College Switches to Semesters
After two and a half years and untold hours of planning and preparation, the College switches from quarters to semesters this fall. Instead of three 10-week terms per academic year, there will now be two 15-week terms. Monday, August 29, is the first day of the first-ever College semester.
To prepare for this change, the College faculty has redesigned the general education requirements, academic departments have revamped their majors and minors, and professors have retooled their courses. Academic advising and residential life have adjusted their programs as well. In fact, just about every aspect of campus life has undergone some change in order to accommodate this shift.
Why go to all that effort? For lots of reasons. During the preparation process, College President Jonathan Palmer outlined some of the advantages to the new system:
- Semesters will provide students the opportunity to take more courses and broaden or deepen their Principia experience.
- The semester model allows greater “soak time” for students to engage a subject. This includes additional weeks for adjustment to academic demands and longer working relationships between students and faculty, as well as additional time for defining and deciding on research or other course projects.
- A semester calendar makes it easier for students to transfer to and from Principia since most colleges now operate on the semester system.
- With two terms instead of three, the ratio of administrative time to instructional time improves—the total number of instructional weeks is the same, but there are fewer advising periods, fewer finals weeks, and fewer grade submission deadlines. This returns some time to students and faculty for instruction, research, and other academic activities. This same “3 beats to 2″ shift benefits operations across the College.
- The semester calendar aligns more completely with the intercollegiate athletic calendar, which should improve the overall experience for student athletes.
These advantages will begin to be realized this fall. For months now, however, a huge hidden benefit has been taking place—huge in degree of difficulty and return on investment. In short, the transition process jump-started a College-wide re-examination of the entire curriculum. Institutions rarely have occasion to rethink their whole academic array at one time, but when they take up that challenge, advantages abound. The College’s thorough review of all majors, minors, programs, and classes is resulting in new opportunities to improve and innovate within departments and across them. Far more than a mere change in schedule, the switch to semesters is a wide-ranging fresh start!