Education during vacation

MU will offer five
one-credit courses during winter break.
Thursday, December 4, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:33 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

For the first time in more than 10 years, general education classes will be offered at MU between traditional fall and winter semesters. The pilot intersession program stems from student interest, MU officials said.

“Because the time between terms doesn’t seem like enough time to work, it’s hard (for students) to find jobs that fill that niche, but they have the time to do something,” said Brenda Selman, MU registrar. “We checked into their requests and responded with the pilot program.”

New intersession classes full

Five one-credit classes in the departments of biology, political science, psychology, sociology and statistics will be taught by MU faculty and will run from Jan. 5 to Jan. 16. All five classes, which have about 25 students each, filled up before the end of the early registration period.

“We have clearly hit on something for which there was considerable interest,” said Ted Tarkow, associate dean for the College of Arts and Science.

Although the intersession pilot program is new, classes have been offered between semesters to students within specific academic departments for some time, Selman said.

“We’ve always had irregular-length courses,” she said. “This is the university officially encouraging departments and faculty to offer classes during that time, which is what this intersession pilot program is.”

Student input critical to program's success

Selman said some of the appeals the intersession classes offer to students include allowing them to take a lighter class load during the traditional semesters and spurring them toward graduation faster.

Because this is a pilot program, its success will be evaluated after the upcoming session ends. If faculty and administrators determine that it is worthwhile, the option will most likely continue — depending on the length of the breaks.

“Student input in this will be critical,” Tarkow said. “In honesty and in fairness, we have to allow the entire process to be one that is evaluated in the context of what students are able to learn and what faculty are able to teach.”

The assessment will address whether students can learn in a concentrated fashion and whether faculty can accomplish their goals in the short time intersession classes allow, said Tarkow.

Intersession classes reviewed at other institutions

Before implementing the pilot program, intersession classes at several other institutions were reviewed, said Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management, who witnessed the success of the program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

In November 2001, Korschgen led a discussion exploring the possibility of offering intersession classes at MU. Because there seemed to be enough interest, she asked Selman, Tarkow and others to assist her in developing guidelines for a pilot program. The intersession classes being offered in January resulted from that effort.

“We’re all just delighted that for this coming term, what we’ve seemed to come up with has received a good amount of support,” Tarkow said. “I would hope that we will look at the future with the prospect of continuing it.”

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