Next spring, the University will be offering a Spring Intensive program, which will allow students to immerse themselves in one course every three weeks. Each course will be the equivalent of one credit, covering 14-weeks worth of material. The program also creates greater flexibility, allowing students to engage in other activities or internships during another three-week period.
Professor of Psychology Lisa Dierker is introducing the program and hopes it will encourage students to become engaged in different opportunities in a new type of classroom.
“The goal is to create space for students and faculty to try new things in their classroom and welcome visitors that we haven’t been able to welcome in the past,” Dierker said.
Dierker argued that with the schedule that is in place now, it can be hard for students to participate in multiple activities along with their academic work.
“Right now, students juggle a lot of different things all at the same time, and I think for some students they might want to try a different approach to moving through their learning,” Dierker said.
Currently, both University professors and visiting professors teach offered courses. These visiting professors are often renowned in their field and often struggle to stay on campus for an entire 14-week semester.
“It can be very difficult, even though people are interested in coming to Wesleyan [and want] to share their talents and gifts, to come for 14 weeks and fit into our typical schedule,” Dierker said.
Dierker further emphasized that the program is specifically designed to allow students to engage in internships during the school year.
“I think it can be difficult to do internships during the normal semester schedule, so we’re really hoping this might open up some opportunities for intensive internships so students can immerse themselves in things that are difficult to do with a longer schedule,” Dierker said. “It’s meant to give students more flexibility.”
Associate Professor of Psychology Matthew Kurtz argued that the program will allow students to explore course material in great detail and make connections across departments.
“I think the advantage of this—it’s sort of like doing a thesis, you’ve got a semester that you’re devoting to understand one topic very, very well,” Kurtz said. “[Another] thing that makes it unique are [that] these 3 week courses [are] all linked together. It’s sort of like intensively going into individual subjects and linking those subjects around one idea.”
Dierker expressed a similar sentiment regarding connections between different courses throughout the semester.
“[It] can be very difficult when [students] have many classes,” she said. “This way you finish one class and then move on to the next one, and I think with a more complete perspective you can make the connection between the courses.”
She also hopes the program will bring more real life experiences to student learning, building up a life-time of knowledge.
“Given the fact that college isn’t the end of learning, and we’re all going to be life-long learners, I think one of the most important things to get out of our experience here is to get what type of learners we are,” Dierker said. “Different modes of learning, different schedules, and different opportunities can help us as individuals explore that question.”
Ben Hornung ’18 is interested in the program for its connection to the real world, as well as its focus on psychology courses.
“I think it has a lot of potential for real world experience and reflects…the compactness of life without it being all spread out,” Hornung said. “I think the intensive aspect definitely gives you more opportunities to do stuff outside of classes [and] allows you to commit longer periods of time without all the in-between.”
Most of the courses mentioned now are psychology classes, yet there is room for more classes to be added to the program.
“I have some students now who are going to reach out to faculty in different departments that they’re interested in having classes in which is great; they’ll all be welcome,” Dierker said.
There are high hopes for the success of the program. The University administration as well as students will determine more concrete future plans after next spring.
“I think ideally it will be a program the school really likes,” Kurtz said. “This is a pilot right now; they’re trying it out and [seeing] how kids react.”
Though the program will be a departure from a more traditional academic structure, Dierker hopes that students will express interest and sign up.
“This is an exploration with students and faculty, so we’ll see how that goes,” Dierker said. “I think there will be benefits we aren’t even imagining right now, and there could be some challenges we aren’t imagining right now. That’s usually what innovation is all about.”