Students plan for a long winter break

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Multiple UNI students discuss how they will be spending their extended winter break.

  • Students gear up for winter term online classes and make other plans for the extended winter break.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right


As fall semester classes officially conclude on Nov. 25, UNI students are facing a winter break longer than any they’ve ever experienced.

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 following the holidays, UNI has pushed back the start date of spring classes until Jan. 25 and added three- and six-week online winter term courses. The extension is one of several coronavirus-related changes to the spring calendar, including the elimination of spring break, which was announced in early September.

At the time of the announcement, Provost Jim Wohlpart explained that the extended break is intended to create a buffer between the holiday season and the return to campus to avoid students bringing COVID-19
back to UNI.

“Students, faculty, and staff may gather with family and friends over the holiday,” he wrote in an email to the Northern Iowan on Sept. 15. Since the new start date is more than three weeks after the holiday period ends, “this gives a period within which anyone who might contract the virus from these gatherings would move through contracting it and, hopefully, getting over it.”

Sam Adams, a freshman interior design major, said she plans to spend the break at home in Newton, Iowa, where she’ll work at Hy-Vee and is looking forward to “spending time with family.”

Her fellow freshman Mai Van, a business administration major, is likewise excited to be with her family, and is also eagerly anticipating “not worrying about homework.”

Van wanted to take classes during break, she said, but the major classes and Liberal Arts Core (LAC) courses she was interested in taking filled up before she could register. Second-year psychology major Cassidy Robbins had the same issue with the Capstone course she was hoping to take.

The inaugural winter term courses have indeed proved popular, confirmed Patrick Pease, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs. In an email to the Northern Iowan on Monday, Nov. 16, he wrote that there are 53 sections being offered over winter break, with a total enrollment capacity of 1,768. As of Monday, 91% of the available spots were filled.

“Since we have not offered Winter Classes before, we did not know what to expect, but are pleased with the interest students have shown,” he wrote. “There is strong demand across all of the offerings. Departments selected classes that we believed students would want, including LAC classes and classes within majors that are typically full.”

Some students, such as senior public administration major Caleb Gipple, chose not to enroll in winter classes for other reasons.

“It’s fantastic that they’re offering (classes), and I think that’s a huge perk that every student should take advantage of,” he said. “It’s just that for me, being a senior, as far as I am in my major, none of the classes that I really needed were offered over winter break.”

Although he won’t be studying during the two-month hiatus, Gipple will still be busy: he plans to work as well as promote the book has recently written, “Doing the Thing,” which is scheduled for publication in April 2021. He’ll also be visiting his grandma in Arizona— but only after completing a quarantine to ensure her safety.

“Especially with as bad as Iowa is, I want to get that quarantine in before I go see my grandma,” he said. “Apparently, that’s a concept that a lot of our state struggles with.”

Other than the flight to Arizona, he’ll be staying in Cedar Falls rather than traveling home during the break.

“I probably would have traveled a lot more,” he said. “I would have gone back home (and), I feel like most people, visited with a lot of family and friends back in (my) hometown, but with COVID, that’s just not what the reality is for right now.”

Other UNI students will be spending the break on campus— Robbins, for example, will be staying in her room in Shull Hall.

According to Nick Rafanello, Director of Residence Life, interest in remaining in campus housing over break has not seen a dip from typical numbers, despite the extended break.

“We have recently started to ask students to inform us of their plans to stay in the dorms over the break,” Rafanello wrote in an email to the Northern Iowan. “Recognizing we are still in the middle of the sign up period, we are seeing numbers consistent with last year’s winter break period sign up.”

For those remaining on-campus, and, in fact, all students, staff and faculty, the UNI dining centers will be open for lunch and dinner. Winter break meal plans offer 10 meals for $64, with more information available at

Janet Despard, Director of Dining Administration, said the meal plans may be purchased at any time, even midway through the break.

“We anticipate sales throughout winter break as students come and go from campus,” she wrote in an email.

For more information regarding university operations during winter break, including winter term classes and Department of Residence offerings, visit