University of Nebraska–Lincoln student Jenny Figueroa was planning to graduate in December with majors in English and ethnic studies. She was deeply disappointed when her adviser told her this fall that she didn’t have enough credits to complete the ethnic studies major.
Financially, the Chicago native couldn’t put her graduation off until May.
A three-week remote learning session being offered Nov. 30 to Dec.18 provided an unexpected second opportunity for Figueroa to salvage her work by completing an ethnic studies minor while still graduating as scheduled.
“[The session] made such a positive change because I was feeling so down,” she said. “I felt like I had to give up a lot, you know, because I have done so much for my ethnic studies major. So knowing that I had this opportunity to take a class this semester and still graduate in 2020, I felt like… I’m pushing through.”
As a precaution against spreading COVID-19 during the winter months, university leaders decided this year to end fall in-person classes before Thanksgiving, more than three weeks earlier than scheduled. The spring 2021 semester launches Jan. 25, two weeks later than previously scheduled.
During the eight-week interim period, the university established two three-week remote learning sessions to keep students engaged and progressing toward their degrees.
More than 60 classes are being offered during the fall three-week session, said Amy Struthers, who spearheaded the effort as experiential learning coordinator with the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor. The classes range from one- to three-credit hours and are a mixture of graduation requirements, career and research skills, discipline-specific topics, and interdisciplinary and innovative classes addressing the “grand challenges” of today’s world.
“Faculty members responded with creativity, innovation and enthusiasm,” Struthers said. “Some proposed the course of their dreams or classes they hadn’t had the opportunity to develop before. It’s been a chance for them to pilot new ideas.”
Some examples include “The Science of Food,” “Pandemics, Schools and Helping Meatpacking Communities,” “Accounting 101” and “Christmas and Supply Chain.”
Figueroa will be taking a race, gender and media course. In addition to completing her ethnic studies minor, she expects to learn how to evaluate the media and issues surrounding gender and race.
“I think it would just help me overall because it’s really interesting, even now in 2020 with all these crazy things going on… I think it would just help me know how to be like, ‘yeah, this is real news and this was fake news,’ or ‘this is wrong and this is right,’” she said.
Figueroa chose to pursue ethnic studies because as a freshman she became more interested in political situations regarding race. She declared her English major after taking a creative writing course. She liked the professor and enjoyed the class, and she decided that English was “her thing.”
After graduation, Figueroa is moving to Wisconsin. She is open to multiple career options, including helping Spanish-speaking people with translation and event coordination, but hopes to utilize her major in a teaching position.