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What We’re Learning from Offering Summer Classes

A message from President Suzanne Rivera

This year, for the first time, Macalester offered a “summer module.” Initially conceived to provide students with an opportunity to catch up if they fell behind due to COVID-related factors, we have discovered that this flexible offering is popular with students and is creating new opportunities for collaboration between faculty and staff. 

More than 1,000 students are enrolled in Macalester’s summer—or “Module 5”—courses. The majority are first-year students, sophomores, and juniors. Participating students also include some graduated seniors and 32 who were admitted to Macalester in the previous admissions cycle but deferred and will join as first-year students in September. 

Course offerings were based, in part, on the results of a student survey. In addition, consideration was given to how this new module could support faculty needs. During the 2020-21 academic year, our faculty were grappling with the abrupt shift to hybrid and remote teaching while balancing a range of personal responsibilities, and we wanted to offer them the opportunity to spread out their teaching responsibilities. 

In this seven and a half week session, which lasts from May 19-July 10, students are participating in nearly 90 courses. Many are existing courses from the traditional Mac curriculum, which are helping students meet graduation requirements and access some of the college’s most popular classes; some are newly created courses, which are providing opportunities for students and faculty to explore topics and themes not already represented in our customary offerings. You can review the full schedule here.

Some faculty and students have shared that the summer vibe adds a relaxed dimension to their courses and, because there are fewer competing Macalester demands on their time during the summer, many students are appreciating the freedom to dig more deeply into the subject, or subjects, they’re studying.

In addition to students participating in Module 5, we have 143 students participating in a variety of paid collaborative summer research opportunities; the new MacNest Climate Justice internship program, which involves 4 students; and 46 participating in the Macalester Summer Internship Grant program, which provides Macalester-funded stipends for students in unpaid summer internship opportunities.

Disability Services, the MAX Center, and the Library all are staffed during Module 5 to support student learning; Career Exploration is working with students to provide guidance, including résumé and cover letter reviews as well as a new skills course providing students with micro-internship opportunities with community partners; the Hamre Center is open to provide students with health and wellness services; and Student Affairs is hosting programs to engage students on campus.

Among the lessons we will carry forward into the academic year and future summers are that students, faculty, and staff all like the flexibility that a summer learning module affords. Minnesota is glorious in the summertime, the energy on campus is palpable, and our facilities are a great resource that we can use effectively during the summer. In addition, the synergies between summer research and teaching reinforce the value of the teacher-scholar model both for students and faculty. We’re also looking forward to thinking through opportunities for January term and spring break learning experiences, and other programming outside of the traditional semester calendar, and to sharing those updates with all of you. In the meantime, we hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as we are here on campus. 

June 17, 2021