Summer courses offer wide variety of options

Nearly 17,000 students will complete a semester’s worth of material in a fraction of the time this summer in more than 2,500 classes offered by VCU. Photo illustration by Annie Agee.

Michael Melkonian
Contributing Writer

Registration for summer classes is under way, but with some of the sessions as short as three weeks, can students really retain a semester’s worth of education in a fraction of the time?

About 17,000 students will enroll this summer in more than 2,500 courses ranging from general education requirements to internships, work study and summer abroad programs. The courses are about $25 cheaper per credit than fall and spring courses.

The summer session is great for students dedicated to graduating on time, but it takes extra focus due to the rigorous schedule, said Melissa Koch, summer studies personnel administrator from the Office of the Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success.

“It’s not for everyone, because the sessions are from three weeks to 12 weeks, so it is less time than the normal semester,” Koch said. “It’s more work because you have less time.”

Koch has also spent time taking graduate-level summer courses and said the learning was deeper in the “third semester” because students have time to discuss things in the long classes and without having to wait too long between class sessions.

For Patrick Smith, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Music who has taught summer session in nearly all of his years at VCU, being able to concentrate on one or two classes at a time rather than trying to juggle classes, studio and coaching is one of his favorite parts of the summer.

“I think there are a lot of benefits to having the time crunch because you can get really intense and really focused on the subject matter and you can reinforce the concepts daily,” Smith said. “I’m spread pretty thin in the fall and spring semesters, so in the summer I’m able to focus on that one class.”

Smith also said he likes the laid-back, “workshop” atmosphere but said some of the long hours in the classroom are tough, especially in the summertime.

“Of course the flipside is four hours of class, five days a week,” Smith said. “I mean I don’t think anyone wants to focus four hours a day on anything, especially four hours straight.”

Keeley Laures, a creative advertising senior, has enrolled in summer classes at a community college that were certainly effective, but said a VCU summer abroad program in Ireland and England was the best class that she has ever taken.

“I guess my situation was a little different since the goal of this trip was to visit agencies from outside of the United States,” Laures said. “The entire experience was more than academic, but assisted in self-exploration.”

Smith said the ability to transform a lazy summer into one of the best semesters a VCU student has ever had is what keeps him coming back.

“There is nothing in my nine-month contract that says I have to do this over the summer,” Smith said. “I enjoy it because I think it helps me to connect with students that I might not get to connect with in any other way.”

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