UNC Proposes 'Maymester' Mini-term

How much learning can Carolina professors and students pack into just three weeks? That’s what UNC’s proposed Maymester program aims to find out.

In May 2007, UNC hopes to pilot a new academic mini-term that will give students an alternative to the traditional two-semester and summer school schedule. Maymester will take place between the end of the spring semester and the start of the first summer school session.

But scheduling is not the only “alternative” feature of Maymester. Administrators hope the term will let students and professors engage in research-based coursework on campus, off-campus and even abroad.

“Our idea is to get people out of the lecture-and-test format and into more active learning,” said Bobbi Owen, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students will be able to earn three to four credit hours during an intense three-week period that could take them anywhere from the Rare Book Room in Wilson Library to an astronomy tower in Chile. Owen said Maymester also would be an economical option for students who want to study abroad but can’t afford a whole semester.

Maymester was introduced to faculty and students last fall, and Owen said feedback on the program so far has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

If next year’s program goes well, Maymester may become a permanent feature at Carolina in 2008. Courses offered for the May 2007 pilot program will be selected from faculty proposals next fall.

“We hope to have a few on campus and a few that are in other places,” Owen said.

A number of colleges offer mini-term programs during the summer or winter, but Owen said UNC’s Maymester won’t follow a particular model.

“Carolina does its own hybrid,” she said. “We learn from other people, but we do our own thing.”

Maymester is one proposal in Carolina’s 2006 quality-enhancement plan, titled “Making Critical Connections.” The plan outlines proposals for enhancing Carolina’s undergraduate curriculum, undergraduate research and international presence – all three of which would be components of Maymester.

The plan was submitted in February as a part of the University’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The University is required to be reaccredited every 10 years.

Details for Maymester are still in the works, but the program likely will be run through the Summer School Office. This arrangement would allow students to pay the same tuition for a Maymester course as they would for the same number of credit hours during summer school. Housing and travel for off-campus courses still would cost extra.

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