August Term Considered for Class of ’16, Beyond

by Laura Miller

Transylvania University first-years may have one less month of summer vacation before beginning their college career. Though the idea of a one-month term isn’t new to Transy students, the idea of an August term is, a new month of learning to augment the more common two-term model.

The August term concept morphed out of a suggestion for curriculum reform from the curriculum task force into the focus of the quality enhancement plan for Transylvania’s reaccreditation process. As Dr. Kathleen Jagger, vice chair of the QEP development committee, noted, it is “important to appreciate that it is a work in progress.”

The committee will present a formal proposal of the plan to the faculty for review on Feb. 8. The committee must submit a finalized plan to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools this summer, but there will definitely be the potential for tweaking as the program rolls out over a five-year period.

Certain details have already been nailed down. For starters, the program will be for first-years only, beginning in 2012 with the class of 2016. During the three-week term, students will take only one class, which will be graded as credit or no credit.

Jagger articulated the central idea of the August term as a “prelude to being a scholar at Transy.” The intent is to provide students an introduction to the Transylvania academic community without the pressures of multiple courses, letter grades and upperclassmen influences.

“By the time Labor Day comes, (the student) will have completed a full-credit college course,” said Dr. John Svarlien, chair of the QEP development committee. “It’s a way to prepare students for the fall term.”

The committee wants to identify obstacles that first-year students frequently face in the process of transitioning from high school to college and help students combat these from the start. Another goal is to establish for students the expectations of what it means to be a student on this campus. These expectations not only refer to the depth of work required of a student but also, as Jagger explained, “the fun and the joy that come from being a part of an academic community like this.”

“It is a holistic concept that is going to affect every aspect of a student’s life,” said Svarlien.

As the proposal currently stands, students will spend three or four hours a day in a structured setting with professors. This could take the form of three hours of class and an hour of another academically engaging activity such as attending a lecture.

The faculty teaching in the 2012 August term will meet over the course of next year to determine the shared theme and content of the term. Half of the texts, which may include films, books, art exhibits, etc., that are used in a course will be common to each class. Individual professors will have discretion over the other half of the course material.

The community-building elements of Transylvania’s current first-year orientation program will be integrated into the term and expanded, providing opportunities for the students to establish a group identity as a class and foster relationships with classmates and professors.

The committee members cannot emphasize enough their desire for input from the entire Transylvania community.

“We absolutely want to have input from everyone on campus. … I think it’s important that everyone knows this is a proposal at this time,” said Jagger. “There is plenty of time for incorporating new ideas and recommendations from anybody in the campus community.”

“The call of the QEP is to involve the campus community,” said senior Prya Murad, a student representative on the committee.

Faculty conversations and endorsements have already helped shape the proposal into what it is now. The committee is now especially seeking feedback from students.

“Those (first-year) experiences are important,” Murad said.

There are many logistical questions the committee has yet to work out as well.

For instance, although the program will possibly feature service-learning components, the future of current preorientation programs such as the First-Year Urban Program and Jump Start is still unknown. According to Jagger, such programs likely will either take place before the start of August term or will change structure to better fit with the August term schedule.

The committee also still has to meet with the athletic department to discuss the program’s effects on preseason training.

With regard to possible increases in tuition or room and board, the committee is inclined to recommend making May term optional for first-year students, an arrangement which would offset most of the difference in costs if first-years elected not to take a May term course.

There are certainly other logistical questions that have not come up thus far.

“Those are questions that we want people bringing up,” said Murad. “Those are important, because they have to be played out.”

The committee recommends that anyone who has an idea or a question should contact any member of the QEP development committee. The full list of members is available on Inside Transy.


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