Undergraduate Task Force
The Provost convened the Faculty Undergraduate Academic Experience Task Force in February 2015 to assess and advise on ways to enhance the undergraduate experience at Northwestern. The Task Force was chaired by Indira Raman, the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology in the department of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In January 2016, it delivered its final report, which includes valuable insights and recommendations on how to enhance the undergraduate experience.
The Faculty Task Force spent significant time and effort gathering input from a wide range of Northwestern stakeholders and shaping proposals. It recommended significant changes to improve the academic experience for undergraduate students, including changing the University’s calendar, addressing student workload requirements, enhancing support for teaching and improving advising.
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Summer 2018 Update on Academic Calendar
Northwestern University Provost Jonathan Holloway has appointed two faculty members to co-chair a faculty workgroup charged with advising on the implementation of winter/spring calendar changes and considering fall quarter calendar opportunities, which could include providing a window for an innovative, concentrated period of instruction between the fall and winter quarters.
Bob Gundlach, Director of the Cook Family Writing Program in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Linguistics, and Karen Smilowitz, the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences within the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, will partner with Holloway this summer to identify Northwestern faculty to serve on the workgroup.
This effort stems from Northwestern’s ongoing examination of its academic calendar and educational offerings, which has included the Faculty Senate’s unanimous endorsement in spring 2017 of proposed changes to the calendar, Commencement date, and final exam administration. Since then, University staff members have worked to develop implementation plans to operationalize the proposed changes.
President Morton Schapiro and Holloway have approved changes related to Spring Break, final exam administration, and Commencement for adoption as soon as the 2019–20 academic year. These changes include:
- Extending Spring Break—The only break after the Winter Recess will now be extended to mitigate the existing challenges associated with the current 23-week stretch between January and June. The change will expand the current nine-day break by one to two days by optimizing final exam periods and adding a spring holiday.
- Final Exam Administration—The proposed changes aim to provide faculty and students more flexibility on the administration of exams to address challenges stemming from Northwestern’s late-ending academic year and the lack of central processes for requesting scheduling accommodations. The proposal includes the optional use—by faculty—of early or remote exams, and the establishment of a single, central protocol for those seeking to use these options, including the implementation of software to support this process. Implementation will work within school-based governance and policies.
- Commencement Date—Commencement will now be held closer to the end of classes and finals, with the goal of ending the school year earlier and increasing participation in our graduation ceremonies.
The President and Provost have also requested more detailed proposals around the academic opportunities for fall quarter—which Gundlach’s and Smilowitz’s workgroup will develop—in addition to other potential fall quarter changes.