Brendan O’Shaughnessy | January 7, 2021
As an assistant dean in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, Collin Meissner regularly reviews course proposals and finds they follow a certain pattern because they fulfill requirements for various majors.
But this year’s unprecedented mid-year break led the University to create for the first time a Winter Session. This unique two-month period between semesters has removed the guardrails of what academics, researchers, counselors and service coordinators could normally imagine. Meissner said what could have been dead time has instead spurred some very creative ideas inspired by “just sheer intellectual enjoyment.”
“This was an opportunity for people to think out loud about ideas that they have been interested in, or ideas that have been resonating in the atmosphere, and kind of gather them into an idea for a short course,” he said. “It was as though people have just been let loose to come up with something really interesting to offer to engage the students over the long break.”
Meissner is one of them. He watched the recent movie “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and decided to create a one-credit course around it and a favorite modern novel, “The Nix” by Nathan Hill. Both works feature the 1968 Democratic Convention but have clear contemporary relevance. The course title: “How We Got Here.”
Likewise, academics across the University quickly devised more than 125 courses that will meet online from Jan. 4 to Jan. 27. Nearly 4,000 students signed up to take them. Many are one-credit mini-courses, but some are three-credit classes meeting daily.
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