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Changes to the Academic Calendar

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community,

We write with an important update on changes to the academic calendar and to share some exciting news about commencement. As you know, a faculty-led task force recommended re-evaluation of the quarter system several years ago. Since then, the Faculty Senate, Associated Student Government and the Provost’s Academic Calendar Advisory Group have considered potential adjustments to the quarters and to our fall calendar in particular. These changes are in response to concerns that have been raised by the Northwestern community in the past.

After much research and consideration, the Advisory Group recommends no major changes to the fall quarter at this time, and we thank them for their careful review. However, as we announced previously, we have approved a Faculty Senate recommendation to lengthen spring break, consider institutionalized final exam flexibility and hold commencement closer to the end of spring quarter. Work continues on these initiatives this year. A small group of faculty will pilot a new approach to holding undergraduate final exams earlier. Beginning with this upcoming spring 2020, spring quarter and Pritzker Law School spring semester will start routinely on a Tuesday to afford two full weekends during spring break. For 2020, that means spring break continues through Monday, March 30, and spring classes start Tuesday, March 31. Look for more detail about these changes in your email over the coming weeks.

We are also pleased to announce that in June 2021, we will celebrate graduation with the Class of 2021 on June 13 and 14, the Sunday and Monday immediately following final exams. This move, recommended by our faculty, will end the year earlier and still allow for full participation in graduation weekend, an extraordinary celebration for the entire Northwestern community in which we gather as students, faculty, staff, deans, board members, alumni and families to honor one another’s accomplishments and uphold longstanding traditions.

After our approval in 2018 of this recommendation, a group of senior leaders engaged students, faculty and administrators from all our campuses during the 2018-19 academic year to discern Northwestern’s priorities regarding commencement and propose a revised schedule that reflects them. They heard loudly and clearly that we value a robust, joyful celebration for students and guests. Revising dates for graduation weekend enables us to reconsider the student and guest experience holistically, in every aspect of the weekend, from rescheduling ceremonies so students can attend the convocations of all schools from which they earn a degree, to details like venue selection and campus transportation.

We understand that many important year-end events will need to adjust because of this new graduation weekend schedule, and we deeply appreciate the staff and faculty who will facilitate those changes. We ask these groups and our students for your feedback and assistance in planning the transition to ensure that everyone’s needs are fully considered. Assistant Provost Jaci Casazza and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier will oversee the many working groups that will enable these changes, and the groups will reach out to ask for your input.

With the insight of our community and the expertise of our staff and faculty, these changes will elevate the Northwestern experience for all.