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August 31, 1995

Summer term 1996 An option to suit almost anyone

Summer won't be the same around Pitt, beginning in 1996.

That's when the University's new summer calendar will go into effect.

In place of its traditional schedule (a 15-week summer term and two seven-week sessions), Pitt will offer a wider array of options, including:

* The traditional 15-week summer term (May 6-Aug. 10).

* A 12-week session (May 13-Aug. 3).

* A pair of six-week sessions (May 13-June 22 and June 24-Aug. 3).

* Three four-week sessions (May 13-June 8, June 10-July 6 and July 8-Aug. 3).

* A four-week "intersession" (beginning May 1, just four days after the spring term ends, and running through May 25).

Schools and departments may choose which options are best for them. "This [revised calendar] will be voluntary. It's for units that have wanted more options to better meet the needs of their students and faculty," said Darlene Zellers, Pitt director of Summer Sessions and Continuing Education.

Some units may stick with the traditional 15-week summer term, Zellers said — for example, the engineering school, which follows a trimester schedule. "Also, there are those faculty members who feel, pedagogically, that it is unethical to teach certain courses in only four weeks or six weeks," she noted.

But for faculty and students in many academic disciplines, compressed sessions will be a godsend, Zellers believes. "Foreign language instruction is a good example. They say that if you live, eat, sleep and breathe a language it's a much more effective way to learn, as opposed to studying a language for one hour, three times a week.

"I'm told there are some science courses, too, where it's an advantage to be able to hold a four-to-six hour lab," Zellers added. "It allows for the study of chemical reactions that are too slow to complete within a traditional 50-minute class period." Because Pitt's spring term ends in late April, nearly a month earlier than those at other local colleges and universities, Pitt is uniquely positioned to market an intensive summer "intersession," Zellers said. "I'm betting the intersession will be very popular. Typically, most universities don't let out, and summer jobs don't start, until late May. Through the intersession, a student who is one course short of graduating can finish up by Memorial Day instead of being forced to stick around for 15 more weeks. For out-of-state students and others living in the dorms, housing costs would be lower because they would only have to stay on for one more month." Shorter terms also will be attractive to faculty on nine-month contracts, Zellers predicted. "We're competing for their [faculty members'] time, too. With the more compressed sessions, faculty won't have to dedicate the whole summer to teaching. They could teach a course at Pitt and still have plenty of time left during the summer to travel and do research." Zellers, who was hired in February to beef up Pitt's summer programs, drafted the 1996 summer calendar based on interviews with University deans, results of a survey of summer study preferences among College of Arts and Sciences students, and data from the National Association of Summer Sessions.

The deans, provost and chancellor all approved the calendar — "but that doesn't mean we have to live with it forever," Zellers said.

"We're throwing a big net in 1996. Essentially, Pitt will be offering every option to its schools and departments and allowing them to choose which ones they prefer. I would bet that, five years from now, the summer schedule won't be as complex as this one."

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 1

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