School is (not) out for summer

Students get a jump start through compressed classes.

“It’s finally hot again!” celebrated Jocelyn Mena, a sophomore pre-physical therapy major. As air conditioners hummed back to life, spring fever was replaced with what promised to be a sweltering summer. It was time for sunshine, swimming and ... school? More than one quarter of Union College students remained on campus, refusing to abandon their never-ending quest for knowledge. While most Unionites spent finals week looking forward to a three-month escape from classes, others chose to soldier on through temperamental weather for the sake of education.

The seventeen summer classes offered by Union included Concepts of Wellness, a personal fitness and wellness course required by most degree programs. Taught by Dr. Nancy Petta, professor of health and human performance, the class took a semester’s worth of information, discussions and self-improvement and condensed it into three weeks. Crazy? Petta’s students begged to differ.

Mena saw Concepts of Wellness as a way to get in shape over the summer. She enjoyed the three-week class because she was “held accountable to exercise everyday.” Moreover, it gave her the opportunity to earn two additional credit hours before leaving to work at summer camp.

Her classmate, Holly Wooledge, a sophomore social work major, appreciated “more personal attention from the teacher.” Union already has a low student to teacher ratio of twelve to one. Over the summer, those numbers dropped to below nine to one. Even friendships with fellow students became effortless when classmates could be counted on one hand. Wooledge, the second of four students enrolled in Concepts of Wellness, valued getting to know the others on a more individual level.

Union also offered Microbiology as a three-week summer course. Ingrid Oberholster, a senior communications major, faced the challenge with open arms. “You breathe, eat, sleep microbiology,” she stated, “The course is long enough to cover it all and short enough to avoid burnout.” Oberholster could have found an equally fitting arrangement at a community college. “But I value Adventist education,” she said, “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. The world view of teachers is important, especially in a science class.”

Professors made adjustments over the summer as well. “With only three weeks,” explained Petta, “you have to stop and ask yourself, ‘What’s the most important stuff?’” In addition to Concepts of Wellness, Petta taught a tennis course and realized that she must set reasonable expectations for her students, “Three weeks just isn’t enough time to master every skill.”

Both students and professors admitted that summer classes, although convenient and worthwhile, are not without disadvantages. Many were keen on having a wider variety of classes to take or teach next summer. Suggestions included music, Microcomputer Applications or windsurfing—a class previously offered by Union. A cool early summer allowed physical education classes to pass without facing any major heat issues. But students like Mena and Wooledge missed out on the results of daily exercise that are seen at the end of a full semester. The decreased class sizes also lacked the diverse discussions and extended support systems that come with more students. Still, for these students, the benefits outweighed the inconviences.

When the summer months provide the only time in a four-year schedule to take certain classes, students looked toward the positive aspects to keep themselves focused on the task at hand. Smaller class size, shorter class length and the ability to devote focus to one or two subjects made for a quick, efficient and memorable learning experience.

Mena acknowledged that summer classes might not be for everyone. “But if you’re going to take a summer class,” she advised, “take one that you’ll enjoy and know that it will be worth it.”

Union College also offered several summer courses in which students could take a more hands-on approach to learning:

  • The nursing division offered a two-week Certified Nursing Assistant course, available to all majors, which equipped students with the skills and knowledge necessary to work in medical facilities.
  • The international rescue and relief department took its first-year students into Southern Colorado for five weeks of training including technical rope and high angle rescue, swift water rescue and wilderness survival.
  • The humanities summer program, also open to all majors, included a three-week trip to Costa Rica to study Photography, Ornithology (the study of birds) and Travel Literature.
  • Summertime for Union Scholars means spending the month of May at various international sites studying Global Environment. This year, they also traveled to Costa Rica.