Mercyhurst to implement 4-1-4 calendar beginning fall 2013

Mercyhurst University today announced changes to its academic calendar that are designed to enhance choices and opportunities for its students, particularly in the area of experiential learning, long the cornerstone of a Mercyhurst education.

Historically, Mercyhurst’s calendar has featured three 10-week terms during the September-May academic year. The new 4-1-4 configuration, slated to replace the trimester in fall 2013, includes two 14-week terms separated by a January term.

The month-long J-Term provides for intensely focused internships, study abroad opportunities, research initiatives and more concentrated classes where students can learn in depth a particular problem, question, issue or technical skill.

“One of the most important aspects of transitioning from a college to a university is positioning ourselves in the highly competitive educational marketplace,” notes Mercyhurst President Dr. Tom Gamble. “This more conventional calendar helps us promote ourselves as a university that offers a great combination of classic liberal arts and hands-on, engaged learning.”

The academic calendar change is a faculty initiative that resulted from extensive collaboration with and input from faculty, staff and students. The new calendar, approved by University Council, Faculty Senate and Mercyhurst Student Government, was officially authorized by the university’s Board of Trustees at its spring meeting May 5.

Among the advantages of the 4-1-4 (numbers reference term duration in months) calendar:

• It brings Mercyhurst’s calendar in line with the academic calendars of more than 75 percent of the country’s colleges and universities, making it easier to coordinate such things as athletic schedules, student transfers, study abroad and service-learning trips. Only two other colleges in the country still use a trimester system like Mercyhurst’s and one of them is switching to semesters next year. Many top-ranked universities have adopted the J-Term, among them New York University, Harvard and the University of Virginia.

• Students will still need to take 10 courses per year to graduate on time, but they will be split up as 5-1-4 or 4-1-5.

• The new calendar provides for shorter classes. Studies show that students retain more information when they receive course material in smaller increments. Under the new system, MWF classes will run for 65 minutes and T TH classes for 100 minutes. At present, Mercyhurst classes run for 90 and 130 minutes, respectively, the longest of any college classes in the nation.

• The 4-1-4 plan provides for a more realistic schedule of breaks and facilitates a more cohesive learning experience. For example, under the trimester, the two-week Christmas break interrupts winter term and spring break falls much earlier than that of most other colleges and universities.

• The J-Term allows Mercyhurst to more fully support its commitment to providing all students with hands-on learning opportunities. This “application” of knowledge, while an emergent trend in higher education, has distinguished a Mercyhurst education for many years.

• The J-Term affords more productive faculty and undergraduate research.

• The calendar conversion is tuition neutral and will not cause students’ tuition to increase.

• Potential cost and manpower savings are anticipated as registration, academic advising and billing occur twice instead of three times a year.

As the university moves toward implementation of the new calendar, Gamble said academic departments are already preparing for a smooth transition. The administration has given the North East campus flexibility in applying the calendar to its unique student population, although it, too, will adapt a calendar consistent with that of the Erie campus.

Students who may be worried that the calendar change will impact their ability to graduate on time should rest assured that that is not the case.

“Our pledge is to make sure that the new calendar will not affect any student’s intention to graduate on time,” Gamble said.

Those with concerns, he assured, will be afforded a special review of their cases.

Click here for a list of Frequently Asked Questions and a Video explaining the new academic calendar
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