As some incoming freshmen start their college careers this week and the Summer B semester begins, so does a series of new initiatives at USF to make summer campus life “bigger and better than ever.”
Most students can get directly involved with the new summer atmosphere through the First Fifty Days of Summer, a campus-wide program led by New Student Connections that creates a series of social and academic events for students on campus similar to the fall’s Week of Welcome, but many are likely to see changes ranging from increased programming to more course offerings.
While USF Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Miller said fall will always be the beginning of the academic year, summer can no longer be “a nap in the hammock.”
Summer vacation away from campus will continue to appeal to some, but according to Miller, there has always been a significant number of students who take summer courses and some incoming freshmen who start in the summer instead of the fall. In recent years, the campus has averaged 21,000 each summer and Miller said the university has seen an increase this year.
“For those with a previous summer experience, you’ll notice it will begin to feel different on campus,” he said.
To boost student life on campus, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs created “Summer@USF” to do everything from increase course offerings to open job opportunities and other activities on campus.
“Historically we’ve had students taking longer to get their degrees because of the availability of coursework,” Miller said. “So what the new Summer@USF program is doing, since its centered on the student, is giving the student the opportunity to get the courses they need and not the only ones left but the courses they want and the high demand courses that are hard to get into at other times.”
Leading Summer@USF is Cynthia DeLuca, USF assistant vice provost for Innovation Education who came to USF after working for 15 years at universities such as North Carolina State where she was in charge of enrollment management for summer sessions.
“I am a true believer that the summer should be an integral part for a student’s academic experience,” DeLuca said.
DeLuca said summer gives more opportunity for the university to offer courses that are in high demand and for students to take courses necessary for graduation, but may have limited availability in the fall and spring.
On the university’s website for Summer@USF, students are able to sign up for “1,000+ courses” and many general education courses are featured to fulfill graduation requirements, such as the nine summer credit hours for state universities.
In addition to offering more courses and increasing a student’s scheduling flexibility, DeLuca said summer can provide positives ranging from students using their off-campus apartments that are typically signed on a 12-month lease to utilizing campus facilities that would otherwise be underused in the summer.
“Offering more classes in the summer, using those classrooms you might not be able to get a section of a certain course in the fall or the spring because it has such high demand, and using that facility in the summer is what we’re trying to do,” DeLuca said.
To supplement more students taking more classes, Miller said more services and opportunities from Student Affairs would be needed.
“One of the ways we are planning on doing that is through a dramatically expanded collection of internship possibilities,” Miller said. “We don’t want to slow down a student’s path to a degree, so if a student is taking an internship that is a 20-hour-a-week activity, they’d have to probably enroll in fewer courses: Summer is for that.”
Miller also said some of these internship and job opportunities would be available on campus, as he hopes to work with various departments to increase services to students, including more dining options on campus and counseling services.
The campus, he said, is “better with students on (it).”
Though the financial sustainability of summer courses was previously in question with the university possibly dipping into cash reserves to pay faculty members whose courses had low registration, DeLuca said the goal for summer is to increase to enough activity so that summer courses are self-supporting and generating enough revenue so the university can “reinvest additional revenue into summer programs.”
“We’re going to grow in phases and bring everyone to the table as we discuss this — the students, the staff, the faculty, the academic departments and the academic service units,” DeLuca said. “We all have to be at the table together as we anticipate this growth. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
In addition to Summer@USF, DeLuca is working to create initiatives such as “Maymester” and “wintersessions.”
While Maymester would begin the Monday following spring commencement ceremonies, wintersession would begin as soon as the fall semester ends and offer students the chance to take online courses over the holiday break. Both would have a three-credit, or one course, cap per student and only offer classes in highest demand, usually general education courses.
DeLuca said the courses would be “intense,” but provide more flexibility for students and keep them on track to graduate within four years.
“Maymester is very popular around the country,” she said. “… It’s an opportunity to provide flexibility to the student so they can get that course they need and still have June and July to work or do an internship or fulfill other obligations.”
Come August, DeLuca said students will receive a survey from Summer@USF to gauge which courses are in demand and for the university to receive feedback about their summer experience at USF.