ofCourse Scheduling: Emily, can you tell us a little bit about your role at UC Davis?
Emily Scivoletto: I am effectively the Dean of Students and I help students be as successful, healthy and engaged in their program as they can be. At the same time, I oversee American Bar Association requirements, academic advising, course scheduling, some of our curriculum, and the Registrar's office. I also oversee our academic success program and our diversity, equity and inclusion programming, including our first generation advocates program.
ofCourse: Would you say it’s unusual for the Dean of Students to also be responsible for the course schedule?
Emily: I think it is atypical in law schools. Most of my colleagues do not have this dual role, but they also have to do other things that I don’t do. For example, I don’t have to handle orientation or graduation.
ofCourse: You have more insight into student life than some of your peers. How do you think that impacts your approach to scheduling?
Emily: I think it gives me an additional lens through which to view a schedule. Sometimes that makes it more complicated (trying to make a schedule be all things to all students is RIDICULOUS), but I think it helps me come close to the best schedule possible from all angles.
ofCourse: Can you think of a specific example where your student experience led you to make a different decision?
Emily: In scheduling a skills course in our 1L curriculum this year, I took advice from a number of students that I had provided academic advising to the previous year. They said that the schedule did not allow them enough time to digest a doctrinal subject like Constitutional Law before being asked to pivot and move directly to a mock client negotiation. They felt they needed a little more transition time in the style of the class. That’s a pretty nuanced “schedule ask” but I had heard it so much that I was able to build in a little more downtime in between those classes in next year’s schedule.
ofCourse: Great example. How many years have you been involved with schedule-making?
Emily: I’ve been at Davis since July 2019 and have had direct oversight for the schedule since then. But I’ve really only “made the schedule” myself for one year. At my previous law school I worked with our scheduler and she was great about asking for my input. But as the “chief scheduler” knows, until you are the one doing it, you have no idea how to do it. 🙂
ofCourse: I assume the pandemic caused a bit of a scheduling nightmare for you. Can you tell us about your particular Covid-19 schedule nightmare? Did you have to redo the schedule several times?
Emily: So, I swear you didn’t pay me to say this, but had I not had ofCourse Scheduling, it would have been a nightmare. 🙂 This was the first schedule I put together myself and we had it all together by late March. And then we were shut down and didn’t know when we would be back or if we would even have classes in the law school in the fall. We use the public view option that comes with ofCourse, so once we made decisions on which classes were remote and which were in-person, it was really easy to go in, make those changes and inform students. I had to move 1L classes a lot because those were the ones we needed to adjust the most, but most of the others stayed where they were and went to remote instruction.
ofCourse: Is there anything you learned from the 2020 experience that will affect the way you approach scheduling in the future?
Emily: I am about to create our 2021-22 schedule and we have the same “what ifs” and uncertainties. So 2020 was a good learning experience about how flexible I need to be and to also make sure that our faculty are very aware that they too will need to be flexible. The value of notifying students of schedule changes early, often and specifically was also something I learned — it really does make a difference in their willingness (or not) to be patient with us. 🙂
ofCourse: How do you expect scheduling will change over the next, say, five years?
Emily: I am hopeful we will see a cohort-based model of instruction in the 1L year some day. I think the 1L educational experience can be very difficult for students. We ask them to take on legal writing and (typically) three doctrinal classes before they really even understand how to read a case, how to write objectively and persuasively, how to understand what a holding is, etc. But if they only took Torts and Legal Writing for the first seven weeks, for example, it would ease them into the skills we’re trying to teach them. They could “travel” with a small cohort of colleagues while they took just those two classes. I think we would see a greater ability for our students to learn and feel confident in the law, and it would reduce some of the pressure on end-of-semester finals.
ofCourse: Interesting. Do you see that block/cohort approach gaining steam at other schools?
Emily: I proposed it at another law school and we discussed it, but it didn’t really go anywhere — it would be a big change. I like it for faculty because they could teach for seven weeks and then do conference and scholarship the other seven weeks. There is a school in Colorado that does it, but not a law school.
ofCourse: In all our interviews, we always like to ask: what’s one piece of advice you have for someone just starting as the schedule-maker?
Emily: Talk with other schedule-makers! As many as you can find. Ask what they do, how they do it, what they can do with the software, what they have to do manually. Really spend some time getting information from others folks, synthesize it, and then ask around again. You have to figure out what is right for you, but you won’t know your options unless you talk with people who are in the middle of it.
ofCourse: Emily, thanks for sharing all your insights with us! It was fun.
Emily: Thank you! Happy to do it!