Students in a J-term first-year seminar in 2016.

What the course catalog says:

Cinema is a powerful medium for documenting moving images and telling stories. Recently, people have turned to film to inspire people to think and act ecologically. This course explores how various cinematic media shape the ways we understand and represent ecological issues and potentially sustainable futures.

What the professor says:

J-term courses have two key advantages, from my perspective. First, the class builds a community. When you spend this much time together, doing different forms of classroom work, from presentations to small and large group discussions, you get to know everyone's personality. Plus, I assign a term-long group project, and I know these groups can maintain their new friendship across the rest of their time at Luther.

Second, the academic rigor of the term differs from a semester. Semesters are great in that you get to work on complex ideas over a long stretch, so there's a lot of time to explore diverse angles and directions and simply to let ideas soak and develop. In J-terms, even though there's less overall soak time, this one class is all that students are doing. They have a single focus, but they also have the time to exercise and have some fun and keep really healthy that way too. Students seem fresher and more rested in J-term.

Andrew Hageman, assistant professor of English

What the student says:

This course first caught my attention because it was taught by Professor Hageman. He is also my Paideia professor this year, and I love how he challenges my thinking and writing. And as someone interested in biology, I realized that Eco-Media would not only be an engaging course, but it also may be a valuable tool to use in my future. As a scientist, it is important to be able to detect problems and envision possible solutions, but it is also crucial to be able to communicate these ideas in an accessible manner. That’s where we see the marriage of ecology and media.

The writing was certainly challenging—I have never had to do such consistent writing, and this course helped my writing skills significantly. In addition, the final project also stretched me. Our groups were tasked with creating a film of an assigned genre. This process was difficult, since it required creative, thoughtful decisions to be made about the ecological message, the narrative arc of the story, and different editing and filming techniques. Once we figured out how to make these decisions and pieced together the project, however, the final result was incredibly rewarding.

—Matt Lagus