Q: I heard something about “Reimagining Stephens”...what is that?
A: Reimagining Stephens is the name of our institutional 5-Year Strategic Plan.
Stephens College cares deeply about the long-term success of our institution and the students we serve, so leaders sit down regularly to vision and plan for the future. In June 2023, the Board of Trustees approved a 5-year strategic plan called Reimagining Stephens.
Since a global pandemic rocked the world and changed all our lives, we understand that the traditional one-size-fits-all model for earning a college degree is not always what learners want or need. It can also create unnecessary barriers and burdens. So, we have set out to build the “new college experience.”
Stephens College is leading the way into the future of higher education. What this means is we are actively implementing innovative ways to serve and support our students (even) better.
Part of the plan is adjusting our curriculum and institutional calendar so instructional time will blend more seamlessly with experiential learning like internships, research and apprenticeships, and students will have more time to devote to their passions.
The goal is to further tailor the educational experience by program, so that our offerings are even more engaging, immersive, and experiential wherever possible. We are simply expanding upon what we do well, based on all we’ve learned in our rich 190-year+ history, and adding in some fresh, creative curriculum and program design elements that weren’t possible before.
Q: What is changing at Stephens?
A: Most colleges — including Stephens up to now — function on a semester-based schedule that requires students to split their focus among several subjects at one time, spread over a period of months. This can be incredibly stressful and makes learning that much harder (and let’s face it, less fun).
Stephens is moving to a new scheduling model, starting in the Fall of 2024. Known at some colleges as block scheduling, our new way of offering classes allows for more time for students to truly immerse themselves in what they are learning.
This approach means less anxiety about conflicting projects or multiple tests to study for at once. Rest and reset time is built in. Students will have more opportunities for experiential learning, internships and apprenticeships, fieldwork, research, networking, community service, getting involved on campus, self-care, and even studying abroad!
Q: How will the new curriculum work at Stephens?
A: Starting in Fall 2024, students will enroll in just one course per block. Each block will be 18 class days (3.5 weeks) with a sweet break of 4.5 days in between blocks.
With our new curriculum, students will be able to graduate on time and complete the same classes they would in a typical semester, except they’re generally only focusing on one class at a time (unless they take additional credits online). And they’ll be able to have more hands-on experiences and be supported along the way.
Q: Block scheduling...what is that? Is it the same as block schedules in high school?
A: Short answer, no. The scheduling approach Stephens is implementing is NOT the same as high school block scheduling. It’s not the same as what other colleges are calling block scheduling either, which is why we don’t use the term “block” much. Instead, we are calling it immersive learning or experiential learning--because that’s what it’s all about for us.
Q: Who is building this new curriculum?
A: This approach is a totally tailored scheduling model, built by Stephens faculty for Stephens students, and it will vary by program.
Our talented faculty are working diligently to shape the traditional block model to fit their program’s unique needs. They are excited about the incredible opportunities that come with this new learning format and will — as they always have — continue to work with students to create meaningful experiences.
Q: Who do I talk to, to learn more about how immersive learning will apply to my major/program?
A: All programs will approach immersive learning in a way that best serves the students in that respective program. Not all programs will look alike, nor will the requirements for each program be the same.
The deans, program chairs, and your faculty advisers will be able to speak to the specifics of how immersive learning applies to each unique major/program. They are prepared to talk with you about your needs and will help you build a practical plan to accomplish your learning goals.
Q: What if the new scheduling model doesn’t work for me?
A: If you are a current/incoming student who has already been admitted for Fall 2024, and you do not want to participate in the new scheduling approach (or if you try it and find that it doesn’t work for you), talk with your faculty adviser and let them know what you’re thinking. They can help you address your concerns and find a solution that works best for you.
To our students, we do hope you’ll give it a chance. This new curriculum is loosely adapted from collegiate block scheduling, which is reported to have some truly incredible benefits, and we are really excited about bringing it to Stephens.
It all comes down to intentionally integrating classwork with real-world experiences and removing obstacles to profound learning.
And, of course, let us know your honest thoughts along the way—we truly want to hear them. You can always email us at [email protected] with questions and/or concerns after talking with your adviser.
Q: What if this new curriculum is terrible and no one likes it?
A: We are keeping a close eye on how this change affects our students, faculty, and staff, and we’re asking for candid feedback from everyone every step of the way.
Long story short, if it isn’t working, we’ll “cross that bridge” and pivot as an institution to get to a better solution.
We do ask that you please have patience with us and this process...being a leader and trying out innovative solutions sometimes means experiencing a few bumps in the road. It takes time to work out all the bugs and get used to something new. We’ll be open to learning as we go. And just like it is with individuals as we learn and grow, sometimes we try things only to find even better ways.
Just know that we have our students’ best interests at heart, and we want this to work for them. Our intention is not to press our own (or any specific) agenda, but to find the best possible way forward for everyone involved, a way that works and helps our campus community thrive.
Still have questions? Submit your comments, questions, or concerns to us directly at [email protected].