From staff reports
Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl will present to a Board of Trustees' committee later this month a planning process for Ohio University to transition from quarters to semesters.
The presentation -- which will summarize reasons that a move to a semester system best serves the interests of the university -- includes a recommendation that the first stage of a transition process begin in the 2009-10 academic year.
"After considerable consultation and study, Provost Krendl, the deans and I are convinced that semesters will provide academic advantages to our faculty and students by giving them the opportunity to pursue coursework, research and creative activities in more depth," President Roderick J. McDavis said. "A semester system will also give students a chance to participate in internships and other co-curricular activities that are often built around semesters. It can strengthen all facets of our academic mission, from our curriculum to our ability to participate in innovative multi-institutional programs.
"The final decision on the matter rests with the Board of Trustees," McDavis added.
McDavis and Krendl spent the current academic year discussing with faculty, students, staff and administrators the question of which academic system would best allow the university to realize the goals of Vision OHIO. The starting point for their conversations was a report that the Academic Calendar and System Committee delivered last July.
At McDavis' request in 2006-07, the committee of 20 individuals representing all university constituent and leadership groups examined a change in the academic system from 10-week quarters to 15-week semesters. After a six-month study, the committee reported in July 2007 that it was deadlocked on the quarters-or-semesters question.
"While the Academic Calendar and System Committee did not make a firm recommendation regarding quarters or semesters, it did state that for Ohio University, the choice of a system should not be driven by questions of efficiency, but should be the system that best supports our academic goals," McDavis said.
During the trustees' June 26 Academic Affairs Committee meeting, Krendl will review the findings of the Academic Calendar and System Committee and update trustees on recent developments that have made a semester system appear more viable.
"Since the Academic Calendar and System Committee completed its report, developments with important implications for the system question have occurred," McDavis said. "Internally, we are in the process of creating an implementation plan for a new student information system. Externally, the inclusion in the University System of Ohio's strategic plan of a recommendation that universities move to a common system has prompted all of the Ohio public institutions remaining on the quarter system to seriously consider moving to a semester system."
Of Ohio's 14 four-year state universities, all but Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Wright State are on semesters.
While efficiency is not the driving force behind the decision to recommend a system change, Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur noted that a semester system does offer the potential to reduce expenses in areas ranging from utility costs to bursar functions.
"Based on priorities identified in the Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan, Finance and Administration is engaged in a multiyear strategy to ensure that our operations improve services while containing costs. Having a quarter to semester switch occurring at the same time will assist us in this process," he said.
Decatur was executive vice president for finance, technology and operations at the University of Toledo when that institution switched from quarters to semesters.
"I know from experience that with a good plan and a commitment to communication and consistency, the move from quarters to semesters can be accomplished without significant disruption to the daily lives of faculty and students," he added.
How much the transition will cost and how to finance it is something that will be studied over the summer.
"My inclination is to make the anticipated costs part of the funding strategy we are developing for the new student information system implementation, but all options will be considered, reviewed and discussed as a campus community," he said.
Chief Information Officer Brice Bible said aligning the switch to semesters with the implementation of the new student information system will simplify the electronic issues surrounding the conversion.
"A new student information system has the potential to be a powerful tool to assist us in making an orderly transition," he said.
The question on everyone's mind, Krendl knows, is when the transition to semesters would begin and how long it would take.
"Given that we are in the earliest stages of developing a process for a system change, there isn't a definitive answer, but it is my hope that stage one of a transition process would start in the 2009-10 academic year."
McDavis noted that beyond the timetable and finances, members of the campus community will be kept informed about the transition process and invited to provide feedback.
"I want to assure everyone that we will be thorough and responsive in our approach to constructing a transition plan for moving to semesters," McDavis said. "The presentation to the Academic Affairs Committee marks the first step in a complex process that can only be successfully concluded with the good ideas and work of many people in the university community who can bring varied experiences and perspectives to the table.
"There are many questions that remain to be answered about the proposed change, and we will answer them by working together," he added.
According to McDavis and Krendl, the process will resemble the steps used to arrive at the Five Year Vision Ohio implementation plan and take into account its priorities.
"The constituent groups have indicated that that the Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan process was successful in ensuring that their recommendations were heard and incorporated. I agree," McDavis said. "Their input strengthened the plan significantly, and if we follow a similar process in approaching a system change, we will emerge with a broadly inclusive and widely accepted transition strategy."
Krendl and McDavis said a transition committee representative of university stakeholders will be formed in the fall.
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