Fridays take on new meaning at UA
Dear Alumni & Donors,
I would like to share with you some exciting news about The University of Akron.
After discussion by the colleges and a detailed review by the Registrar’s Office, as well as much-appreciated input from all sectors of our University community over the past four months, we have decided to move forward with the implementation of an innovative class schedule and new student success program beginning fall 2018. This initiative has been vetted and carefully thought out. Quality learning, student success, and serving the needs of our students will be the primary foci of what we have deemed as “Five-Star Fridays.”
Five-Star Fridays – Briefly
Our new Five-Star Fridays initiative will enable UA to better respond to the needs of current students, creatively distinguish ourselves in the marketplace, and implement unique approaches that attract traditional and nontraditional students.
In short, most students will attend classes Monday through Thursday and then participate in practical, career-focused learning experiences on Friday. Courses will be taught for the same amount of classroom time and involve the same academic rigor as they currently do. They will just be organized a bit differently throughout the week to allow for a more concentrated and purposeful set of experiential learning opportunities for students as a result of making Fridays available in this manner.
This initiative will be unique among universities in our region. In essence, it is an institution-wide commitment to provide UA students with even more opportunities for cooperative education, internships, practical skills development, work, co-curricular activities, community service, lab work, research, advising, tutoring and more. Students also will be encouraged to use Fridays to attend special events, collaborate with faculty and peers, and take advantage of expanded academic counseling, tutoring, career fairs, and other career services. This schedule will give students three days of concentrated time to prepare for classes, engage with study groups, and participate in meaningful study and research.
The new scheduling will be applied throughout the University, but exceptions will be made when necessary. Deans, department chairs and school directors will work with faculty members to identify courses that for pedagogical reasons must be exempted. For example, some courses in music, dance and art require daily engagement with students. They will be accommodated.
Five-Star Fridays – Reception
Since last fall, the Five-Star Fridays concept has been openly discussed at college level and administrative unit town hall meetings. We have openly discussed it at UA’s Faculty Senate and University Council meetings. Personally, I have sent out written communications inviting feedback from faculty, staff, administration, and students. We have received the support and endorsement of our Undergraduate Student Government. The concept has been fully discussed among University leadership and within colleges and departments. Our Registrar has modeled the new schedule and confirmed that we can make this work.
I was truly pleased by a comprehensive survey that we conducted of all UA undergraduate students last semester. With the assistance of Undergraduate Student Government, we surveyed about 15,000 undergraduate students and received nearly 5,000 responses. Very positive conversations have also been held with dozens of area high school counselors, numerous high school principals, and employers.
While this is a novel step for our region, a number of departments at major universities in the Washington, D.C., area do not schedule Friday classes so that students can intern with government agencies that day. In addition, the use of two-day classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays has existed here for decades and is a standard practice across the country.
Five-Star Fridays – Welcome Addition
The Five-Stars Friday initiative and our new approach to scheduling will assist students with their organization and preparation, make possible more flexible learning opportunities and be yet another of UA’s distinguishing features for prospective and current students. It will make scheduling job and internship interviews easier for all students. It will also facilitate greater student preparation for entering the workforce, and potentially allow our working students to earn even more money towards their education while studying at UA. As students use the new schedule wisely, it will certainly enhance their experience and increase the value of their degree. It will also help prepare them for emerging flexible workplace trends.
As a daily witness to the professionalism and caring extended by our staff and faculty, I have no doubt that come next fall, our students will have ample opportunities and incentives to use their Five Star Fridays wisely. This is the latest in our continuing efforts to strengthen and advance The University of Akron through innovative initiatives. As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, and thank you for your continuing support.
Matthew J. Wilson
The University of Akron