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CGS to phase out fall enrollment, start all first-year students in spring London program

Natalie McKnight, dean of the College of General Studies, says that CGS will remove its September program over the next two years, requiring all of its first-year students to start school in their spring semester. PHOTO BY JACKIE O’BRIEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The College of General Studies will begin phasing out fall enrollment and starting all first-year CGS students in the spring semester, said CGS Dean Natalie McKnight.

The decision to start all CGS students in the spring stems from former program participants’ success in the January Boston-London Program, the dean said.

“It makes sense to go in this direction. Students love it,” McKnight explained. When participants arrive back on campus for their sophomore years, “they seem to be really charged up about their learning,” she added.

McKnight said that through the January Boston-London Program, students spend their first semester at BU in the spring, taking classes with fellow CGS students from CGS faculty. Then, either during the Summer 1 or Summer 2 term, students travel to London with the same classmates and faculty with whom they were acquainted in the spring.

“The program involves getting out and exploring the city both here [in Boston] and in London,” she said. “The whole experiential component really makes the thing more impactful … it’s an abroad experience, but it’s really cohesive.”

Currently, CGS enrolls about 600 students annually, McKnight explained, with 300 starting in the fall and the other 300 in the spring. Next year, the school will start 200 in the fall and 400 in the spring and for the 2019-20 academic year, CGS’ entire entering class will start in the spring.

The dean said the beauty of the program is that students can have a gap semester without feeling like they’re falling behind their classmates. After the summer semester in London, participants start their sophomore year “right in sync with everybody else.”

However, studying abroad in London will not be mandatory, and CGS will offer a similar program in Boston for students who are unable to go to London, according to CGS’ marketing and communications manager Alisa Harris.

Harris works with students, faculty and staff on the program’s logistics and shares students’ experiences on CGS’ social media. Harris said she is “always impressed by how the program packs in so many amazing experiences in a short amount of time.”

“Students visit Greenwich and Westminster Abbey, see Shakespeare plays at the Globe Theatre, go to art and history museums, take weekend trips to Scotland, tour the set of the Harry Potter film series, see Oxford and Bath — all while they study humanities, rhetoric and social science from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution,” Harris wrote in an email. “It’s a very unique, fast-paced cultural and learning experience.”

Former Boston-London Program participants said they found their gap semester and time in London beneficial to their college experience and think it’s a good idea to make it a CGS-wide initiative.

Elisa Cifiello, a sophomore in CGS, said the gap semester was instrumental in determining her academic path. Cifiello used her free time to intern at the International Institute of New England, a nonprofit where her interactions with colleagues gave her a glimpse into the working world.

“I got to see where everyone took their degrees and the paths [they took], and I really felt like I could see myself going in a certain direction,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known that at all, otherwise.”

Cifiello said originally, she planned on studying business in college. However, while working at the nonprofit, she realized her true calling was international relations.

Similarly, junior Rey Maguad said she worked during her gap semester.

“It was nice to have six months of extra money in my pocket when I got to BU,” the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences student said.

CGS students in the September Program and the January Boston-London Program don’t join together until sophomore year, just a year before they again intersperse into their chosen colleges. Maguad added that she thinks starting all CGS students off together in the spring would help with the college’s cohesion.

Carleen Wenner-Jensen, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said she thinks starting all CGS students together will help with unity.

“It was kind of weird after London, coming back for sophomore year, and half the people who you’re in classes with, you don’t even know,” the international relations student said. “It just kind of sets everyone who should be at the same place apart a little.”

John Margolies, a CAS junior, said after participating in the program, he felt better prepared to return to BU the next year.

“You get a real chance to feel like you’re living on your own as an adult,” he wrote in an email. “Overall, I feel the program was beneficial to my well-being as a student and as a person.”

Wenner-Jensen added that she’s glad more BU students will get to experience the same formative experience she did in the Boston-London Program.

“Not only are you in a gorgeous city surrounded by all your friends, but at the same time, the curriculum itself is crafted around exploring the city,” she said. “Being a freshman and having that opportunity was really unforgettable.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of the article stated that the London session abroad is mandatory. However, it is not required of students who are unable to go to London, and the current version of the article reflects this change.

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  1. As a former CGS student, I feel like this is honestly the wrong move. If my only option was to go to London my first semester, and in the SPRING, I would not have gone to Boston University. This is disappointing. Stop taking away our options. Some people NEED to go to CGS to continue on at the university. Don’t make them go to London if they don’t want to.

  2. As a former CGS student and someone who started at BU the Fall semester of my freshman year, I also think this is the wrong move. Starting at BU the same time as all other students in the university made me feel like I wasn’t so separated. But to make everyone start in the Spring, they’ll be coming in not knowing anyone while everyone else at BU would have already had a semester to make friends and get acquainted with the school and city.

  3. I loved the Boston-London program. this entails starting at BU camps in the spring, abnd the going to London for a 6 week semester in the summer. It was an amazing experience that i would recommend to incoming freshman.