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Enhancement of summer sessions recommended

by Richard Veilleux - April 28, 2008

A faculty oversight committee that studied UConn’s summer and intersession programs says the University should take advantage of several opportunities to enhance the programs, and offered a series of recommendations to do just that.

The sessions, the committee said, offer undergraduates a chance to improve their chances of graduating in four years and to enrich their learning by taking courses that may not be available or practical during the regular academic year.

The group said focusing on the special sessions gives UConn an opportunity to make the Storrs and regional campuses busier and more vibrant during periods that are traditionally quiet.

The committee also recommended some adjustments to the University calendar to accommodate intersession schedules.

“There are three primary findings,” says Veronica Makowsky, vice provost for undergraduate education and regional campus administration, and chair of the oversight committee.

“One, we have to use our resources wisely, maximize the efficient use of our campuses. Secondly, for some students, summer and intersession programs are an opportunity to catch up and finish in four years, but others would like to carry double majors or study abroad and still complete their degree in four years. A third issue is enrichment.”

Provost Peter J. Nicholls believes the recommendations are feasible.

“Our students need robust summer and intersession programs in order to graduate in a timely manner, and to explore new or continuing interests through innovative and challenging courses,” he says.

Nicholls also assigned three administrators – Steve Jarvi, assistant vice provost for student success; Registrar Jeffrey von Munkwitz-Smith; and Margaret Lamb, director of the Individualized Major Program – to implement the recommendations and report on progress each semester.

Nearly 3,500 students enrolled in Summer Session I last year, down from more than 3,900 in 2004 but a slight rebound from a low of less than 3,400 in 2006.

“The essential idea is to get more students engaged in summer school and intersession,” Nicholls says.

“We need to make more use of our campuses during these traditional down times, and students need certain courses to complete degree requirements and finish in four years. So we need to focus our efforts on such offerings.”

Several of the recommendations have already been implemented, including advising students who take only 12 credits per semester – and their parents – that the relatively brief intersession or six-week summer courses offer them a chance to make up credits.

Additional recommendations include further aligning summer and intersession courses to students’ wants and needs; offering flexible scheduling; and ensuring a variety of course offerings – especially courses that during the semester create “choke points” or required courses that are currently difficult to obtain.

Nicholls says that establishing a desirable menu of summer courses, with small classes and interesting subjects, will boost enrollment.

That, in turn, could help finance other recommendations tied to making the summer experience more enjoyable, he says.

Those recommendations – increased transportation options, plentiful parking, student programming at all campuses that continues into the evening, increased recreational activities, and adding tables, benches, and outdoor coffee bars – would all require funding.

“Building the size of our summer and intersession programs will provide the needed revenue to enable many of the improvements we envisage for our undergraduate student experience,” he says.

Recognizing challenges presented by the calendar – Summer Session I begins the day after undergraduate commencement; Summer Session II ends only a week before the start of fall semester – the task force also suggested experimenting with a five-week Summer Session II, which would allow professors and facilities personnel more time to prepare for the fall semester.

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