CUW The Beacon

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Christmas time is right around the corner, and so is the Spring semester at Concordia. CUW introduced its newly structured academic calendar this fall for the 2023-2024 school year and the changes are evident.

The biggest change was the removal of the January term, “Winterim,” shortening the winter break between semesters from five weeks to three. In addition, the fall break that usually occurs in October was redistributed to other days in each semester. The summer term has been lengthened, allowing for more classes to be offered in May through July.

Students and faculty have had mixed feelings about this change. Many pros and cons were discussed during the planning process. The academic council, led by Dr. Leah Dvorak, was hard at work for several years to solidify goals and the plan to execute them. There were three main ideas with this new schedule: to synchronize traditional undergrad and all non-traditional programs to the same calendar, have an equal amount of in-class time for the spring and fall semesters, and provide time in the summer for more rigorous academics to be offered.

Dr. Jordan Beck, Faculty Chair and Professor of Physical Sciences, was a member of the academic council and is now seeing the effects of the plan he was able to contribute to making.

“The best part is the uniformity of the semesters, from a faculty side, that is very helpful,” he shared.

Students on the other hand are not worried about that specific aspect of these updates.

Near the end of the first semester of the new calendar, a group of 40 students ranging from freshman to fifth years were polled by the author about their opinions on the changes. 72.5% agree that a longer summer will be beneficial, 80% disagree that the fourth Friday breaks occurring each semester are adequate breaks for students, 42.5% disagree on the removal of Winterim and people are split on their opinions on the efficiency of the holiday breaks. A lot of students feel that Thanksgiving should be a weeklong break, especially since the removal of fall break. Other students acknowledge that October had no break and felt a significant amount of burnout that month.

Senior occupational therapy student Sophia Vandeloecht is one of these students who wanted her voice to be heard.

“It was frustrating not having any fall break,” Vandeloecht shared. “Since I am in graduate classes now it was hard to not have a built-in break or relief.”

Some students are split on their opinion of Winterim, but Vandeloecht may be on the same page as Dr. Beck that the extra time off in January has been beneficial in the past.

“I am going to miss the January time. That January time is nice to get ready for the spring semester,” Dr. Beck shared.

Historically, Vaneloecht has spent her January break working at an early childhood center to save up for the upcoming semester. Since she will not have this break, working in January will look a bit different this year.

Another frustration expressed by many students, especially those from out-of-state, is the short Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving break has been a challenge for students for many years, and this new calendar did not change that. Many students end up skipping classes on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to avoid traveling home in the evening or even on Thanksgiving day.

Conversely, students like Vandeloecht appreciate being off of classes during the day on Easter Monday so that they do not have to travel on Easter. While a holiday happening on a weekend may be easier to logistically plan for, it is still difficult for students to fully partake in each break.

Lengthened summer term has yet to happen but we will soon know how the students and faculty feel about that change. Will students feel more refreshed or just lost when they return in late August? Will the summer term be able to offer the excellent level course offered during the fall and spring semesters? Time will soon tell.

Almost a full semester in, some students want fewer yet longer breaks while other students like shorter breaks as long as they’re more frequent. Regardless, neither group feels 100% content with the new calendar. Luckily most students and faculty seem to be able to see both the pros and cons of the restructured layout.

Dr. Beck shared, “I’m optimistic that the benefits will outweigh the downsides.”

While students may want change immediately, the possibility may be slim, since this calendar plan was put into effect starting two years ago. Luckily, Concordians are not afraid to voice their opinions to make sure CUW is the best it can be.

“I hope they take the feedback that they are getting from this semester and make adjustments to next semester or next year,” Vandeloecht shared in her closing remarks.

What’s next?

While there are mixed reviews about each aspect of the calendar change, maybe there is still growth to happen. To view the full CUWAA academic calendars through 2026, click below.

—Abigail McGue is a writer for The Beacon, the official student newspaper of Concordia University Wisconsin.