Monthly Column May 2015
The Myth of the Summer Break
I laugh when people ask me if I enjoy my long “summer break.” Indeed, the campus may appear to be quieter in summer months, but that can be very misleading.
Only students and faculty have the option of taking a break from the College over the summer. Even so, most are not truly vacationing the entire summer. Some students choose not to enroll in summer classes, but often it is because they need to work full-time to earn the money to pay for the upcoming semesters. Some faculty choose not to teach in the summer, but they use the time to prepare new teaching methods and assignments for the coming academic year and to engage in their required scholarly activities. Faculty may do this work from home, from another country, or from their campus offices.
Regardless, the truth is that Dalton State operates all 12 months of the year, and administrators and other staff must be here through the summer to continue the work of running the College. In fact, one might argue that summer is in some respects the busiest time of the year in spite of having fewer students and faculty on campus. A colleague recently told me of the file she kept one academic year of projects she would tackle during the “slow” summer months. Summer came and went, and she never even opened the file.
Summer is the time for some of us to finish projects started earlier in the year or to refine processes that are no longer working well. It is also the time to recruit, enroll, and orient a large group of entering freshmen and transfer students while also serving the needs of continuing students. Admitting and enrolling students is more complicated than one might expect. New students submit information such as transcripts and immunization documents that must be reviewed before being admitted, and then they are taught how to be a college student at an orientation session.
Furthermore, most students rely on federal financial aid, and they must complete an application for this funding each academic year. Additionally, federal regulations require that we review students’ academic record to ensure they are making “satisfactory academic progress” in order to continue to receive financial aid. Aside from financial aid requirements, students who are not performing well academically must be notified and counseled.
Even with budget reductions, we must replace retiring full-time and part-time faculty. Therefore, spring and summer are the busiest times for hiring and orienting new faculty in time for the beginning of the fall semester.
Many offices will take advantage of the “slow” summer months to hold staff retreats in order to review the progress of the previous academic year and identify the goals for the coming year. The word “retreat” may bring to mind a peaceful yoga-like setting, but in reality it often involves a very long meeting around a large table on campus. Nevertheless, these sessions can be very productive and can renew enthusiasm for our work.
Dalton State College will operate on a four day work schedule (four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days) between now and Aug. 7. This allows us to cut our utilities costs by closing on Fridays and also has the bonus benefit of giving employees some long weekends. Come visit us Monday through Thursday this summer!