Leading calendar conversion brings challenges and rewards

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A. Sue Weisler

Fernando Naveda, formerly RIT’s chair of software engineering, is charting a course for RIT’s conversion to semesters starting Aug. 26, 2013. He says anticipating questions from members of the campus community remains one of his primary challenges.

You might understand why Fernando Naveda sees himself as a “broker.” In reaching out to a wide variety of campus constituents, it’s his job to secure buy-in for a transformation in how the university delivers its academic programs.

After eight months as RIT’s calendar conversion director, Naveda stays busy fielding questions and concerns about plans to role out semesters in 2013. He has been presenting the university’s blueprint to governance and student groups, and the feedback received becomes instrumental in understanding the issues and adjusting the conversion process as it evolves. 

“I think the response has been phenomenal,” Naveda confirms. Colleagues, like those in Academic Senate, seem to appreciate the magnitude of his task. 

“I gave my presentation, and after that they applauded. So, I told the provost that I think they feel sorry for me,” he recalls with laughter.

Naveda admits there is much about the process that keeps him anxious. In order to make the transition from quarters to semesters in time for the 2013-2014 academic year, a series of objectives must be met along the way. Currently, administrators at the college and department levels are engaged in the redesign of their programs, which are all subject to state approval. Curriculum work and the eventual implementation of a system for student advising also are priorities. 

“But in order to develop an advising process, we must first determine what semester programs will look like,” he says.

Naveda remains a strong advocate for RIT’s calendar conversion. He says the university is negatively set apart from a majority of schools in the United States that maintain semesters. That misalignment makes it difficult for collaboration with students and faculty at other institutions. Even Europe’s higher education community, he points out, is stabilizing a semester model.

“We were increasingly isolated.”

He also believes that semesters provide a better return on the university’s investment in co-ops, which students now frequently extend across two quarters. Semesters also provide more opportunity to attract transfer students. And current students will benefit socially from a break schedule that’s more in line with friends attending different schools.

Enhancing student success is at the heart of the university’s decision to transition to semesters. Naveda says that outcome represents the ultimate reward for him personally.

“We are putting this university at the front end of world-class education. This is a step in that direction. So, if the students are happy, I will be very pleased with that.”