Smart Learning at Alma College

Where Spring Term Knows No Boundaries

Do you like to think outside the box? At Alma College, in Michigan, during the four-week Spring Term, students and professors together step outside the proverbial box—and across disciplinary, geographic, and cultural boundaries. For example, they:

  • Explore the rain forest and the indigenous communities along the Amazon River.
  • Conduct archival research at the John F. Kennedy presidential library in Boston.
  • Study Virginia Woolf's novels and essays in both London and Cornwall, England. 

These represent a few of the nearly 50 courses available in Spring Term—40 percent of which are travel courses, including 10 international options. 

Whatever the course, focusing intently on a single topic results in a greater depth of understanding about the subject and awakens new areas of interest. Says Marc Setterlund, Associate Provost and Professor of Psychology, “For me, the greatest educational benefit of Spring Term is the amount of time professors and students have to devote to an academic topic.” 

Unfortunately, heavy course loads and other obligations during regular semesters can render such opportunities impractical or impossible for most college students. But Alma’s  “4-4-1” academic calendar–with 14-week terms in fall and winter and the 4-week spring term in May—makes it work.

Spring Term courses are offered both on campus and off. On-campus courses may feature an abundance of field trips or other unique experiences. Off-campus locales range from nearby southwest Michigan and the Great Lakes region to San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Great Britain, Ecuador, China, and more. 

During their four years, students are required to successfully complete two Spring Term courses, and one must cross geographical, cultural or disciplinary boundaries. Many find the experience so rewarding that they choose to attend every year. Those enrolled full time in the preceding Fall and Winter terms pay tuition and board but no room charge to live on campus in Spring Term. Equipment, laboratory, travel, and off-campus room and board fees vary, and are outlined in the course list. 

Spring Term travel courses change every year, but a list of past domestic and international travel courses shows just how exciting it can be to think outside the box at Alma.

What might be a good question to ask during a college tour of Alma College? How about this:  How can I immerse myself in unique learning experiences and still graduate on time? The answer is likely to involve one or more Spring Term courses that cross the usual boundaries.


A researcher, writer, and editor with a special interest in education, Lisa Warren is a featured contributor to SmartCollegeVisit. 


For more videos related  to our on-going series: Smart Learning™, Smart See, Smart Do™, and CampusChat, please visit our SmartCollegeVisit video page on YouTube.

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