#ElonTBT: The beginning of the Winter Term tradition in 1969

In this edition of #ElonTBT, we look back at the beginning of a long tradition at Elon as students prepare to conclude Winter Term 2020.

In the #ElonTBT series, the Elon University News Bureau, along with Archives & Special Collections, will flash back to the past to take a look at Elon over the years. You will find videos, newspaper clippings, photos and more to celebrate Elon’s past, while looking ahead to the future. Follow along on Today at Elon and the university’s TwitterFacebook and Instagram pages every Thursday to see what we dig up.

This January marks 51 years since the start of the Winter Term at Elon. For five decades, the university has provided enlightening courses, programs and experiences both on and off campus for students throughout the first month of the year.

The tradition dates back to 1969. Elon had just done away with the unpopular six-day semester system in which students attended classes Monday through Saturday. At the same time, then-President J. Earl Danieley and the administration announced a significant change to the curriculum, which would reshape the Elon experience for decades to come.

The 1968-69 academic year saw the beginning of Elon’s new 4-1-4 calendar. It consisted of two, four-month semesters in the fall and spring, with a one-month term sandwiched between.

An article in the Jan. 24, 1969, edition of the Maroon and Gold details Elon’s first Winter Term.

The first day of classes on Jan. 14, 1969, marked the start of what would come to be known as Winter Term at Elon. The four-week term was immediately considered a positive change on campus.

“The Elon College students and faculty, who resumed regular class work on Tuesday morning, January 14th, entered up on a new experiment in scheduling as they embarked on the first so-called ‘mini-term’ in Elon history, and the administration, faculty and students were disposed to call the new idea a successful one at the end of the first full week,” read an article in the Jan. 24, 1969, edition of the Maroon and Gold student newspaper.

The first Winter Term concluded with exams on Feb. 7, 1969, and included an enrollment of 1,300 students, according to the newspaper. The term offered students the opportunity to take new intensive courses or retake courses they might have struggled with in a previous semester.

Winter Term experiences were not reserved for the classroom. The Elon Players produced Moliere’s “Tartuffe” and performed the play at five area high schools during the first Winter Term. It was that same year that Elon’s Winter Term Study Abroad program began to take shape.

During that first Winter Term, Professors James Elder and Gerald Priestley from the Department of History took 22 students to London for a three-week course on British history. The group visited landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament and attended lectures at London University and the British Museum.

The course later expanded to four weeks and became the foundation for Elon’s international studies program.

Elon students helped build houses and supported medical clinics and nutrition programs on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border during a Winter Term program in 1988.

After beginning with only 22 students, the Winter Term Study Abroad program continued to grow over the years and saw more than 350 students participating in 14 programs by January 1998.

That constant growth was part of the administration’s vision for Winter Term from the beginning.

“In speaking of the new plan, President J. E. Danieley stated that the administrative officials are pleased with the enrollment, and they feel that registration for ‘mini-term’ classes will probably rise to higher figures in future years,” read the Maroon and Gold.

Students enrolled in Rod Parks and Kelly Reimer’s Winter Term 2020 course trekked to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free standing mountain.

Today, Winter Term at Elon is still a key aspect of the university’s focus on student-centered, experiential learning. The Winter Term Study Abroad program has continued to grow as 906 undergraduate and graduate students participated in programs through Elon’s Study Abroad and Study USA programs, cohort travel and course-embedded travel in January 2020.

Do you have any special pieces of Elon history? Share your photos and videos with us via email at news@elon.edu or using the hashtag #ElonTBT on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.