Everything old is new again

Graduates who attended CLU between 1970 and 1990 will feel right at home with one pandemic-inspired addition: What they knew as Interim Session has returned as Intersession.

Fred Tonsing, third from left, poses with a group of students at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, during a 1981 Interim Session.

Photo: Courtesy of Fred Tonsing

The Cal Lutheran campus that adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic might feel a bit unfamiliar to alumni who attended the university between 1970 and 1990. Most classrooms sat empty while learning happened physically distanced under tents outdoors or online.

But graduates of that era will feel right at home with one pandemic-inspired addition. What they knew as Interim Session has returned as Intersession. Beginning Dec. 7, Cal Lutheran is holding an all-virtual term that — like Interim — bridges the fall and spring semesters for undergraduates.

“Intersession is an effort to add value and an additional learning opportunity for our students,” said Kevin Baxter ’08, MS ’20, associate director of enrollment marketing. “With the traditional undergraduate fall term getting shortened because of the pandemic, it created time for students to take a course virtually.”

And it’s offered at less than half the regular expense, he added. The price for the one- to four-credit courses runs $250 per credit for full-time traditional undergrads, compared to $595 per unit.

During those two decades in the 20th century, all undergraduates were required to enroll in Interim at least three of their four years, and all faculty were required to teach it. Intersession 2020-21 is optional for faculty to teach and students to take. About 30 faculty members are participating, and classes offered include Intro to Podcasting, Home Buying 101 and Intro to Personal Finance.

Those topics are not much different from the eclectic Interim subjects, such as Crossword Construction for Profit and Fun, Film Noir and Personal Financial Management. Professor emeritus and Interim’s biggest booster Fred Tonsing led students across Europe following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.

Interim drew supporters and critics. Backers said it encouraged faculty to think creatively about courses, and some of those experiments became regular curriculum. Critics believed the classes were too easy and students skated by with scant effort, as reported in the Los Angeles Times in November 1990.

Reducing faculty workload was given as the rationale for Interim’s demise. In reporting the program’s passing, the L.A. Times stated an audit by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges recommended Cal Lutheran take definite steps to cut demands on faculty.

Lessons Jean (Kelso ’84) Sandlin, MPA '90, EdD '12, learned in one early 1980s Interim Session informs her to this day. As an undergraduate, she took a course on creativity co-taught by English professor emeritus Jack Ledbetter and art professor emeritus John Solem that broadened her worldview.

“I appreciated the dual perspectives these two artists — one a poet and one a printmaker — shared with us and their encouragement for us to practice creativity,” she said.

“That class continues to inform both my teaching and research today, along with my background in advertising,” she said, adding “I continue to explore the convergence of creativity and commercialism.” — Colleen Cason

CLU Magazine