Number of Wintersession Programs To Plateau

Wintersession-Discussion
Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Evelynn M. Hammonds, Dean of Harvard College, addresses students and faculty alike about the importance of Wintersession. Last year, Harvard offered 140 programs for students who spent their winter break on campus.

College administrators expect to cap the number of registered programs offered this year for students returning to campus before the start of spring classes during Wintersession, halting the growth in the number of activities the program has offered over the past three years.

At a reception on Tuesday for faculty members and freshman and sophomore advisers, College administrators voiced their intention to prioritize improving existing programming and maintaining the flexibility of the program, instead of focusing on increasing the number of activities.

“We’re not looking to significantly expand the number of programs...but to strengthen the ones we have and to really respond to what student interests are.” said Lisa M. Boes, who leads the Winter Break and Wintersession Planning Committee.

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds voiced enthusiasm for the development of Wintersession, saying she thinks the program “is really taking off.”

In last year’s ten-day Wintersession, 140 programs were registered. That marked an increase from about 100 registered programs in 2011, when the then-eight day program was called Optional Winter Activities Week. OWAW represented the first time all students were allowed to return to campus for January activities.

In 2010, the first year after the overhaul of the academic calendar created a gap between semesters, a limited number of students were permitted to return to campus to pursue independent activities during January. That first year, no formal programming was offered.

This January, Wintersession will last for ten days between Jan. 18 and 27, featuring new and returning program offerings and a streamlined funding process for student-initiated programming. Boes said she expects approximately 140 programs to be registered this year.

Undergraduate Council President Danny P. Bicknell '13 said in an interview that he wants to see more days and more activities added to Wintersession. Still, Bicknell said he supports the College’s effort to improve existing programming.

“There was a lot of existing programming last semester that could be definitely improved,” Bicknell said. “I definitely see the point of making sure we have a very solid programming base moving forward.”

Hammonds emphasized the administration’s desire to avoid rigidity in Wintersession programming to allow students to pursue their own interests.

“The way we envision it, going forward, right now, is the programs will change some each year based on student interest and what faculty, staff, and some other students come up with,” Hammonds said.

Boes, who is also resident dean of Pforzheimer House, said the administration decided to cap the increase in program offerings because of a lack of sufficient demand.

“If we had 200 programs, I don’t think we’d have the students to populate them all,” Boes said.

Boes said it is difficult to estimate the number of students who return to campus for Wintersession because not all students formally register for programs.

Boes also said this year’s later start date of spring classes, Jan. 28, could encourage students to pursue extended off-campus activities during Wintersession.

Boes added that the planning committee is focused on ensuring continued progress for Wintersession.

“We’re just really trying to build on the success of last year,” she said. “We had a really successful week. Students were really happy.”

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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