Quarter and half credit courses attract students of all majors

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Many DePauw students are bulking up instead of slimming down when it comes to course loads.
 True to the ideals of a liberal arts education, DePauw offers a wide range of courses. To ensure students don't stay strictly on the path of their majors, the university enforces specific general education requirements that are mandated for all students, no matter what their major or minor.
However, there are more than a few classes on campus that give students no credit toward their major, minors or even general education requirements. Moreover, many of these courses aren't even worth an entire credit. Yet for some reason, there are still students of all years and majors enrolled in them.
These courses are known as quarter and half credit courses, and they cover a wide range of subjects. From physical education to independent studies to dance classes, it is not just possible, but encouraged, for DePauw students to step out of their comfort zones and stretch their minds in ways they may never have been stretched before.
For School of Music students, many quarter and half credit courses-like Musicianship and Theory-are actually requirements, but for students in the College of Liberal Arts, these courses are much more take them or leave them, and it seems that students are taking them.
Kelley Hall, associate dean of academic life, says that for many students, these courses are an opportunity to get off the beaten track.
"We have more interests than just what we study as our major and the courses that we take-these all contribute to creating thoughtful, well-rounded individuals," Hall said.
Jamie Mueller is the assistant softball coach for the university and teaches quarter credit physical education classes as a "secondary" commitment. While she stressed how important working out has been to her, she realizes that it's not essential for all lifestyles and careers.
"If I can help people help themselves make healthier lifestyle choices, then that's something I can feel good about," Mueller said.
Deborah Grammel, adjunct assistant professor of dance, teaches a multitude of half credit dance classes. This semester, she has students enrolled in all different levels of ballet, ballroom, tap and jazz.
Grammel said she has always seen a fairly even split between College of Liberal Arts and School of Music students in her classes. While these classes might seem to have a bigger draw for performance students, Grammel easily explains why her classes are so popular with students on track to major in biology or psychology.
"I think students take these courses as a relief from their academic courses - they're not in a book preparing for this class."
These movement classes, according to Grammel, can be wonderful de-stressers for students with a heavy load academically.
"They prepare for this class by coming and doing. They come in, and they dance," she said.
However, these action packed quarter and half credit courses aren't only stretching students' muscles.
"A movement class makes you think a little bit differently," Grammel said. "It's a creative way of thinking and to totally dismiss that as a learning or educational tool would be wrong."
While there's no denying the many intellectual benefits these movement classes offer, Ken Kirkpatrick, registrar and associate dean of Academic Affairs, feels that the fitness aspect of these classes is what pulls in such a variety of students, and the additional credit doesn't hurt.
"I think students like those courses and getting the credit is a motivater to stick with it. Otherwise you might not feel like you have to go all the time," Kirkpatrick said.
Hall believes that sometimes students take these courses just for the relatively "easy" half or quarter credit.
"Sometimes students get behind. I think the motive is sometimes, 'I need more credit,'" Hall said.
And the focus of quarter and half credit courses isn't all on physical activity, either. For many students, quarter and half credit classes come into play through labs and independent studies.
Senior Botong Sui approached Professor Brian Howard last semester about continuing his senior project in an independent study class. In these classes, students are mostly on their own, and really only meet with professors once a week to keep them updated on their projects.
"You really have to be your own motivator," Sui said.
However, he argues that the flexibility, one-on-one time with professors and the knowledge that even if things go badly wrong, at least it wasn't a full credit he just failed, have all helped him keep things in perspective.
Also, because of Sui's extreme interest in the course, designed by him for him, he thinks of this independent study as an opportunity instead of one more thing on his to-do list.
"These variable credits allow students to work with faculty on these specific academic topic that are exciting and interesting to them," Kelley said.
"You can be a little bit more flexible and experimental when it comes to these quarter credits especially," Kirkpatrick agreed.
Kirkpatrick stressed that while these additional courses are wonderful, they aren't considered full credit courses for a reason.
"These are a good way to spice up the curriculum, but they shouldn't lead to compromising on academics," he said.
It is for this reason that limits have been placed on the number and type of quarter credit classes that can be counted towards graduation requirements. For instance, only one credit worth of physical education courses and four course credits worth of applied music can be used for the 31 credit total that all DePauw students must graduate with.
However, Grammel believes that while these classes may not be worth the same amount of credit as others or be listed under any sort of graduation requirements, their overall importance cannot be argued.
"It's good for us to use all parts of our brain," she said.
Hall couldn't agree more.
"It should be part of continuing your liberal arts experience to continue with your interest playing oboe - even if you're a biology major," she said.
These quarter and half credit classes provide the opportunity for students of all majors to do just that. Whether they want to get fit, expand their mind, play the banjo, or learn to tap, waltz, or plié, there's room-and credit-for all of that within the DePauw experience.