Wintermester classes give winter break new meaning

11/21/2008 - By: Andrea Turman

Now in its third year, the University’s Wintermester session offers students an intensive three-week window during winter break to earn as many as four credits in a condensed time frame. This year’s shortened “semester” — held from Dec. 29, 2008 to Jan. 16, 2009 — features more than 50 classes in 22 subjects, with several capstone offerings and other classes that fulfill degree requirements in a variety of colleges. Wintermester credits also count toward full-time spring credit loads, reimbursable with the Millennium Scholarship.

Most classes are held on campus and run three hours a day, five days a week, or four hours a day, four days a week, for the three weeks. Subjects include criminal justice, dance, economics, special education, English, history, journalism, math, management, music, psychology and more. Two four-day field study courses in geography let students explore the landforms of Death Valley National Park.

“We developed Wintermester for students to take advantage of an otherwise quiet time on campus, to catch up on credits, fulfill prerequisites and get ahead with classes needed for graduation,” said Carley Ries, associate director of Independent Learning in Extended Studies, which administers the Wintermester program for the University. “We’ve had great response from students and faculty alike, and the program has more than doubled its offerings in three years.”

Two students who share Ries’ enthusiasm for the new short “semester” include brothers Evan and Nolan Warner. Evan was able to graduate on schedule last spring in mechanical engineering with a math minor by taking a Wintermester class the prior term.

“It’s pretty difficult to graduate in four years with an engineering degree, but I was determined to make it happen,” Evan said. “Wintermester was a good way to get three credits taken care of and to free up my schedule to take the final credits I needed. The class was great. It was also easy to stay focused because I was only taking three credits.”

Evan and his brother Nolan took their Wintermester class together. “I thought it would be fun to take a class with my brother and this was the only opportunity I was going to get,” Evan said. “History of Dance, which counts for both a fine arts and a diversity requirement, was interesting. We also learned the cultural significance of each dance we studied.”

Like his brother, Nolan Warner put himself on track too, in preparation for a year studying in Japan. “The Wintermester class gave me enough credits to become a senior going into this year of study abroad,” said Nolan, a computer science major minoring in math and Japanese. “So when I return I’ll be on track. Requirements aside, the timing of the class also allowed me to enjoy my winter break while learning at the same time.”

The experience also helped fulfill a more personal objective. “I heard about Wintermester from friends. When they recommend something, I can be sure I’ll enjoy it,” he said. “Getting ahead on my academic schedule gave me the opportunity to study abroad, which has been a goal of mine for many years.”

An active supporter of student success at all levels, economics professor Mark Pingle, Ph.D., is also a proponent of the Wintermester format for students declaring majors in the College of Business. “It serves students who are finding it more difficult to obtain classes, and helps students complete their lower-division business core earlier and move toward declaring a business major and graduating,” said Pingle, who also helps organize the University’s annual Economics Day where middle and high school students learn about career opportunities associated with economics training.

Like the Warner brothers, Pingle also credits Wintermester with helping fulfill a personal mission. “Economics provides an especially useful lens through which a student can view the world in which he or she lives,” he says. “So I like to get economics education to students any time I can reasonably do it. Wintermester is great for that.”

For more about the University’s Wintermester session, call Extended Studies at (775) 784-4046 or visit the Wintermester Website.


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