Engage with the world

J Term 2020 Engineering students in front of TajMahal

URI engineering students visiting the Taj Mahal,
Agra, India, January 2020

Photo credit: Megan St. Hilaire

It’s January, and almost 1,200 URI students are spending their break learning something new—some on the Kingston campus, others online, and still others farther afield. All are enrolled in URI’s Winter J Term, a program of accelerated, for-credit coursework that students begin and complete during winter break.

In 2020, URI is offering 19 J Term off-campus courses, with 16 outside the U.S. Among them are a fashion study tour in London and Paris, two courses in Indonesia—one in biodiversity and another in global health—and business courses in supply chain management in Italy, Korea, and Taiwan.

Students diving in Bonaire for Term
Students are studying coral reef conservation in Bonaire during J Term 2020. “Each day we dive 3 times at different dive sites along the coast,” says marine affairs major Madeline Conley. (Photo courtesy of Madeline Conley.)

Madeline Conley’s January destination was Bonaire, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. It’s a beautiful spot and a perfect location to study coral reef conservation, says the senior marine affairs major and marine biology minor.

“The coast of Bonaire is lined with reefs, which are protected by Bonaire National Marine Park,” she says. “This means that there are many species of fish and coral here that are endangered or rare in other parts of the Caribbean. Throughout this course, we’ve been learning how to measure coral reefs through different methods such as rugosity, point-intercept, and fish counting, all underwater, of course.”

Conley says she wanted to take this course because of her interest in the human impact on the ocean environment. “We’ve learned that Bonaire is creating new and innovative ways to restore the reefs that can be shared worldwide through an organization called Reef Renewal,” she says. “This is a beautiful island, full of life, taking part in bettering our oceans.”

Senior Megan St. Hilaire, an industrial and systems engineering major, is studying sustainability practices in India along with seven fellow engineering students. The course takes them to five cities in India and gives them first-hand experience with the problems and engineered solutions related to sustainability in a developing country.

“We are learning about the issues in sustainability and India’s methods of improvement,” says St. Hilaire, who is minoring in sustainability and math. “At IIT Delhi, we learned about how they divert 93% of their waste sent to landfill through recycling and composting processes. Sustainable initiatives are promoted throughout India, which fights to improve air pollution, climate change, and overfilling their landfills.”

Being immersed in the culture of the country is an important part of the experience. “We visited Delhi and Agra on our first five days. At the Delhi Museum, we saw artifacts as old as 3000 BCE! We strolled through artisan markets and ate flavorful Indian cuisine. We toured the Agra Fort and watched the sunset at the Taj Mahal,” says St. Hilaire, who refers to her experience in India as “eight engineers, five cities, one bus, and infinite memories,” and one she’ll never forget.