January Term 2021 Will Be Primarily Online

September 15, 2020

As one of Saint Mary’s signature undergraduate programs, January Term is founded on the belief that exploring one’s interests deeply is fundamental to a diverse and rewarding education, and thus we embrace creativity, exploration, and flexibility as necessary components of our program. We have been impressed with how well the entire SMC community has put these qualities into practice as the world continues to change right in front of our eyes. Over the past few months, we have been inspired by your tenacity, determination and dedication to navigating through uncertainty and change. We already made the difficult decision to move forward with remote learning this Fall in an effort to prioritize our community members’ health and safety. Although we are all eager to return to fully in-person learning, we must reiterate that the overall well-being of our students and Contra Costa County health guidance takes precedence over this desire. With this in mind, we have decided to continue with primarily remote learning for January Term 2021. 

The January Term Experience for 2021

January Term 2021 will be primarily, and for many students exclusively, delivered remotely. We have been carefully tracking a series of critical internal and external indicators to guide our decision-making about which courses can and must be delivered with some in-person instruction. The small number of hybrid or in-person courses will include some in-person instruction that will occur either on campus, and be only accessible for students living on campus; or occur off campus, and be open exclusively to students living off campus. Some of these in-person or hybrid courses may include local trips which will be pre-approved by the College, and those courses will also be noted as limited to only on-campus or off-campus students. Course modality information is noted in the course descriptions online. January Term Faculty have worked tirelessly to alter their original travel and in-person course plans in an effort to create a fun and exciting online experience for Saint Mary's College students come the new year, and most of the course descriptions have been updated on the January Term website to reflect these changes, though some additional changes are being made through the beginning of next week.


As a reminder, students who are currently living on campus have an annual contract and are not required to move out personal belongings at the end of Fall Term. On-campus housing in single-occupancy rooms is available for additional students who wish to live on campus beginning in January. If you are not currently living on campus and wish to do so, please contact housing@stmarys-ca.edu or 925.631.4241. For additional information on campus housing availability, see this link.


January Term Registration will open on September 28th through GaelXpress. Since all College-sponsored international travel is suspended, including all travel courses (even the domestic ones), the January Term Travel scholarship will not be offered this year. Students will find that the course fees for January Term have generally been significantly reduced.

There will be no alterations to the January Term Independent Study process. Students who wish to participate in Independent Study for January Term in 2021 will complete the normal application process via the Registrar’s website

Moving Forward

Spring 2021 planning continues, and information about instruction and housing will be available in advance of the Advising Period (Oct. 19-30).

Despite the disruptions and hardships caused by COVID-19, we are confident in our SMC community’s resilience and are looking forward to providing an outstanding educational experience in the true spirit of January Term. We are hoping that January Term 2022 will be able to return to normal, and are exploring ways that we might bring some of the on-campus and travel experience to our virtual reality for 2021. We greatly appreciate your understanding as we adapt to the current public health needs of our community in the meantime.



Aaron D Sachowitz, PhD | Director, January Term

Megan Mustain, PhD | Vice Provost for Student Academics and Dean of the Core

Corey Cook, PhD | Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Planning