Smart vacation choice: summer courses

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rachelle DeCoste goes over information during last year’s summer session course
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rachelle DeCoste goes over information during last year’s summer session course “Introductory Statistics.”

Last summer, Sydney Gillis ’16 could have spent her break relaxing in front of the television or going to the beach. Instead, she was sitting in Room 1141 of the Mars science center four days a week learning about hypothesis testing, linear and multiple regression, and variance analysis in Professor Rachelle DeCoste’s “Introductory Statistics” course.

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A full list of summer session courses

And she had plenty of company. Gillis, who took the course to fulfill a requirement, was one of many students who jumped at the opportunity to take courses during Wheaton’s first summer session. The session was started as a pilot program to allow Wheaton students and others to take classes to make up a credit; to fit in coursework that they can’t accommodate in their regular schedule during the academic year; or just to enjoy a subject of interest during a quieter time on campus.

The program was so successful that it will be offered again this summer. Wheaton faculty members will teach a wide range of full-credit courses during an intensive four-week term from May 19 through June 13.

“I really liked that I was able to concentrate on only one class, and it was nice to know that I was getting a class out of the way in the summer so I would not have to worry about it during the year,” Gillis said. “I think that if students take advantage of it, they will feel a lot more at ease during the regular semester knowing that they took an extra class in the summer.”

The courses being offered are ones that tend to be very popular during the regular academic year and/or satisfy curricular requirements. Also, some faculty members proposed new and interesting courses they would like to try out. There are more choices this summer because the program has grown.

“The responses we got in our survey of students and faculty were very positive last year,” said Gail Sahar, psychology professor and associate provost. “Students liked the ability to concentrate on just one course, valued the interactions that were made possible by the small class size, and generally appreciated the intensive nature of the courses. Many also liked that they could earn a full credit in just four weeks. For some students, this meant not having to take five courses during a regular semester.”

Genevieve Minori ’15, a psychology major, took Professor Barbara Darling-Smith’s “Religion and Sexuality” course last summer. “While the pace of the class was fast and challenging,” she said, “it made it easier to study and do well on the exams, because the material was still very fresh in our minds.”

Professor Darling-Smith wanted to teach during the summer because she was intrigued by the fact that Wheaton was inaugurating a new program.

“And I was excited to be in on it,” she said. “I taught ‘Religion and Sexuality’ because the course is always full to overflowing during the regular semester, and I wanted to give students an opportunity to take it during the summer. I enjoyed teaching a smaller class than usual, with a much higher rate of participation in class discussion.”

Darling-Smith, who still maintained summer fun by having a picnic with students at the end of the term, also made an important point that seems key to the appeal of the summer session for both students and faculty:

“I did not feel as though it cut a dent into my summer,” she said