May-term in question for Augustana
Studying abroad in May. A four-week winter break. Reduced faculty workload. Graduation on Cinco de Mayo.
These are all reasons a group of faculty proposed the possibility of a May-term at a February meeting.
But there are drawbacks to moving Augustana’s interim from three weeks in January to the sunny days of May.
Potentially limited study abroad options. A reduced number of students willing to go on band and choir tours. Offering a course at the end of the school year, leaving students more liable to vacation instead.
So, a “conversation to decide if we should have a conversation,” as registrar Joni Krueger put it, has begun among university faculty about the possibility of swapping J-term with May-term.
That conversation started last week with a survey sent out by Emily Wanless, government professor and chair of the global education committee.
Two versions of the survey circulated—one to all faculty and the other specifically to faculty who have led study abroad courses.
“It’s just an idea at this point,” Wanless said. “We wanted to reach out to administration to collect information on how this would impact students and faculty positively and negatively. Our largest concerns are study abroad opportunities and scheduling for international students.”
Wanless perceived the loss of Augustana’s study abroad partnership with the Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Education (UMAIE) as one of the greatest drawbacks of the switch from January to May.
No formal discussion on the topic has occurred at this time.
Freshman Shauna Pauli studied abroad in India during interim and wasn’t sure she would be on board with a potential May-term.
“I think January works well for traveling abroad,” she said. “I don’t know if I would want to study abroad in May since it’s so close to summer. For those who stay on campus, January is a nice break between the fall and spring semester.”
But the possibility of a May-term involves more than studying abroad.
Given the extra weeks of break offered by May-term, Krueger cited reduced faculty workload as a main force driving the discussion.
“At this point, our faculty aren’t getting enough of a break between fall and interim, and they have an even shorter break between interim and spring semester,” Krueger said. “Having May-term would give [professors] a true break to prep for classes between semesters, plus a longer summer to do extended research.”
Faculty are currently required to teach for two out of three j-terms with the third off. Krueger proposed an every-other option with a May-term.
Government professor Peter Schotten is one faculty member in favor of adopting May-term.
“I believe that a May interim will preserve good student academic and experiential options while, at the same time, allowing Augustana students to be increasingly competitive for summer work and internship options,” he said in an email. “Therefore, I think it is a good idea, and I am pleased that it is being given serious consideration.”
Senior Alejandro Garcia is the chair of ASA’s co-curriculum committee. He agreed that increased experiential options and competing with other universities that finish classes earlier are reasons to consider the switch.
“May-term opens the possibility for better internships, jobs and opportunities during the summer,” he said. “Some students get no break between the end of the school year and the beginning of a job. In comparison, USD usually finishes school in early May, which can give them an advantage in starting a job.”
Whatever pros and cons a potential May-term would bring, Krueger emphasized that no decision would be made before president-elect Stephanie Herseth Sandlin begins her term and can offer input on the decision.
Krueger added that she hopes the survey alone doesn’t worry members of the Augustana community.
“This is really just a conversation; no decision has been made,” she said. “We’ve taken that request from faculty as an open door to have this conversation. We want to advantage, not disadvantage, students by doing the best thing for them.”