By SUSAN JONES
Nearly 300 Pitt students took advantage of the 10 courses offered during the University’s first Winter Session, which was organized by officials at Pitt–Greensburg.
“Students definitely appreciate this kind of flexibility,” said Beth Tiedemann, director of Academic Advising and registrar at Pitt-Greensburg, “and are open to strategies that can help them either with their graduation timeline or will help them with their grades or getting prerequisites done.”
The Winter Session ran from Dec. 7, 2020, through Jan. 15, 2021. The classes were taught asynchronously by Pitt–Greensburg faculty, leaving it up to the students when they participated.
Of the 282 students who signed up for the classes, 48 percent were enrolled at the Pittsburgh campus and 45 percent were from the Greensburg campus, with a smattering from Bradford and Johnstown. Tiedemann said most classes had a wait list.
The largest group of those who enrolled — 34 percent — were seniors; 24 percent were juniors; 23 percent were sophomores and 18 percent were freshmen. For seniors, Tiedemann said, the winter break classes could allow them to graduate this April, instead of after a summer session or a full extra semester this fall.
Students could choose from: Public Speaking; English Composition 2; Studio Arts; Philosophy; Introduction to Wellness; Decision-Making with Excel; Natural Science 1; Introduction to Sociology; American Politics and Introduction to Psychology.
The idea originated with Pitt–Greensburg President Robert Gregerson, who was thinking about ways to keep students engaged during the longer-than-normal winter break. Tiedemann and Jacqueline Horrall, vice president for Academic Affairs at Pitt-Greensburg, took the idea and ran with it.
Tiedemann said one of the advisers at Greensburg suggested something like this last year, but she’s not sure how it would have worked during a shorter winter break. “It was really the change in the academic calendar that made it an option for us,” she said.
Because of concerns about the pandemic, the winter break started a week earlier than originally planned and the start of the spring semester was pushed back a week, resulting in a full six-week gap between semesters for students. Tiedemann said they’d have to get “extra creative” to do the same classes during a four-week break.
Creation of the Winter Session was a great example of collaboration between all of Pitt’s campuses, she said, but especially Pittsburgh and Greensburg. She said she’s grateful that the provost’s office, along with the financial aid offices on both campuses and the registrar’s office in Pittsburgh, were “willing to just kind of say, ‘Well, we can just give it a try and we’ll deal with whatever comes up.’ ”
From a financial aid perspective, the Winter Session classes were incorporated with the spring term. But they still needed to figure out how they would fit into the current structure for tuition billing and credits.
Tiedemann also gave credit to the faculty members who were willing to go above and beyond during the break, particularly “coming on the heels of a long and arduous semester.”
She’s heard of very few issues related to the classes from faculty and has had several students express thanks for adding the Winter Session.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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