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Wintersession offers students classes in many subjects

Three hundred and fifty-six students have registered for the pilot Wintersession program as of Sunday, USG U-Councilor Laura Du ’14 told The Daily Princetonian.

According to Du, 35 classes were registered when the website first launched on Dec. 11, but the website now includes 49 classes. Two classes were canceled due to the instructors’  changes in Intersession plans, Du said.

The USG Wintersession committee exceeded the goal of obtaining between 10 and 20 classes with a total enrollment of between 100 and 200 students. 

“My expectations were definitely surpassed by the enthusiasm on campus,” U-Councilor Azza Cohen ’16 said. “I think that kind of shows that something like this needed to happen and that people are really excited about it, so they want to take the classes.”

The program was created in order to build a community on campus during a time that is “unaddressed” by the University administration, Cohen explained. Inspired by similar programs at MIT, Harvard and Dartmouth, Cohen said that Wintersession is an opportunity for students to both teach and learn new skills during the break in the academic calendar.

The program is running off of a $7,000 budget, including $4,500 from the USG, $1,000 from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and $1,500 from the office of Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey. The money is being used to pay for a closing dinner, the instructors and funding for course equipment as needed.

The student instructors will be paid $14.80 per hour, Du said. Though students and student groups teach a majority of the classes, representatives from Career Services and Public Safety among others are also teaching classes.

All of the classes are free except Bartending101, which costs $100.

“We thought it was really important to offer as many programs as possible for free so they would be accessible to all students,” Du said.

According to Du, the top courses that students have ranked so far include Excel Workshop, My Money Workshop, Scientific Computing in Python, Effective Public Speaking and Intro to Cooking.

“One thing that was interesting to me is that students seem to be interested in the personal finance or practical courses, building practical skills,” Du said.

The program offers a wide variety of courses, including classes that teach how to start a social movement, how to date across cultures, how to take care of your car and how to sew.

In order to teach a class, instructors were required to describe previous teaching experience or motivation for wanting to teach a class. Although instructors are responsible for making their own lesson plans and applying for funding from the USG Wintercession budget or Projects Board for materials, USG members have been helpful along the way, said Emilie Burke ’15, a member of the women’s rugby team.

“We’ve been in touch with Azza and the other U-councilors who are in charge of it, and they’ve been super supportive in terms of advertising, in terms of how to get funding if you need it, securing space if you need it, and they’ve really been willing to guide,” Burke said. She will be teaching a touch rugby class with her teammates.

Though she found the process for signing up as an instructor relatively straightforward, Burke encountered more difficulty signing up to take classes. 

“The way the website was structured, it was just very difficult to understand,” she said. “It looked like the website needed some more work, and I think that made the registration process a little difficult or more tedious than it should have been.”

Burke also said she found the system of ranking classes for registration to be “off-putting” because it was not clear that students could take more than one class.

Cohen explained that students can take as many classes as they want as long as it can be accommodated with the class schedule. The ranking system was developed in order to more easily schedule students if a class became overbooked or instructors need to change the time of their class, Du explained.

Priority registration for classes ends Jan. 8 at 11:59 p.m. After this deadline, students will receive their schedules for the week and be able to add or drop classes from Jan. 10 to Jan. 23.

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