New winter session popular among students and faculty

On January 28, 2014

  • This winter break, 20 students from UB and two from Singapore had the opportunity to study abroad in London, taking a course called the Sociology of Food. The trip was part of UB's new winter session program, which gave 135 students the chance to study in eight different cities over the globe. Courtesy of Cassandra Baubie

While some students were at home doing what they could to avoid the polar vortex, over 1,000 students were busy participating in UB's new winter session program.

The three-week session, which ran Jan. 6-24, gave students a chance to take up to five credits over the extended winter break or to study abroad. Even with one day of the session being canceled due to whether, A. Scott Weber, the senior vice provost of academic affairs, called the program a big success.

"The first year, we are trying to understand what students' needs are and how our faculty is going to adapt to teach a class in three weeks," Weber said. "For an inaugural effort, we exceeded our enrollment expectation. It was a complete team effort across campus. I thought it was terrific."

University Registrar Kara Saunders agreed.

"We were very pleased with the amount of enrollment that we got and it certainly indicates that there was a demand for something from our students as well as some non-degree seeking students," Saunders said. "We are definitely doing a lot to try to understand how we can improve - how we can deliver what it is that people are looking for."

According to analysis done by the Office of the Registrar, 1,135 students took part in the winter session. Of that number, 135 studied abroad.

A course cost $245 per credit hour for New York State residents and $742 for out-of-state residents. There is an additional $67.39 charge per credit hour for a "Comprehensive Fee" and $9.38 for an "Academic Excellence Fee." Every student enrolled must also pay a one-time $7.89 "Student Activity Fee."

The eight study abroad programs varied in price. The London program cost about $2,800, not including airfare and personal expenses.

Nicole Egan, a senior psychology major, was looking to travel during the extended winter break. She said participating in the London study abroad program was an obvious choice.

"I was looking to go abroad in general, but I am glad I chose [the study abroad program]," Egan said. "I paid more attention to the fact I was in London, but I still learned a lot."

Saunders said of the 23 most popular classes of the winter session, 19 were online courses, three were study abroad programs and one was a class on North Campus. Three online physics courses were the most popular.

UB is planning to improve next year's winter session by giving surveys to students and faculty who participated, Saunders said. She added that UB is also planning to contact students who enrolled in a class but withdrew before the session to see why they chose not to take a course.

Weber said many faculty members have told him, "the learning experience in the focused environment was some of the best they ever had."

Nicholas Hoffman, an English professor, taught Screening and Staging Shakespeare over the winter session. He said the three-hour classes five times a week gave him opportunities he wouldn't have in a traditional course. He said spending that much time with students allowed the class to have a different kind of openness that he hadn't experienced before.

Michael Tonn, a senior economics and international trade major, entered the winter session slightly worried about the workload of a three-week course. He was pleasantly surprised that his economics class was more experiential than purely work-driven. He found the class, Application of Economic Analysis (ECO 403) Economics, engaging because of its practical applications of economics.

"I really enjoyed it," Tonn said. "It was a small class, but the way the professor set it up was really interactive. It was a great learning experience. It went by a lot quicker than I thought it would."

Though he taught a different course, Hoffman's experience was similar.

"It forced me as an instructor to think about how to use class time differently than you do in a 16-week semester," Hoffman said. "It forced me to rethink that balance between what I am asking my students to do outside of class and what we can do inside of class."

In a typical semester, Hoffman would cover about eight plays. But in the shortened session, he covered four. He didn't view it negatively, though. He said the longer classes allowed him to take advantage of different resources, and he said his class cooperated. He added that the winter session class and a regular-length-semester class would include a similar amount of writing.

Weber pointed out that some courses in particular transcended the classroom and gave students practical, real-life experiences. The Entrepreneurship Lab was a course that gave students a chance to make their business plans more tangible. Some students won seed money to kick start their ideas.

"It was a unique experience that may be part of their total aspirations in life, but is not part of the normal curriculum," Weber said. "Those are the types of experiences we hope to expand and enrich the academic experience for our education."

Weber believes the winter session is going to continue to grow.



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