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President John Fry confirms Drexel transition to semesters, and more | The Triangle

President John Fry confirms Drexel transition to semesters, and more

Photo by Dylan Elwell | The Triangle

Drexel University is officially moving towards a semester based calendar within the next three years, along with many other fundamental changes to the university structure, according to an extensive email sent out to staff and faculty by President John Fry on April 18.

These proposed changes came from the University Advisory Committee on Academic Structure (UAC) which issued a report of recommendations during a town hall hosted by Provost Paul Jensen and Faculty Senate Chair Kevin Owens on June 20, 2023. 

In the months since, working groups comprised of Drexel faculty and professional staff spent time assessing the recommendations. Now, many of them are coming into fruition.

Out of all the recommendations, the one that affects the Drexel student experience the most is the switch to a semester system. The potential switch to semesters is a topic that has been debated among the Drexel community for years, with the most recent example being the student focus group discussions held on Feb. 5 and 6. 

According to President Fry’s message, the university is now “mapping out a path that would feature semesters and maintain the six-month co-op while providing students with greater flexibility and more choices to design their own paths based on desired learning objectives and outcomes.” 

This greater flexibility could potentially include: “the six-month co-op, with up to a total of three co-ops; significantly more study abroad opportunities; shorter internships; and undergraduate research experiences.” 

Furthermore, President Fry mentions how peer institutions such as Northeastern and Rochester Institute of Technology “have transitioned successfully from quarters to semesters” and that he was “reassured that moving to semesters can significantly improve recruiting, retention and the student experience at Drexel.” 

Another major aspect of the announcement is the merging of several Drexel colleges and entities. Working groups assessed the possibility of grouping the College of Arts and Sciences (CoAS), the School of Education (SoE) and the Goodwin College of Professional Studies, but ultimately recommended merging only the first two. 

President Fry writes that while the First-Year Exploratory Program of the Goodwin College will be grouped with CoAS and the SoE, the working group recommended to leave the Goodwin College outside of the merger in favor of “maintaining its connection with the LeBow College of Business for the time being.”

Additionally, the university will merge all clinical sites under a new entity: Drexel Health. This will include clinical sites at the College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Professions, College of Arts and Sciences and Salus University once the merger is complete. 

It is possible that there are more pilot groupings and mergers to come soon, as President Fry writes, “I have asked the Provost to explore further the costs and benefits of further affiliations and will base my final decisions on his recommendations.”

Notably, the university will also be working towards creating core competency requirements “for all undergraduate students to support greater curricular alignment and flexibility and to provide differentiating skills that define a Drexel education.” 

The main areas for core competencies include: research and innovation, partnerships with organizations and businesses, civic and urban engagement and global engagement. These competencies will, in addition to the semester shift, be implemented within the next three years.

Creating more community spaces is another area highlighted in both the UAC report and many projects are currently in the works. 

As President Fry lists, these projects include a “renovated and expanded Bentley and Kelly residence halls; the new Life Sciences Laboratory and Research building being developed at 32nd and Cuthbert Streets, which will provide welcome and much needed space for the College of Engineering and School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; the construction of a mid-block crossing in the 3200 block of Chestnut to improve pedestrian safety; and the opening of the Myers Quad this fall.”

The announcement ends by listing an upcoming university gathering on May 8 to discuss these great transitions and next steps, but it is unclear if students will be involved in this process.

“As I said at Convocation this past September, this work enables us to focus on what Drexel is good at and good for, and it empowers us to keep getting better at what we do,” says President Fry. “Let’s keep working together to move in that direction.”