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May 13, 2002

Summer Session draws 'very focused' students

By Louise Donahue

If the mention of "summer session" conjures up images of laid-back students looking for courses that will give them plenty of time to work on their tans, think again.

Summer Session uses this Your Move graphic in its informational material. Summer Session is growing by about 500 registrations a year.
Think organic chemistry, the most popular course at UCSC's Summer Session.

"The students are very focused on working toward their degrees," said Cathy Sandeen, dean of University Extension and Summer Session.

Physics and math courses are also popular, though with 170 courses available, there is plenty to choose from.

Summer students have an average course load of one and a half classes, mostly in five-week blocks. "It's a really different sort of situation," Sandeen said, contrasting it to the rest of the school year. "Many like being able to concentrate exclusively on one class."

The majority of the students are juniors or seniors, and most also have jobs outside the classroom. Many see summer school as a good option for getting a required course out of the way and also enjoy the less-crowded campus, said Pat Vani, Summer Session director.

Vani said students find the compressed schedule gives them time to take a course or two, and still have time left to travel, work, or go home for part of the summer. About 30 courses are offered in the evening, meaning work schedules can be accommodated.

Small class size--the average size is 27 students--is another attraction. "They really like the one-on-one attention. They just feel a lot more involved in the classes," Vani said.

If it seems that Sandeen and Vani know a lot about their students, it's because classes must be tailored to student needs; Summer Session is self-supporting. "They're driving us. The student demand tells us which direction to go," said Vani, noting that state funds are not currently available for UCSC summer classes. Vani said she has noticed a shift toward more demanding courses over the last few years.

Anticipating student needs has led to rapid growth, with Summer Session adding about 500 registrations each year, Sandeen said. Last summer, 2,700 students took summer classes at UCSC.

As Summer Session has expanded, more regular faculty members are teaching in the summer than ever, said Sandeen, and Summer Session is working more closely with departments and divisions to integrate summer class offerings with the regular curriculum. In the past, she said, the teaching load had mainly been carried by lecturers, graduate students, and visiting faculty.

Summer Session is also getting considerable attention as one way for the UC system to accommodate the surge of students heading for California's colleges and universities.

In the short run, Sandeen said, she plans to continue focusing on UCSC students' needs to increase summer enrollment and will encourage students to increase their course loads.

In the longer term, she wants to expand Summer Session to serve transfer students, entering freshmen, and other UC students. She would also like to offer Summer Session classes at the new Silicon Valley Center for UC students living in the San Jose area.

The first Summer Session is June 17-July 19; the second session is July 22-August 23. A summer course catalog and registration are available online. The last day to register for courses is the Friday before classes begin.

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