As you know, we have been discussing and working on the new Gold Fridays course schedule initiative over the past several months. I sincerely appreciate the conversations as well as the hard work of those who have managed logistics of shifting to a four-day core class schedule. We will be making a public announcement about the new schedule shortly, so I wanted to reiterate some of the details.
Missouri Western is working very hard to address the challenges and opportunities facing higher education. We continue to look at ways to cut costs while sufficiently preparing our graduates to enter the workforce with readily applicable skills. As Missouri’s official applied learning university and one of its very few open-enrollment institutions, this is central to our mission. As such, we are always looking for innovative approaches to fulfill that mission while meeting the needs of both traditional and non-traditional students at our University.
What are Gold Fridays?
Essentially, most classes will now be offered Monday-Thursday. Fridays will be dedicated to academic success, applied learning, and other opportunities. There will be no change to the total minutes for each course, number of courses offered or number of students on campus under this new program. Academic quality will be enhanced as faculty and staff can devote Fridays to student service and success. As an added benefit to our Gold Fridays program, some of our facilities will come online for innovative Friday and weekend programming.
What are the benefits of Gold Fridays?
Gold Fridays benefit our students. The flexibility offered by the program is designed to enable them to engage in a wide range of Friday programming and activities, including:
- Internships, externships, other work opportunities
- Research and lab work
- Advising, tutoring, and academic preparation
- Interaction with professors and collaboration with peers
- Community service
- Career fairs and events, networking opportunities and career advising
- Co-curricular and club activities
- Time for scheduling job interviews, work shifts and health appointments
- Rehearsal times for performing arts groups
- Athletics, ROTC, other university activities and commitments
- Company visits and other related activities
This new scheduling approach is unique in higher education. It is also consistent with trends of a four-day work week in the workforce. It is also consistent with shifts in high school education. In any event, we hope the flexibility gives students a competitive edge when entering the workforce. It should also help the University attract and retain students.
More Reasons for Gold Fridays
In looking at adjusting our course schedule, we have weighed the benefits carefully. Here are a few general reasons underlying the Gold Fridays concept:
- Attractive to prospective students. The unique schedule and practical learning opportunities may increase student recruitment and retention. No other university in the area is doing anything like this so we have the opportunity to further distinguish ourselves in the marketplace.
- Quality learning and student success. Quality learning and student success is the primary focus both inside and outside of the classroom. Academically, block scheduling can be advantageous for learning and can enhance quality instruction. Also, students can have three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) of concentrated time to prepare for classes, engage with study groups, and engage in meaningful study and research.
- Faculty/student engagement. The new scheduling format will enable enhanced student services on Friday, and provide faculty with greater opportunities to engage with students. By focusing time and efforts on teaching and research during the first four days of the week, on Fridays faculty can concentrate on student advising, student mentoring, office hours, faculty meetings, special programs, etc.
- Improved attendance. Students who travel (student athletes, academic competition teams, etc.) will miss fewer classes, thereby enhancing academic seriousness even further on our campus. It will also help in scheduling job interviews and the like.
- Money savings. Missouri Western’s student population includes a lot of non-traditional students who work full time and have families. An extra day of flexibility outside of the classroom could have a positive impact on them in terms of family commitments, daycare costs, the cost of commuting and attending to other obligations. Also, many students work to support the cost of their education. Having a dedicated day to work (if necessary) would reduce the likelihood that a student will suspend his/her studies for financial reasons.
- Academic success. With a weekday dedicated to study and practical learning, students could better organize and prepare themselves for the following week. Students could employ Friday to meet with faculty, advisors, tutors and fellow students.
- Attractive to employers. Having entire days available to work at a job, externships, internship or coop is enticing to employers.
We would also like to emphasize that Gold Fridays are not necessarily a “day off,” but rather an opportunity to better serve our students with a flexible schedule and enhanced experiential learning. Thank you for your dedication to Missouri Western and for helping us respond to the needs of our students to help them reach their goals. For more details, please visit missouriwestern.edu/goldFridays. I am happy to answer questions too.
Matt Wilson, President
Missouri Western State University