Proposing a January Interim Experience Travel Course

Above: Deb Pitton (Education) and Mayra Taylor (Spanish) with January Interim students in Costa Rica

January Interim Experience travel courses are central to the Gustavus Adolphus College global mission.  Such courses are designed to capitalize on opportunities unique to the locations where they are taught and to integrate classroom instruction and experiential learning activities into a well-conceived whole. When appropriate for academic and other reasons, affiliations with local academic institutions are encouraged.

The January Off-Campus Interim Experience differs from the regular semester in two principal ways: its brief length, approximately four weeks; and the immersion of students and faculty in a highly focused academic pursuit for that time period. Because of these differences, the mission of January Interim Experience is to provide ways for faculty and students to take advantage of this Interim’s unique qualities in developing courses and other learning opportunities that enrich and expand upon the College’s regular semester curricular offerings. The Interim Experience calls for balancing educational tradition with innovation, study within a general framework that is likely to be interdisciplinary and culturally focused in perspective, and preparation of students to lead lives of leadership and service. January Interim Experience Off-Campus Study provides opportunities for courses that are innovative, experimental, and/or interdisciplinary. (All January Interim regulations are printed in the Gustavus Academic Catalog.)

Proposing a New Course

Any faculty member, with the approval of the department chair, may propose an off-campus January Interim course to be taught during the second year or a subsequent year on the Gustavus Adolphus faculty. Proposals must demonstrate the suitability of the course to the college curriculum. Furthermore, they must provide a rationale for conducting the course off-campus by explaining the significance of the location(s) to the overall educational experience.  The proposal shall provide a clear picture of the careful integration of course content and on-site living and learning opportunities. Proposals are reviewed first by the Director of International and Cultural Education, then by the International and Domestic Programs Committee (IDPC). Additional information may be requested from the proposer during this review process.

New Proposals are due in the Center for International and Cultural Education early in October of the academic year prior to the year of the proposed course (due date is posted each year on the Curriculum Committee website). A January Interim course that has not been offered during the last four years is considered to be a new course. Instructors adapting an on-campus course to an off-campus January Interim must submit a new course proposal with a course number different from that of the on-campus course. A member of the faculty must have a back-up plan for their on-campus teaching if due to low enrollment the off-campus course is cancelled.

Proposal forms for new or repeat January off-campus courses are available on the Curriculum Committee website.

Want to see some sample proposals that have been positively reviewed by IDPC? Go to the forms page.

Proposal Review Procedure

  • Proposals (including an estimated program budget) are due at the CICE office early in October of the academic year prior to the year proposed for the course (14 months in advance of the actual January Interim). The CICE staff is happy to work with instructors throughout the development of a new course proposal but must be involved with the development of a proposed budget.
  • Following review by CICE, a new course proposal goes to IDPC for consideration. IDPC may request additional information about the course during the review process or request revisions prior to approval.
  • If approved, the course then goes on to Curriculum Committee and from there to the full faculty, per the usual course approval process.
  • A member of the faculty must have a back-up plan for their on-campus teaching if due to low enrollment the off-campus course is cancelled.

Proposing a Repeat Course

Once the course has been taught for the first time, the faculty member must complete a Repeat Off-Campus Course form for each subsequent repeat of the course. This form is available on the Curriculum Committee website and is due by February 15 for the following January Interim.

General Guidelines

  • Instructors should address how courses fit into departmental or interdisciplinary programs and how they relate to existing programs in the same geographic area. Faculty members are encouraged to speak to area studies programs and their department chair in advance of submitting a proposal.
  • Each course shall have a well-defined focus, whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary.
  • Pre-requisites shall be appropriate to course goals.
  • Instructors shall be mindful also of the intended audience(s), whether majors, non-majors, or both.
  • The January Interim Experience proposal should provide an accurate and complete summary of all activities associated with the course, including any non-traditional or experiential activities.       
  • January Interim course instructors shall be familiar with the country(ies) included in the itinerary.
  • Proposals that include a co-instructor who is not an active or retired Gustavus faculty member will require that the Office of the Provost approves listing the individual as a co-instructor. These arrangements should be discussed prior to submission of the proposal. Approval will be based on the individual’s site-specific expertise as well as their ability to be full participants in planning and implementing the course and assessing student learning.
  • Normally, January Interim courses are taught by an individual faculty member. A team taught course may be possible contingent upon:
    • Approval of department(s) and Provost with regard to teaching loads. Consideration should be given to on-campus guidelines regarding student enrollment for team taught courses.
    • Additional instructional costs not being added to the program costs for course instructors.
  • In the event a proposed off-campus travel course is cancelled due to low enrollment or any other reason, the instructor must have a back-up plan for an on-campus course.

Academic guidelines

  • Courses shall have academic integrity and coherence. The relationship between course content and the course location(s) should be articulated clearly. Instructors should give careful thought to the integration of course readings, lectures, site visits, and appropriate methods of evaluation.
  • Courses shall normally combine experiential learning with more traditional academic learning.
  • The type and amount of work required of students shall be appropriate to the focus and level of the course and compatible with living and traveling conditions. The academic expectations of the course should be comparable to on-campus courses.
  • Students need to know in advance how they are to procure assigned reading materials (by purchase before departure, purchase on site, or the use of libraries). When students are expected to carry out research projects, faculty should ensure that libraries or other research facilities are available and adequate. If English is not the language of the location of the course, careful thought should be given to how students will carry out their course work and interact with local populations.
  • The time devoted to classroom or course-related-activities shall be at least as much as for on-campus January Interim Experience courses, and normally significantly more. Instructors should submit a preliminary daily schedule that outlines how mornings, afternoon and evenings will be spent. As a general guide, instructors normally schedule at least two of the blocks (i.e. morning, afternoon or evening) most days for meetings or other group activities to take advantage of the off-campus site. While there is value in allowing students some unscheduled time during a course, this must be balanced with a structure that ensures that students remain engaged in course-related activities during the majority of their schedule. 
  • Means of evaluation shall be clearly stated, realistic, adequate and appropriate for the course.


Travel logistics are generally handled by the Center for International and Cultural Education in collaboration with the course instructor. Please consider these guidelines in preparing the itinerary:

  • Instructors should balance the academic integrity of the course, the logistics, and cost of travel. Instructors are encouraged to consider carefully the number of sites they propose to visit, their geographical proximity to each other, and the time that will be spent traveling between them.
  • Instructors must make a good case for the amount of travel they propose.
  • It is expected that the duration of an off-campus January Interim Experience (not including travel days) will be consistent with the length of the on-campus January Interim Experience.

Course title and draft catalog statement

  • The course title must reflect the disciplinary or interdisciplinary focus of the course as well as the place in which it is taught. (Example: Argentinean Culture and Identity or Inauguration Politics: Washington DC.)
  • The draft catalog statement shall describe the main theme or focus of the course, and identify its main elements (such as readings, lectures, site visits, independent research, and how students will be evaluated), in addition to the itinerary. (For examples, please contact the Director of International and Cultural Education.)

Course enrollment

  • A suggestion for a minimum and maximum number of participants should be prepared and accompanied with a rationale for those numbers. Generally speaking, off-campus January Interim Experience courses taught by a single instructor enroll a minimum of 10 students and a team-taught course has a minimum enrollment of 20 students.  Please note that several policies govern students' involvement in off-campus study. For a complete list of student policies, see Student Off-Campus Study Policies.

Health and Safety

The well-being of faculty and students on any travel course is of utmost importance. As you plan your January Interim course, you will need to provide a description of relevant risk management issues. Your proposal will not be considered until these conditions have been thoroughly explored. Read the policies for risk management.

Budget Policies

All off-campus study January Interim Experience proposals will include a budget estimate in consultation with the staff in the Center for International and Cultural Education. Please keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Instructors shall develop budgets in cooperation with CICE.
  • Instructor's salary and benefits are met through the operating budget of the college. Participating students pay the actual costs for the individual program including a per-student, pro-rated amount to cover the expenses of the faculty member leading the program.
  • Program budgets are to be submitted with the new (or repeat) course proposal. Budgets for off-campus January Interim courses that have been taught before shall be updated by the faculty, in cooperation with the staff of CICE, during the month of February.
  • It is expected that off-campus January Interims will operate within the estimated cost range stated in the promotional materials published in March-April.
  • Final course costs are established in late Fall.

Student Selection Criteria

The selection of student participants for off-campus study programs is handled in two or three phases: First, CICE screens all applicants for minimum Gustavus requirements for participation in an off-campus study program. The second step is to send the Gustavus approved application to the faculty advisor of the off campus program or course for approval. The third step is to send the application to the provider, if other than Gustavus Adolphus College, who makes final decisions regarding student participation in direct-enroll programs at host institutions.

The following criteria are approved by the IDPC and may be used by Gustavus faculty who are involved in approving students for January Interim Experience or semester length programs:

  • Reason for choosing an off-campus study program. Motivation for applying.
    • Academic reasons
    • Non-academic reasons
  • Grade Point Average.
  • Review of student’s history of compliance with college policies. (This occurs in two ways: First, student self-disclosure on the application form and second, by sending a list of applicants to the Registrar’s office and the Dean of Students office to identify any students who may be on academic or disciplinary probation.)
  • All other things being equal:
    • Seniors and juniors have priority over sophomores;
    • Regularly enrolled students will have priority over graduated students;
    • Gustavus Adolphus students will have priority over non-Gustavus Adolphus students
  • Personal qualities/Interpersonal skills:
    • Maturity
    • Independence
    • Adaptability
    • Ability to interact with a group
    • Willingness to initiate cross cultural opportunities
    • Ability to function in stressful situations
  • Program specific needs

Final Report

At the conclusion of the January Interim, the Center for International and Cultural Education will ask students to complete an electronic evaluation concerning organizational and logistical aspects of the course. CICE uses the results in reviewing subsequent January Interim proposals. In addition to the CICE questionnaire, January Interim instructors must submit the following:

  • A final financial report to the CICE Finance Manager within one week of return.
  • A narrative report to the Director of CICE by March 1. Please follow these guidelines for the report.

NOTE: In the case of a January Interim being offered for a first time and proposed for a second year, the narrative report must be submitted by February 15.

Faculty are strongly encouraged to have students evaluate the academic component of the course. This may be done by utilizing any hard copy or online student feedback system. Information about course content and the impact of the January Interim experience on students’ program of study and cross-cultural learning and understanding contributes to the ongoing Gustavus assessment program and can be included in the narrative report.

Other Policies

Additional faculty policies related to off-campus travel courses should be reviewed as you plan your January Interim course. You may also wish to review student policies since these may have an impact on your course planning.

Still have questions? Contact the Director of the Center for International and Cultural Education.


Material on the Information for Faculty pages is from the IDPC Program Manual originally approved by the faculty on May 5, 2008. Revisions approved April 30, 2010.