Better courses, less sanity

Jun 282011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Students who are looking for course credit while also trying to avoid limited face time with professors, unengaged classmates and heavy workloads are finding refuge in CSU’s summer session program this year.

“Being a chemistry major, we have really challenging courses,” said Becky Ewing, a junior and director of academics for the Associated Students of CSU.

Ewing is taking math and statistics courses over the summer while working for the student government –– a decision she made to allow for a less hectic fall and spring academic year.

“My professors over the summer have more office hours,” Ewing said. “There are more motivated students, and less numbers of students per class. And not as much homework and not as many tests.”

The summer session office of CSU reports that 6,000 students representing all eight colleges are currently attending the 500 sections offered for its 2011 program. A 2007 CSU survey showed over 60 percent of participants were at junior or senior level.  

Spring and fall semesters typically see about 24,000 students and approximately 2,000 sections, with each level of student represented equally on campus.

“There’s less traffic,” said Ewing. “It’s nice.”

Although office hours and homework levels are typically more agreeable during the summer months, the expectations professors have for their students are perhaps even higher than during the typical school year.

Barbara Gotshall, director of summer session, said that courses taken in 50-minute increments only three times per week during a regular semester are jammed into four, eight, or 12-week programs for the summer, often translating into intense, daily, two-hour classes.

“The course is the same exact course than one offered during the regular year but it’s condensed,” Gotshall said.

Students cope by taking advantage of the increased free time that comes with summer.

“I do still have my nights pretty open,” Ewing said, “But sometimes it’s hard when your friends are able to go lay out by the pool.”

Programs available during this time are limited, and students have taken notice. The most unpopular feature of the summer session, according to a 2007 CSU survey of 706 students, was the amount of courses offered.

“Many of our faculty members have research commitments over the summer,” said Dr. Frederick “Skip” Smith, a 31-year veteran of the university and chair of the Forest Rangeland Watershed Stewardship Department in the Warner College of Natural Resources.

Besides a program taking 200 students into CSU’s Pingree Park to learn forestry measurement, “We (our department) can only offer three classes,” Smith said.

The stresses of attending class year-round are no stranger to Ewing.

“It’s pretty draining. I just have a month without class –– it’s like winter break. You’re going nonstop,” she said. But the thought of an easier fall and spring semester keeps her going.

“There’s going to be a lot less stress,” she said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

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