Western to add January term

Ashlee Clark

It may take longer than 18 months to earn a master’s degree in most graduate programs.

But Reshma Medikonda, a graduate student from India, said she thinks a year and a half might be enough time to earn a master’s degree if courses were offered in the winter.

A three-week January term will be added to Western’s academic calendar in 2006. The additional term will also alter the academic schedules in the fall and spring semesters.

President Gary Ransdell approved the winter term in July. The proposal was approved in the spring by the administrative council, department heads and deans.

“I just believe that in a few short years time that we’ll look back and not remember not doing it,” Ransdell said. “It’ll become so ingrained in our institutional behavior like the short summer sessions.”

The change in Western’s academic schedule will give students such as Medikonda more opportunities to earn credit hours.

Medikonda plans to return to India to start a career working with computers. She said other international students might also want to complete their studies soon and return home.

All classes will end five minutes later beginning in fall 2005 to compensate for a longer winter break, according to a January term guide. One week will be added to the winter break in the new schedule and semesters will be shortened to 15 weeks.

All holiday breaks will remain the same, Provost Barbara Burch said.

The new schedule would also allot one study day before finals beginning in fall 2005, she said.

Non-repayable financial aid like Pell grants will not be available for the January term, Burch said. That type of financial aid is also not available for May term or summer sessions.

Registration for the winter term will begin in November, Burch said.

The classes that will be offered during the January session have not been chosen, said Beth Laves, co-chair of the January term implementation team and director of summer sessions.

The extra academic term will give students more time to study abroad or take extra classes, Burch said.

But some students are somewhat apprehensive about sacrificing their winter break to attend a January session.

Elizabethtown senior Ryan Sipes said he would consider taking a winter term class if he needed to graduate by a certain date, but he would rather attend class in the fall or spring.

“I’m sure there is a need for it, but I don’t know, it’s kind of time off,” he said.

Bridget Dauter, a junior from Nashville, Tenn., said a winter term should be an option, but she probably wouldn’t take a class in January.

“I think it’s important to have a long break in between semesters to relax and spend time with family,” she said.

Somerset senior Joshua Neikirk, who graduates in December 2005, said a January term could have helped him graduate sooner if he’d not changed his major.

“I’d be all about taking a January term,” he said.

The January term implementation team will meet within the next few weeks to discuss issues such as housing availability, course offerings and class locations, said Dawn Bolton, assistant to the provost for program development and co-chair of the implementation team.

The Division of Extended Learning and Outreach will direct and coordinate the winter term, Laves said. DELO also manages May and summer terms.

Faculty regent Robert Dietle said he has some concerns about the new term because it was not formally presented to the University Senate.

“I think there are some issues here that the faculty need to be concerned about,” he said.

Changes involving the term schedule are among those concerns.

Some departments that will be affected by the change, such as Housing and Residence Life and Dining Services, were consulted about the January term, Ransdell said.

Katie Dawson, acting president of the Student Government Association, said she would like to see more data about the effectiveness of winter terms at other universities. But she said she thinks the results of the term will be evident in a few years.

Dawson said she is concerned that students may not be able to learn the course material for some classes in three weeks.

“I think that the January term is definitely going to open up some options for students,” she said.

Burch said she does not expect a large enrollment for the winter term.

“I think initially the numbers will be modest like the May term,” she said.

Laves agreed.

“More importantly, we want to make it run smoothly and that it is beneficial for students and faculty that do participate,” she said.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].