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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Second Winter Session a Double Success

    SBU conducted its second Winter session from Jan. 2 through Jan. 19 of this year. With registration rising over 50%, students took a variety of courses, ranging from the 3 credit course Christianity (RLS 270) at SB Manhattan to the 1 credit General Chemistry Lab (CHE 133) at the SB campus. While some students studied abroad, others enjoyed winter breakfasts and lunches organized by the Student Activities Board, or were hard at work in research labs.

    For students who lived on campus, the Student Activities Board, co-advised by Will Nerris and Sarah Young, planned several winter activities to make their stay more welcome.

    ‘The Student Activities Board took an active role in planning various events for the students taking Winter classes. They planned 5 events in the SAC Lobby that included two’ breakfasts with Dunkin Donuts, and three lunches with Dominos, Subway and Ying Yang, respectively. These events were planned to accommodate those students who may or may not have had a meal plan. The response from the students was fantastic with at least 100 students at each event,’ said Neris.

    The popularity of the Winter session is particularly evident in the increased class registration.

    ‘There were just over 1200 students enrolled in Winter Session 2007. This is a 50% increase over last winter. The Winter session offerings were split between West Campus, HSC, Stony Brook Manhattan, and Study Abroad,’ said Brent Lindquist, Associate Provost who led much of the Winter session initiative.

    The Winter session is regulated by State education regulations to deliver a 3 credit course with at least 37.5 hours of in-class instruction time. Students meet 4 days per week for 3 weeks to compensate for the brief length of the Winter semester.

    According to Lindquist, ‘This makes [the Winter session] a very concentrated experience. As educators, our concern is not ‘how to deliver the course content over that period of time,’ the concern is with a student’s ability to keep pace with the curriculum delivery. (Winter session is particularly attractive to our more highly achieving students).’

    It is hard to imagine compressing 15 weeks of coursework into 3 weeks. Some feel that the educational experience during the intersession is not entirely different than the academic semester.

    ‘Students get the same amount of knowledge in these short term courses, as they get during the regular semesters ‘hellip; In terms of value and content covered, there is no difference,’ said Prof. Kamal Sridhar of the Asian and Asian-American Studies Department.

    Richard Gatteau, Director of Academic & Pre-Professional Advising Center, said that ‘I am a big proponent of Winter courses because some courses lend themselves well to be taught in a 3-week time frame. This is particularly true in the wonderful study abroad opportunities that have expanded as a result of the Winter session. I spoke with a student just before the Winter break who was incredibly excited to be studying in Poland as part of a Winter session program.’

    Students also took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in Ghana, Jamaica, and Argentina, among other places.

    Gatteau added that the study abroad opportunities ‘give a chance to do international travel and experience other cultures first hand, guided by a Stony Brook faculty member. Several students have enjoyed taking Winter classes – either as a way to catch up in their studies or get ahead. Most students do well in Winter classes too, in part because they are usually smaller classes than fall or spring courses.’

    Some students also expressed a similar sentiment.

    ‘From my experience, I would say yes because I learned a lot in the Winter courses I have taken. But at the same time, I do know some people who wouldn’t concur,’ said Ricky Chachra, a senior.

    The compressed winter course schedule also had limitations.

    ‘What might be lacking is that there is less amount of time available for oral interaction in classes, which is also a valuable learning experience ‘hellip; As a student at another university, I attended several such courses during the Winters and summers ‘hellip; It all seemed a bit rushed, with little time for debates, discussions, and analysis,’ said Sridhar.

    Professors agree that some courses actually initiate better performance from students during the Winter session.

    Prof. Joseph Lauher of the Chemistry Dept. said that General Chemistry lab course ‘seems to work very well in the three week period ‘hellip; In fact, some students may actually find it better. In the Winter, they are much more focused on the lab since it is the only course they are taking.’

    However, many agree that there are certain restraints to exactly what you can teach during the Winter session.

    ‘It would be much more difficult for us to teach a chemistry lecture course during the Winter break. There is simply too much material and work required for the average student to handle in a three week period. But the lab is fine,’ said Lauher.

    Others believe that the success of a class depends on the professors and the students.

    ‘I would think that it would depend on the students learning style and the teacher’s ability to teach a 15 week class in a few weeks. Some classes lend themselves to this better than others,’ said Carrie-Ann Miller, Director of the Women is Science and Engineering Program.

    Many students take advantage of the break to perform research.

    ‘Many of the science students who are doing faculty-mentored research in labs (including students supported currently on Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research fellowships, or who were supported in the summer through URECA, or HHMI, or MARC) do continue with research or work during the Winter session,’ said Karen Kernan, the Director of Programs for Research and Creative Activity at SBU.

    One such student, Ujas Shah said that the ‘Winter session allows you to spend much longer blocks of time in lab, which is often essential to conducting experiments, especially those that require cell culture. During the academic terms you usually end up missing a few classes when you need to run an experiment.’

    ‘The most rewarding thing about the Winter session is that you are still in your ‘work’ mode, and you don’t have to worry about academic stuff. Since I view research as a more liberating experience than classwork, I think one can use January to get things done and put his/her head together after the semester,’ said Alex Treyer, a senior conducting research.

    However, Kernan noted ‘there is still value in the academic semester work, and in the sustained research experience throughout college. If you were to get the chance to do 2-3 works, but didn’t have any previous background, it would be hard to accomplish much.’

    While SBU does not offer any funding specifically for the Winter session, there are ample opportunities available elsewhere.

    ‘One can take advantage of Winter research programs at other schools like Cornell, Dartmouth, Stanford, UCSF etc. which run special programs throughout the year,’ said Chachra, who is also conducting research at SBU.

    The two Winter sessions have been a success. In fact, Nerris said that ‘since this was the second Winter Session, the Student Activities Board is looking to continue this as a tradition and maybe even add other events such as an artist in the SAC or Union, a movie showing and/or a Winter Carnival.’

    Unfortunately, concrete data is limited, to truly measure student satisfaction.

    Lindquist said that ‘as we are only in the second year of Winter session at Stony Brook, the data on [student course evaluation surveys and enrollment] is currently limited, though both course evaluations from last year and enrollment numbers for this year are extremely positive.’

    Lindquist also noted that ‘all of our peer institutions hold Winter sessions. The fact that we did not hold Winter session made Stony Brook somewhat of an anomaly.’

    Given the well-received success of the Winter session, it is fair to say that it is well on its way to becoming a long-standing tradition.

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