January 4, 2007

“Wintersession” Allows Students More Options *** LSU Students Can Use Classes to Get Ahead or Catch Up


Most college students are still enjoying their holiday break, but nearly 700 LSU students returned to class this week to continue the university's first-ever "Wintersession."

The mini-semester offers fully immersed, two-week classes to help students either catch up or get ahead in their college careers.

Each class is typically at least three hours a day for five days a week, giving students the opportunity to knock off one or two classes between the fall and spring semesters.

"Intersessions - those courses offered between semesters - are very popular across the country," said Jim McCoy, LSU vice provost for enrollment services. "It helps retention and graduation rates."

Wintersession offers more than 40 class options and falls in line with LSU's Spring Intersession in May and the Summer Intersession in August, which will begin this year.

Across town, Southern University has its own two-week "Maymester" between the spring and summer semesters.

LSU junior Eddie Robins of Baton Rouge said he enrolled in a Wintersession class after he fell behind during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A mix of intersession and summer classes can help him graduate in four years, he said.

"That is my goal - indeed," Robins said. "It gives you options so you don't have to take 18 hours every semester."

Wintersession ends Tuesday. The spring semester starts Jan. 16.

LSU's Continuing Education office and Student Government pushed for the Wintersession, and the LSU administration was very receptive, said Doug Weimer, Continuing Education executive director.

The next step that is already in the works is to offer more "travel classes" that cannot be done during a full semester, Weimer said.

For instance, for two weeks a political science class can be taught entirely in Washington, D.C., or a theatre class in New York, he said, and really get a unique experience.

The problem, Weimer said, is the tightly condensed sessions do not mesh well with intensive classes such as laboratory courses. Squeezing classes into short time frames limits the time students have for out-of-class research and studying.

Over time LSU may also cater intersession to more older or non- traditional students and offer some intersession evening classes, he said.

LSU used to offer more night classes, but the intersessions are helping compensate, said Bill Stickle, biological sciences professor, who is teaching human physiology this winter.

The class sizes can be kept small during the intersessions, Stickle said, and most students are dedicated and learn just as much as during a full semester.

"The students perform just as well," he said. "It really helps two kinds: those who want to get ahead and those desperate to finish."

Steven Namikas, geography associate professor, said the intersessions benefit students and faculty.

"A lot of students get stuck in a situation where they need just a class or two to graduate," he said. "This can keep them from graduating a semester or two late."

Although sacrificing some holiday time is not every faculty member's dream, Namikas said, as a father with a newborn child, he appreciates the additional income from the extra class.

(c) 2007 Advocate; Baton Rouge, La.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.