Messiah announces modified undergraduate spring 2021 academic calendar

Messiah University sent the following announcement to undergraduate students, faculty and employees earlier today:

As universities around the country plan for in-person spring 2021 instruction, Messiah leadership has also been planning a modified academic calendar.  This calendar takes into account many of the same factors that went into the planning for fall 2020, including minimizing breaks and adjusting start and end dates to support a healthy and successful in-person semester. Messiah is announcing these modifications now to help inform the upcoming spring course registration and to assist students and their families with their own personal planning for spring 2021. As was the case with our modified fall semester, however, the University’s modified spring semester is also subject to change in compliance with ongoing government and public health mandates.  

Given the complexity of offering a compressed three-week January Term (J-term) that would serve both remote and in-person students simultaneously, the prudence of pushing to a later start in January due to travel and the likely flu season, as well as to accommodate recent calendar clarifications regarding PHEAA (Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency) requirements, the spring semester will consist of a standard 15-week (14 weeks plus finals) calendar. Accordingly, there will be no J-term included in the 2020-21 academic calendar.

We anticipate that most, if not all, of the COVID-related health and safety expectations from fall semester will still be in place, including such measures as mask wearing, social distancing, student and employee screening and testing, and limitations around travel. The University leadership will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and the precautions and recommendations related to the current pandemic, with updates as warranted.

Deans, department chairs, and faculty will be working closely, in concert with the Provost’s Office, to facilitate moving from a spring semester with a J-term and Spring Term to a semester consisting mainly of Spring Term (May Term will still be in place for a very limited number of courses). Required classes currently scheduled to be offered in J-term will be available for students during the full spring term.  In addition, the small number of programs that have unique courses or experiences in J-term (e.g., clinical hours, prerequisite courses, internships, etc.), have been identified and plans are being developed to accommodate these requirements in the new calendar.  Students will work with their advisors later in the fall to ensure that their degree requirements and progression will be met.  At this time, fall registration is anticipated to occur at or close to the same timeframe as previously planned, prior to students departing campus for Thanksgiving Break.

Key dates related to the undergraduate spring academic calendar are as follows:

  • Winter break: December 12, 2020 – January 20, 2021
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 18, 2021 (during winter break; holiday for employees)
  • New student Orientation and Move-in: January 19-20, 2021
  • Returning Students Move-in: January 19-20, 2021
  • Start of Classes: Thursday, January 21, 2021
  • Spring Long Weekend (travel limited): March 11-14, 2021; No Classes
  • Good Friday: April 2, 2021; No Classes
  • Last Day of Classes: April 30, 2021
  • Finals Week: May 3 – May 6
  • Undergraduate Commencement Weekend: May 7-8, 2021
  • May Term: May 17 – June 4

Some important changes to note:

  • Winter break is extended, so that students are not returning to campus after potential holiday travel or exposure to extended family groups.
  • There is no week-long spring break; restrictions on travel are anticipated to continue.
  • Good Friday is a holiday (no classes); Easter Monday is not.
  • The semester ends a week earlier than had been originally planned (pre-COVID).
  • Undergraduate Commencement is a week earlier than had been originally planned (pre-COVID); Graduate Commencement will move one week later to May 15, 2021.
  • May Term will begin a week earlier.
  • Summer Online Sessions I and II are currently planned to remain unchanged.