-The following information can be found on "Willipedia":

Winter Study is the span of weeks between the two semesters at Williams. The courses offered during winter study may seem silly and frivolous in comparison to the academic rigors of semesterly courses, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many people find that the freedom from the usual constraints allows them to study whatever strikes their fancy, with no concerns about getting credit towards a major or dropping GPA (not that you all care about that). Winter Study also frequently features courses that include trips abroad, which are highly popular.

Winter Study for the 2005-2006 school year begins on Tuesday, January 3rd and ends on Thursday, January 26th. (Spring classes don't start until the following Wednesday, February 2nd.)

Our Winter Study for the 2005-2006 school year began on Saturday, December 31st, 2005, in Tucson, Arizona, and ended on Wednesday, February 1st, 2006, in San Francisco, CA, one day before Spring Semester began.

-The following can be found on the Williams College website:

The WSP offers sophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to pursue special projects of their own design, called 99s. A WSP 99 may provide potential benefits that, although difficult to obtain in regular semester classes, are valuable to your education and development. The Winter Study Committee (WSC) encourages 99 proposals for projects that are intellectually challenging, coherent, and rewarding.
Project proposals for 99s that do not contain a clear intellectual challenge, that are not coherent, that are not feasible, or do not demonstrate the possibility of maintaining adequate faculty guidance will be rejected. The burden of proving the merit and feasibility of the project rests with the student. The WSC will be concerned about how the applicant proposes to complete the project and the sponsor's method of evaluation. Plan to prepare a paper of at least 10 pages or its equivalent. It is crucial that the focus and content of the paper be carefully delineated prior to submitting your proposal. Considerable time should be spent discussing this with your faculty sponsor. Papers are expected to include some outside research to demonstrate the comprehensiveness of your thought and ensure that the knowledge gained is assimilated and applied. A daily journal alone or a paper that is merely a reflection on your experience will not satisfy the requirement.
In the case of off-campus 99s the WSC will be particularly concerned with the educational value of working elsewhere. It will also be inclined to reject projects that seem to be substitutions for courses which you could take in the regular semester. Projects that take students away from campus, therefore, should be thought of as exceptional. The nature of a project should dictate its being off-campus, rather than the desire to leave campus dictating the nature of the project.
The WSC stresses that students will not have the opportunity to redraft or revise proposals after department chairs have signed them

Types of 99 projects that are educationally valid

  1. research projects: In this case, you propose to study intensively a subject with which you have some familiarity. You should be acquainted with the methodological issues, know something of the techniques and tools available and have demonstrated an ability to handle the type of problems defined and research to be carried out.
  2. discovery projects: For this type of project, it is your intention to study a subject or an issue that interests you, but which you have not yet studied in a systematic manner. The aim of such a project is to enable you to understand things more clearly than you might be able to otherwise. The typical discovery project will be on campus, since there will be continual need for consultation while the project is underway. However, language and other academic programs also fall into this category. While these take place off-campus, it is understood that institutions sponsoring them possess an abundance of expertise in the area of study and will provide the necessary guidance throughout the programs duration.
  3. internships: The Winter Study Committee (WSC) supports internships that provide "an opportunity for active intellectual exploration-that is experience shaped by thought." Proposals for internships, volunteer positions and research or teaching apprenticeships must have supporting letters from sponsoring institutions, and must give some indication of the activities the student will be involved in, as well as the intellectual challenge of that experience. Similarly, proposals involving enrollment in an academic program must be accompanied with a formal brochure from the institution. For all of these types of projects the student must be engaged in project activities for at least 26 hours per week. Students cannot receive pay for work done for Winter Study Credit.

Checklist of essentials for 99 proposals

find sponsor(s)
A sponsor should have expertise in the subject area of your project. If you are unsure of whom to contact you might start by contacting a member of the department corresponding to the subject of your 99 proposal whom you have had as an instructor in a class. If you have not worked with any of the department's faculty, you should contact the chair of the department to request a recommendation. Do this early, since you should consult with the sponsor when developing your proposal.

develop a project with intellectual merit
This stage of the process should be carried out in close contact with the project sponsor. All WSP 99s must have a clearly defined intellectual challenge. You should, therefore, be refining your ideas about a project and limiting it to something that can feasibly be completed during the time available. 99s solely involving physical challenges will not be accepted.

do preliminary research, develop a bibliography, and formulate a proposal
In order to submit a successful 99 proposal it is essential that you do extensive background research into the topic so that you can demonstrate to the WSC that you are aware of the main contours of the field and where this project fits into that context. In order to do this you will need to develop a detailed bibliography in consultation with your sponsor and a Reference Librarian. The bibliography indicates that a proposal is well thought out and taken seriously by the student. It is one facet in demonstrating to the WSC that the student has devoted considerable effort to developing or furthering knowledge of a subject. The only types of projects for which the WSC does not require a bibliography are those sponsored by an outside institution, such as a language program.

special notes for travel 99s
For off-campus 99s, it is important that you are aware of the dangers (violence, health risks, traffic dangers), discomforts (weather and climate, travel, long waits, availability, or lack thereof, of sanitary facilities) and realities of the trip (potential disappointments, planned visits disrupted, contacts not coming through, location not as nice as it seemed). The websites for the State Department (http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html) and the Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/travel) offer complete information concerning pertinent political, criminal and health dangers. Before proposing an off-campus 99, you should note that if you are enrolled in a 101-102 language course you may be required to take the sustaining Program during the WSP and thus remain on campus. If you are a junior or senior, you should also check the Bulletin to see whether your major department(s), or program(s), requires you to take an on-campus WSP. Although it is a College rule that students may not be paid for work earning credit, the WSC will allow a student with an off-campus 99 project to receive living expenses, which may be offered for this purpose and not as pay. The request to receive this living allowance must be approved by your faculty sponsor, the department and the WSC.

as well as...

As an upper-class student during the 2005-2006 academic year, one of your options for Winter Study will be to propose a "99," an independent project arranged between you and a faculty sponsor, conducted in lieu of a regular Winter Study course. Perhaps you have encountered an interesting idea in one of your courses that you would like to study in more depth, or you may have an interest not covered in the regular curriculum. In recent years students have undertaken in-depth studies of particular literary works, interned in government offices, assisted in foreign and domestic medical clinics, conducted fieldwork in the economics of developing countries, and given performances illustrating the history of American dance. Although some 99's involve travel away from campus, there are many opportunities to pursue intellectual or artistic goals here in Williamstown.

The three-week period in the fall between the beginning of classes and the deadline for submitting 99 proposals is almost certainly inadequate to develop your ideas fully for a rewarding independent project. Therefore, we urge you to begin thinking now about what kind of project you might like to propose for next January. If you know someone who did a 99, ask him or her about what worked well and what should have been done differently. When departments and the Winter Study Committee review a proposal, they look for a project with a clear intellectual or creative focus and a clear structure. An effective 99 proposal should not only explain what you hope to accomplish, but also how you plan to go about it and how you plan to communicate your results. Early consultation with potential faculty sponsors will help you to focus your interests into a clearly defined, well-structured project that will be easily approved. If you are studying away next fall and want to do a 99 next winter, we recommend that you consult a faculty sponsor and sketch out a proposal before leaving Williams in May.

To see how our "ideas developed" in a manner very different from the one suggested, see September 22, 2005