By: Connie Klimek
A new addition to IU South Bend’s academic calendar welcomed for the spring semester, Wellness Days. Three Wellness Days were created in response to the pandemic’s impact on the spring semester.
All classes will not happen, and assignments will not be due on Wellness Days.
The specific impact that inspired this addition of the Wellness Days was Indiana University’s decision to remove a week of spring break. This removal of spring break discouraged travel during the middle of a semester, in hopes to prevent additional spread of COVID-19.
As spring break can often be used as a time frame for students to catch up on their work or take care of their well-being and detach from their workload, IU South Bend deemed it necessary to take these circumstances into consideration by establishing Wellness Days, modeled after the approach used by the Bloomington campus.
Before reaching this conclusion, IU South Bend’s Office of Academic Affairs participated in a study facilitated by the University Institutional Research and Reporting, UIRR. This was conducted across the regional campuses: IU East, IU Northwest, IU South Bend, and IU South East.
The goal of the study was to examine student’s response when it comes to navigating the campus community’s health and safety, student academics, the campus/virtual environment and possible suggestions for the spring 2021 semester regarding the changes resulting from the pandemic.
Dr. Doug McMillen, associate vice chancellor of operations and initiatives, led the study conducted among two focus groups on the IU South Bend campus. Each focus group consisted of six to 12 student volunteers.
The volunteers were then screened in order to create a diverse demographic to represent an accurate sample of IU South Bend students. The focus groups each met one time in early November, lasting 90 minutes on Zoom.
The study states that students appreciated that their health and safety has clearly been a priority for the Indiana University administration. Yet, they miss the engagement and instruction from in-person courses.
The study concludes, “Many of the students’ comments alluded to a desire to have some of the tenets of a traditional educational experience reshaped, in a recognizable fashion, to fit the current online and socially distanced environment.”
After gathering student feedback, UIRR compiled a report with the results of the study, which has been released to the campus.
Responding to the report and following IU Bloomington’s model, “The Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs contacted the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate and brought together a group to consider the possibility. Representatives from the Senate Teaching Committee, the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee and the Registrar met at the end of the fall semester to discuss the possibility of Wellness Days,” said Dr. Elaine Roth, professor of film studies, co-director of general education; UCET career mentor.
Then, the group proposed voting on the possible addition of Wellness Days, which the Executive Committee concurred. An election was conducted online by the Secretary of Executive Committee. The addition of Wellness Days was approved with an overwhelming amount of support.
This decision was shared with the Academic Affairs Committee and then shortly after, incorporated into the Spring 2021 semester, on Dec. 18, 2020.
Although the incorporation of Wellness Days is a thoughtful and well examined addition to IU South Bend’s academic calendar, they are not predicted to be continued in following semesters.
Since Wellness Days are an alternative to spring break, once spring break is added to the following academic calendars, they are expected to be discontinued.
“I was very happy that we incorporated Wellness Days. There was a lot of speculation, but information from students confirmed and helped guide decision making for the spring,” McMillen said.
IU South Bend’s next Wellness Days will occur on March 24 and April 22.