Patrick Rochelle: Strike a balance this summer

Summer is all about escaping the day-to-day grind of academia.

But those who need to take classes during the summer should not be restricted to spending the entirety of these three months locked in a classroom.

This year, the University will offer 10 summer institutes that allow students to take courses toward their major, while also getting actively involved in the D.C. area. These institutes range from Japanese Language and Culture to an archaeology field study in Alexandria, Va.

Every department with 75 or more students pursuing a major should offer summer institutes. These represent the ideal summer school experiences, since they give students a chance to take courses for credit while also taking advantage of the District.

Each summer, the psychology department offers a 10-week program called the Summer Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Minority Communities. Stephen Forssell, one of the directors of the institute, said students take four courses throughout the program, including: cross-cultural psychology, health psychology, principles and methods of health psychology and either supervised research or a field experience course. The program plans one event each week, where students might, for example, take a field trip to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Md. or listen to a guest speaker present research. By participating in this summer institute, students not only earn 13 credit hours toward their major, but they also gain invaluable experience in public health and diversity.

The program is also more affordable than if the classes were offered during the academic year. A 13-credit summer institute costs $10,923, which not only saves students money but also makes their schedules lighter and for some might allow them to graduate early.

Many departments offer courses during the summer that are the same as those offered during the academic year. For example, the sociology department offers Introduction to Sociology and Urban Sociology, which are also offered during the academic year. But with more summer institutes, students will have the option to take courses toward their majors, to use D.C. as a resource to enhance in-class learning and to work closely with professors on research and fieldwork.

For example, the geology department could establish an institute that focuses on the geological makeup of D.C. Students would work closely with their instructors, do fieldwork and conduct research that would help them better understand the topography of the District. Or the Department of Theatre and Dance could create an institute where students write and perform their own plays while also spending the summer seeing performances throughout D.C.

These institutes also provide a way for students to explore and gain new intellectual experiences in a particular subject that they might not have otherwise had the chance to study. All too often, people think of college as a time when they are supposed to become experts in a single area of study. But in reality, college is the place to cultivate a number of talents and interests.

As the University pushes for more opportunities for undergraduate research, summer institutes could be a perfect way for students to work alongside their professors. Students would not only get hands-on experience doing research in their field but professors would also benefit from having research aids interested in the subject matter.

No student should spend his or her entire summer holed up in the library with his or her nose pressed to a book. By increasing the number of summer institutes, the University will give students a chance to both study and immerse themselves in all that D.C. has to offer.

Patrick Rochelle, a junior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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