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The Dedicated Semester Tradition and Procedures

An Annual Tradition   

Fontbonne University welcomes you to a unique academic experience — it's what we call our dedicated semester. 

This collaborative initiative encourages the entire university — students, faculty and staff — to explore a single theme each fall semester. The inaugural effort was introduced in fall 2007 when the university examined "Judaism and Its Cultures."

In addition to courses offered by many of our academic departments, there will be films, panels, speakers and events, all designed to give students an opportunity to learn in detail about the semester's chosen topic. We will also involve the local community in relevant ways in order to extend the focus of this endeavor beyond our campus borders.

In the fall semester of each year, Fontbonne offers a “Dedicated Semester.” With cooperation across the university of its schools, divisions, departments, and programs, our campus community explores a single theme. Academic departments contribute a core of courses, usually about 10-12, to form the curricular heart of the “Dedicated Semester,” which is supported by a variety of co-curricular activities and events.

Classes are offered in a variety of disciplines, and in some cases may be interdisciplinary in nature. The curriculum for the Dedicated Semester consists of new courses, specially designed for the selected topic, and those already in the catalog that suit the semester’s theme, or which may be adapted to do so. Dedicated Semester courses range from the 100-400 level, and may fulfill requirements in both general education or within programs, as special topic courses or in specific areas of majors.

Co-curricular activities that will address the semester’s topic include university-wide fixtures such as convocation and winter graduation. Additionally, guest-lectures, films, and panel discussions like those ordinarily hosted by departments or programs in any semester might also be arranged to engage with the theme of the Dedicated Semester. The expectation isn’t that all co-curricular activities of departments be devoted to the semester’s topic but rather that, to the extent practicable, co-curricular as well as curricular involvement come from a broad representation of the academic departments. Likewise, the Dedicated Semester depends on the energies of the students, staff, and faculty involved in the array of organizations that operate under the aegis of the division of student life.

Administration of the Dedicated Semester is housed in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. The chair of this department monitors the budget and serves in a permanent advisory role on all Dedicated Semester committees.

Based upon the success of the first three Dedicated Semesters (Judaism and its Cultures, The United Nations Millennium Goals, and Immigrant Experiences), it is the expressed desire of the executive administrative staff that a Dedicated Semester occur each academic year during the fall semester.

Procedures for Solicitation, Selection, and Implementation of Topics

The following procedures are designed to clarify how this initial success can serve as a foundation for future endeavors.

1. To ensure that sufficient time is allowed for the planning of each Dedicated Semester, a minimum of 18 months will be required from submission of proposal to the start of the semester.

2. A total of three Dedicated Semester topics will initially be selected so that opportunities for planning, collaboration, and reflection between and among topics can be maximized.

3. Each year new topics will be considered so that a total of three is maintained. The topics will be circulated among faculty, staff, and student groups for feedback. Individuals wishing to submit ideas for consideration should send those ideas to the Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies. The due date for submission of ideas is January 31 of each year.

4. The structure of this process is intended to ensure that the University will have a Dedicated Semester every year. In the event of unforeseen circumstances causing the delay or cancellation of a planned semester all efforts will be made to substitute another topic to ensure continuation of this vital component of our academic life. The Advisory Panel also reserves the right to reorder the sequence of the planned topics under the rare circumstances of current events presenting a pressing opportunity for a more topical subject (the occurrence of 9/11 or an unexpected departure of a key faculty member are examples). Under those circumstances there would have to be a demonstrated preponderance of desire on the part of the University community to address a new issue that was more current, and the topic would have to be presented with the same strong sponsorship required of any other topic. Under such circumstances the Advisory Panel would act to recommend a change of topic sequence.

5. Feedback from faculty, staff, and students will be solicited and evaluated by an Advisory Panel comprised of the Executive Vice President for Strategy and Operations, The Vice President of Academic Affairs, and chairs of the most recent three Dedicated Semester committees. The Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies will chair this panel.

6. Based upon the quantity and quality of feedback, the committee will invite proposals in support of specific topics from the faculty and staff. The proposals should include:

a. A preliminary name/focus of the Dedicated Semester

b. The preferred year, if any, to offer this topic (for those topics that coincide with anniversaries or special event, or for other curricular or staffing considerations)

c. A tentative 18-month planning schedule

d. The members of the committee who are volunteering to work on this topic and the chair or co-chairs of the committee. Please note that the following individuals are standing members of the committee in advisory roles: The Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies or designee, The Director of Student Leadership or designee, and The Vice President of Institutional Advancement or designee. The Office of Academic Affairs will support the committee in matters related to publicity and resource management.

e. A preliminary list of existing or special topics courses from across the institution that supports the topic.

f. A preliminary list of co-curricular offerings that support the topic.

g. A preliminary list of at least five external individuals who might serve as guest speakers.

h. A preliminary list of at least three books that could serve as the First-Year Common Reading.

i. A letter of support from the direct supervisor of those volunteering to serve as chairs or co-chairs of the committee.

7. The due date for the submission of proposals is March 31 of each year.

8. Upon receipt of the proposals, the Advisory Panel will consider the topics for feasibility. Individuals submitting the proposals may be asked to meet with the panel to clarify or explain key aspects of the proposal before any decision is made.

9. The Advisory Panel will announce no later than April 15 the topics that have been selected for upcoming years.