University of Wyoming administrators are proposing revisions to the school’s academic calendar that would give students a full week off for Thanksgiving Break while shortening winter break from five weeks to four, with spring semester beginning the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The proposed calendar changes would go into effect in fall 2020 and run through spring 2023.
The calendar committee that produced the proposal was chaired by Honors College Dean Donal Skinner and included numerous faculty and administrative representatives, as well as leaders from Staff Senate, the UW Alumni Association and ASUW — the school’s student government.
“From a student travel perspective, this was seen as advantageous,” Skinner told trustees about the proposal for a full week off for Thanksgiving. “Also, a lot of students (leave for a full week) anyways. This is kind of acknowledging the existing situation.”
In recent years, classes have begun on either a Monday or Wednesday, sometimes after Labor Day.
The proposed calendars would have classes always start on a Monday, and always two weeks before Labor Day.
The proposal would also build in a three-day weekend during the middle of both fall and spring semesters, while ensuring final exams in both semesters occur in a single week, and not two weeks, as was in the case in the last two fall semesters.
In total, the calendars would mean six more instructional days each year.
The proposal to shorten winter break comes after UW surveyed students, faculty and staff about their preferences for winter break. The majority of sampled individuals in all three groups said they wanted at least four weeks off.
In 2018, administrators discussed the possibility of ending J-term, which gives the opportunity for students to take classes during winter break.
While J-term is relatively unused by students, it’s also been cited as an important option for student-athletes to have a more manageable class-load during the semester their sport is in-season. International students are also frequent users of J-term classes.
A memo presented to the trustees Wednesday states that some J-term courses “may be impacted by shorter proposed period but (the) possibility of running international courses in this period remains intact.”
“Because finals end a full week before Christmas, those faculty who might have struggled to offer J-term courses could potentially utilize that week as well,” Skinner said.
While it’s not a direct part of the calendar proposal, the calendar committee is also recommending UW explore “modularization” of courses to allow more course options during J-term and the summer.
Under the new calendar, there would only be 57 potential instructional days during the summer.
“The (calendar) committee understands that some courses are loosely configured in a way that they could be broken in quarters or thirds,” administrators wrote in their memo. “One idea could be 2 summer periods broken into 6-week blocks that would overlap by 2-3 days.”
“This gives us an opportunity to begin to try some new ways of delivering courses during that J-term and also during the summer term,” trustee Michelle Sullivan said. “One of the things we know is that it’s difficult for non-traditional students to take a semester-long course, and this gives us the opportunity, though it was outside the purview of this committee, to begin to experiment with using those interstitial times to deliver some different kinds of course work, not just to our students, but to a broader group of students across the state.”
UW is asking interested parties to submit comments on the proposed calendar by April 26.
Trustees are planning to finalize the calendars at their May meeting.
During the winter, Albany County School District No. 1 also floated the possibility of also taking off a week for Thanksgiving to align with UW’s plans.
However, the school board is now moving forward with a calendar that will continue having two days of classes during the week of Thanksgiving.