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Calendar and curriculum change vote delayed

January 21, 2011

Despite hope that the Monmouth Faculty Senate would propose a calendar change at the December 2010 faculty meeting, faculty committees are still researching options for the planned curriculum change.

At the moment, multiple options are being considered, specifically options that would have students take two semesters of four classes, known as a 4-4, or two semesters of four classes with a class between the two for a few weeks in early January, known as a 4-1-4. However, other alternatives include a 4-4-1, with a short class in May, dividing the semester in two halves and offering eight-week classes, or changing to a trimester-like schedule with three ten-week periods and a potential for a 10-week quarter during the summer. A final proposition is on the table to reduce the number of courses students will need in order to graduate.

“The purpose is to increase the faculty-student engagement beyond the classroom and in the classroom,” said Dean of the Faculty David Timmerman. “The idea is to have students and faculty be doing fewer things, in a better and richer way.”

When they first heard of impending changes in the curriculum, some Monmouth College students were upset. However, most students do not need to worry about the upcoming changes for multiple reasons, most specifically their course catalog.

Course catalogs not only explain the available courses but also the requirements to graduate with each major. Although they can be changed while a student attends Monmouth, each student has the right to request the graduation requirements from any of the catalogs that were published during their time at Monmouth.

“The catalog is like a legal document,” said Timmerman.

Likewise, calendars are decided several years in advance. As a result, most students will not be affected by any changes as they will have graduated by the time the changes have begun to be implemented. Only younger students currently stand to be affected by the changes.

“Students should know that we will implement any change in an orderly fashion and with the best interests of students at the forefront of our plans,” said Timmerman.

Regardless, Timmerman, who taught at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., for 16 years prior to coming to Monmouth last fall, has had experience teaching in both a 5-5 model like Monmouth’s at Indiana University Kokomo and the proposed 4-4 model at Wabash.

“When I switched, I discovered immediately that the courses in the 4-4 model were richer and more engaging for students,” said Timmerman. “I was able to begin doing additional things outside of class that I previously had not had time for such as taking students on trips connected to classes I taught.  I taught a course on African-American rhetoric and took students to Harlem and Atlanta one year and then, when I offered the course two years later I took them to several cities in Alabama and Mississippi.  I also did research with students in classes and then beyond them taking them to conferences to present their work.”

While the proposed plans do not currently involve specifics such as credits or the scheduling of classes, some faculty members have already begun to plan ahead for the proposed changes.

“I have heard colleagues describe altering their course offerings in creative ways,” said Timmerman, “changing courses to better engage students, and brainstorm interesting new courses to be offered in a January or May term, including courses that involve off campus travel and experiences such as scholarship projects, research projects, and creative projects that are difficult, if not impossible, to do in our current system.”

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