Demand among Aquinas College’s incoming freshmen for an innovative first-year pilot program is significantly higher than anticipated. Sixty percent of this year’s applicants indicated an interest in block scheduling, which allows students to complete one course at a time. From the 60% of interested students, Aquinas College received 137 deposits. Eighty of those students have now been selected for seats in the pilot program.
“We’re beyond pleased with the expression of student interest in this new and exciting immersive scheduling model,” said Provost Stephen Germic, Ph.D. “We had almost twice as many deposits for the model than we could accommodate.”
Rather than taking several simultaneous courses that each run for a full semester, students in a block schedule will take one course for three and a half weeks, working with the same professor and classmates Monday through Friday. Each course ends with a four-day weekend. At four credit hours per course, students will accrue 32 credits in a year.
Longer daily classes give students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in a singular discipline before moving to the next. Topics are more deeply explored, and the connections students form with their professors and classmates are more personal. Students who have experienced block scheduling at other institutions have found significant benefits to their mental health, and the flexibility offered by 9 a.m. to noon classes allows students more freedom for work and study. The model is better able to meet the needs of today’s students with a relationship-rich environment in the classroom and a focus on deep learning.
“Aquinas College is continuing its tradition of innovation, and we’re delighted by the response to the block scheduling pilot program,” said College president, Alicia Córdoba, D.M.A. “The block model is an excellent fit for a college like ours that thrives on relationships and immersive educational experiences.”
Only three other colleges in the United States currently offer a block model. Aquinas College will be the first to bring this type of scheduling east of the Mississippi River.
“The immersion model has been really meaningful in my own life,” said faculty member Dr. Gretchen Rumohr, a Professor of English. “I want to work towards a more authentic model of how writing and learning happen, and professor-student relationships play a key role in those efforts.”
Dr. Rumohr has also been working closely with colleagues on curricular redevelopment: “Efforts are underway to continue the momentum and make sure faculty members who are teaching in the block model have the support that they need to do so successfully.”
Aquinas College is still accepting applications to attend in the Fall of 2023 with a traditional schedule that offers strong experiential learning across all programs, but those students will not be eligible for the first-year block model pilot. Once data and input from participating students and faculty are collected, the College will make decisions regarding a permanent block scheduling program.