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Good grades or good resume?

November 16, 2012

Joe Florio/The Courier - Students are seeing trend of less free time due to other responsibilities.

Students, professors reflect on change in school dynamics

“I feel like we have the same amount of time as we did before, in class and out of class, but more homework,” said senior Brittany Munson. “I don’t go to anything not required by a group I am in.”

Munson reflects a trend. Where students once reported having time to join a variety of groups, many now struggle to find a balance between extracurricular activities and a more demanding academic workload, credited to the newly implemented 4-4. Other members of the community, faculty and student alike, question whether the 4-4 is solely to blame.  Regardless of different opinions, the effects of the 4-4 program will take years to fully evaluate.

“I’ve heard of this [more stress],” said political science professor Farhat Haq. “I do want to find out if it really is because of being asked to do more academically, but I feel like first semester is too early to tell.”

According to art department chair Stacy Lotz, who was chair of the faculty senate last year when the 4-4 passed, raising the bar was exactly the point.

“I think the transition is hard,” said Lotz, “but part of the idea of passing the 4-4 was so that students are pushed more academically. It’s not like we didn’t set high expectations before, but before students said, ‘I’m in five or six other classes and six clubs.’ Now they have more time because they are only taking four classes, and we can be more rigorous.”

Some students, like senior Tim Gilmour, question whether they really have more time.

“While I still am involved in the same number of activities as I was in the previous system,” Gilmour said, “it is a much more difficult task nowadays. Even being a senior who had gotten used to being busy and balancing a packed schedule of classes, involvement and work, I still find myself struggling under the 4-4 more than ever before.”

Despite expecting students to handle the modified workload, Lotz is quick to voice her belief that students should not only focus on classes.

“We still encourage students to be involved, because they shouldn’t be here if they’re just sitting in their room,” Lotz said. “We realize that our culture pressures people to do as many things as possible. However, the stronger academic program means that they can’t always be involved in eight clubs. Each student needs to find the balance.”

Finding the balance between academics and involvement could be more difficult than some think. Wackerle Career Center Program Coordinator Stephanie Kinkaid speaks about over-involvement.

“It’s not the number of organizations that makes you over-involved,” said Kinkaid. “The question is, can you handle it? If a student is feeling overwhelmed with the number of responsibilities they have, they may be over-involved.”

Because students might not know what they can handle until they try it, Kinkaid recommends trying one new thing a semester.

Some students echo Lotz’s belief that students can be involved as well as doing well academically if they find a balance, like junior Courtney Jonsson.

“I feel like the 4-4 does involve a lot of stress for some students,” said Jonsson, “[but] I’m involved in many groups, have three jobs, as well as double major, and I did well in my half semester classes. I feel like it is a mixture between people being lazy and not knowing time management or when to say no.”

Students are also voicing beliefs that more stress is caused by a program that places more stress on students at certain levels and in certain majors.

“I think that underclassmen were hit hardest, especially sophomores,” said senior Kim Kleczewski. “I only have four classes I have to take to graduate, but the underclassmen have more work to go and take less classes at a time.”

The mission of the 4-4, namely that all students would be taking the same number of classes, is contradicted by majors that require students to take five courses.

“I am a science major and we already were on system similar to the 4-4,” said sophomore Stephanie Lankford. “I’m taking five classes a semester so that I graduate on time and I have a much heavier workload.”

Lankford credits a consistent schedule to keep up with her double majors of biology and biopsychology as well as her “five to eight organizations.” Haq also believes in students achieving a balance and that while it varies with each student, academic interests can help.

“I think it can be done so that activities and academics can enhance each other,” Haq said.

Assistant Director of Greek Life, Leadership and Involvement William Bernard agrees with Haq.

“You go to college first and foremost for an education,” said Bernard. “You learn the [material] in your class, and co-curricular involvement…is the application piece.”

Bernard also noted that there are several organizations on campus that “are a lot more active this year than last.”

Whether the decrease in free time that students are seeing is caused by the new curriculum, organizations doing more or more involvement, students are noticing a definite change on campus.

Cassie Burton, Mackenzie Mahler
News Editors

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