students traveled to Morocco, Texas, Senegal, Costa Rica, and Alabama to learn about women’s rights, immigration, education, sustainability, and civil rights and hone skills like intercultural fluency and leadership.

“The trip to Senegal gave me an opportunity to see a culture different from the one I grew up in,” said anthropology and Africana studies double major Kellen Walker ’25. “It gave me a greater appreciation for the fact that everyone comes from their unique backgrounds and knowing where someone comes from can greatly impact their decisions today, and that is important to remember.”

students on a sea kayaking in the Sea of Cortez
The GLC led students on a sea kayaking leadership expedition in the Sea of Cortez along the Baja Peninsula, Mexico.

The Garthwait Leadership Center and Eisenhower Institute organized trips to Mexico and Washington, D.C., respectively. Led by GLC Director Paul Miller, a group of 11 students reflected on leadership and positive change on the world while kayaking among dolphins and humpback whales in the Sea of Cortez. In the nation’s capital, EI Executive Director Tracie Potts led students in meetings with leaders of national non-profit organizations, held mock press conferences with former TV news anchors, and visited museums, a career clothing closet, and FBI headquarters.

“Gettysburg College deeply values consequential experiences—experiences and ventures that shape people with development in mind,” said French and cinema and media studies double major William Oehler ’26. “The GLC Leadership Expedition did that quite emphatically. An expedition based in reflection and understanding of self and others develops individuals rapidly, especially when based in novel and incredible landscapes.”

In addition to the J-Term offerings, Career Engagement offered a career experience to Orlando, Florida, alongside Alumni Board of Directors member Greg Edelson ’87, P’18, P’21. The group explored and examined the family vacation market with stops at Universal Studios, the Coca-Cola Company, SeaWorld, Disney World, and more, while engaging with and presenting to managers and executives at each of the venues. 

GLC Executive Director Andy Hughes
GLC Executive Director Andy Hughes organized a session for the Alumni J-Term about the power of leadership coaching (Photo by Casey Martin Photography).

For the first time at Gettysburg, alumni could also carry on the lifelong pursuit of learning through specially-designed J-Term programming co-organized by the Burgians of the Last Decade (BOLD) Council and the Office of Alumni Relations. More than 100 alumni registered for the free virtual courses, which were instructed by fellow alumni and campus administrators from Jan. 22-25.

The alumni programming featured four different tracks that focused on professional development, lifelong learning, transitioning to life after college, and personal well-being. Potts, GLC Executive Director Andy Hughes, and Tosten represented the Gettysburg staff as presenters, while the remaining sessions were managed by alumni spanning professional fields in law, communications, finance, event management, strategic planning, and more.

“By creating the Alumni J-Term program, our hope was to create an easy way to share the skills and knowledge base of our alumni community,” said BOLD Council member Colleen Kolb ’17. “In both of the J-Term sessions I personally attended, I learned new things and met new Gettysburg alums that I am planning to reach out to in the future.”

Learn more about Gettysburg’s unique approach to education and how it prepares students and alumni for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

By Corey Jewart
Photos submitted by subjects, Casey Martin Photography
Posted: 02/02/24

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