Saying hello to semesters

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Students will return to campus for the 2013-2014 academic year a week earlier than usual—a change brought about by RIT’s switch to a semester system.

In addition to the earlier start, students will experience longer academic terms, a longer winter break, fewer courses in a typical year and more courses in each term. RIT has adopted a 5x3 course model, which means a typical course load will consist of five three-credit courses each semester. Semesters will be 15 weeks long, with an additional week for final exams.

Announced in 2010, the semester conversion was a complicated process that involved the collaboration of the entire university. A group of committees, made up of faculty, staff and students, has overseen everything from designing the new calendar to making sure every student received advisement during the transition.

Fernando Naveda, semester conversion project director, says the calendar conversion was an important step in RIT’s continued growth.

“There’s nothing intrinsically bad about quarters, but we were becoming increasingly isolated as a university,” he says, echoing sentiments expressed by RIT President Bill Destler in the 2010 announcement of the conversion.

Naveda compares the calendar change with other advances that are now commonplace, such as online learning. The semester calendar will put RIT on a comparable schedule with most major universities, improving cooperation in areas such as credit transfer, student exchange and study abroad.

“With the semester calendar, students will get to see their friends from other universities more, because RIT will be on break at the same time as other schools,” says Taylor Deer ’13 (business administration), who served as Student Government president last school year. “If you were sick for one week of a quarter, you were out of the game. The pace of semesters will be better.”

Co-ops will work in much the same way as they did on the quarter system, with revised timeframes to account for the longer academic terms. Courses have been redesigned to maintain academic rigor.

A new addition with semesters will be fast-paced, three-week courses offered during intersession and summer break, called TigerTerm courses. They will afford students the opportunity to either retake challenging courses or supplement their curriculum with additional learning.

“At the end of the day, every calendar model has its advantages and disadvantages,” says Naveda. “I’m confident that RIT will capitalize on the semester calendar.”