Taskforce aims to make summer programs more attractive

The University is trying to make summer courses more attractive to students in order to boost enrollment and reduce class sizes during the spring and fall, officials said last week.

A taskforce of 18 administrators and faculty members, first formed in October, has been exploring ways to enhance the University’s summer programs, such as offering more special programs and increased financial aid opportunities for summer students.

“Our driving purpose is to try to provide the best possible summer opportunities that we can for our students,” said Jean Folkerts, associate vice president for special academic initiatives, who chairs the group. “Every once in a while with any program you need to take a look at it and try to understand if you’re doing the best job possible, so this is sort of a study group to see if we’re doing the best job we can.”

Folkerts said the task force is talking to students, faculty and advisors to gauge the effectiveness of GW’s summer program and assess potential areas of improvement. The committee is also evaluating the summer programs offered at 12 other schools similar to GW. Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman was not available for comment last week.

“We’re evaluating what the needs of students are, what the best ways of getting faculty to teach are, what the best ways to use our facilities are – really just evaluating every aspect of it,” Folkerts said.

Part of the reason behind the focus on summer classes, committee members said, is to help ease overcrowding during the fall and spring. Donna Scarboro, assistant vice president for special and international programs, which oversees the summer session, said boosting summer enrollment would allow for the best possible use of University classroom space.

“We have all these facilities, and to maximize use of these facilities means to use all of the space all the time,” said Scarboro, a member of the taskforce. “Certainly in the summer we don’t have full population enrolled in classes that we do in the spring and fall. To even that out would certainly benefit the institution.”

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has emphasized the need for GW to fully utilize its facilities in the summer. Despite last year’s unsuccessful attempt to implement a mandatory summer session, Trachtenberg said he may revisit the issue in a few years.

Many students use the summer months to fill general curriculum requirements using transfer credits from community colleges in their hometowns. GW offers hundreds of summer classes and multi-class programs that focus on one discipline, such as Arabic or journalism.

Folkerts said that while the task force had “not directly considered” placing restrictions on transfer credits to encourage students to take summer classes at GW, she said “it’s been an issue that’s been around for a long time for a variety of reasons.”

Taskforce members stressed that discussions are still in the earliest stages and that no formal recommendations have been made. No date has been set for when a final report will be released.

Some University officials questioned how substantial the committee’s impact would be.

“I think the way the summer is now at GW works pretty well, and I’m not sure there’s a whole lot we can do to improve that,” said Paul Duff, associate dean of CCAS for undergraduate studies and a member of the summer taskforce. “I really think what we’ll end up doing will be more tweaking than anything.”

Ultimately, the objective is to provide a more comprehensive set of summer courses for students, committee members said.

“I would like to see a coherent, seamless set of offerings in the summer that are well-defined by academic needs,” Scarboro said. “I think that’s a goal for any time of the year.”

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