Potential scheduling changes are being discussed at MC

Kristin Gourley, Director of Campus Life. Photo by Adam Brown.
Kristin Gourley, Director of Campus Life. Photo by Adam Brown.

Recently, there has been buzz in the Maryville College community about possible upcoming changes. One such issue is the case of academic rescheduling currently being explored by a campus task force.

In fairness, many students have already heard of the idea of replacing J-Term with a “May-Term,” but the changes could be potentially far more widespread than that.

Kristen Gourley is the Director of Campus Life at Maryville College, and a member of the Academic Calendar Task Force. According to Gourley, May-Term vs. J-Term is only a small part of what the task force is looking into. The entire academic calendar could be shuffled about and then a proposal could be sent to the Academic Life Committee to give the final verdict.

Gourley stated that the benefits to these calendar changes are that the spring semester could potentially end earlier, internships for upperclassmen would be easier to attain, flexibility with the faculty would be better, weather concerns would be essentially negated, and it could potentially be optional as well. Gourley also said that the earliest MC would see these changes would be fall of 2018, but more likely 2019 or even 2020.

That being said, really nothing is off the table at this point, J-Term and May-Term could be cut out completely, the spring semester could start sooner, and Fall Break could be longer.

“It’s important for all of us to keep an open mind and keep our ears and eyes open for what’s best for the college,” said Gourley.

All of these ideas were originally proposed by Barbara Wells, the Dean of Academics, who created the task force made up of student leaders and faculty members after the elimination of the “experiential” core requirement for graduation.

These experiential courses usually happened during J-Term, and with their elimination, this left a hole in J-Term class types. After they began to unpack the issues, they decided it was time to look into a full revamp of the academic calendar, as it hasn’t been changed since 1984. The head of the taskforce is Dr. Lori Schmied, Professor of Psychology at Maryville College.

Dr. Schmied explained the process in more depth. First, the task force wants to compare the college’s academic calendar with the calendars of other institutions, so far they’re looking at around 50 other colleges of similar size to Maryville. Next, they want to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current academic calendar, and finally they’ll make their recommendations based on their findings.

For the past few months, the task force has been looking at every aspect of rescheduling and has been doing focus groups made up of various students. Most students have responded positively to J-Term, as it doesn’t conflict with the summer schedule and allows them to catch up on any courses they may have missed throughout the regular semester. J-Term is also a good change of pace, and travel costs for study-abroad programs are generally cheaper in January.

Other issues the task force is looking into include changing the dates for the fall and spring semesters around to make them more equitable, and the possible inclusion of a two or three day Fall Break as opposed to the current long weekend.

“None of these are simple issues,” said Schmied. “It’s unlikely that any recommendation for change will please everybody . . . but we’re hoping to serve the needs of the academic program.”

The task force hopes to make recommendations for the new calendar by March 1, 2017 in the meantime if you have an opinion and want it to be heard, speak to your SGA representative and tell them what you think.

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