Administrators have organized many joint degree programs across graduate schools, but academic calendars—including orientations, breaks and exams—remain uncoordinated.
Graduate students who are pursuing dual or joint degrees have to navigate different academic calendars that have incongruent break schedules. These in turn differ from the undergraduate calendar, resulting in several different breaks within the University calendar.
For some, depending on the schools they attend, schedules coordinate easily. Stevie Pearl, a graduate student pursuing a joint degree in law and history, has experienced little difficulty in navigating her schedules.
“I’m in the history department, so we end our classes the same time as the law school ends our classes,” Pearl said.
Pearl sometimes has final papers for one school due during exam times of another, but has not otherwise experienced any difficulty. She has noticed that other dual degree programs, such as JD/MBA, have more varied schedules from year to year.
One such student, Tony Wang, a fourth-year student pursuing a dual JD/MBA degree, noted that his Spring and Fall breaks do not often overlap, creating difficulty for him and other students taking courses in these departments to have a Spring break at all.
“Usually I’m able to squeeze in a break between a Wednesday and a Wednesday,” he said.
Wang’s biggest problem came during law school recruitment, which happened at the same time as the Fuqua School of Business orientation. He said he was able to coordinate his schedules so as to not miss too much of either.
Although many students are pursuing joint degrees, Kori Robins, registrar of the Duke Divinity School, said she has not received significant complaint from these students.
Robins acknowledged that the Divinity School is a smaller graduate school, and the calendar is somewhat different, but she said it tries to stay in line with University policies regarding scheduling, and much of the schedule is handed down from year to year.
"[Graduate schools' calendars] are established to meet their own unique programmatic needs… sometimes they line up and sometimes they don’t," explained Bruce Cunningham, assistant vice provost and University registrar, in an email Thursday.
Cunningham said the University Schedule Committee creates the general academic calendar and the Provost approves it for the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, the Pratt School of Engineering, the Graduate School, the Nursing School, the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Nicholas School of the Environment.
Fuqua, the Law School, the Divinity School and the School of Medicine create their own calendars based on the general outline, but do not necessarily parallel the six schools that must follow it.
Cunningham said that the Nursing School will be moving to a new calendar in the coming years, but that is the only scheduling change proposed at this time.