Summer has begun at Pacific Union College, and the campus during the vacation season has changed dramatically from the noise and activity of the main school year. The mountainside is hushed by the exodus of most students from campus, and it's a rare spectacle even to see two or more of them together in one place.
But students are still here, and summer classes are in session. Despite the season, all across campus lectures are being taught, discussions are being engaged in, and homework is being assigned. And like the atmosphere around campus, summer session can be very different than the school year proper.
Some teachers give their students a chance to relax a little during the summer session. "During the summer, I take a bit more casual approach in order to give students enough time to complete the readings and write the research paper," says history professor Amy Rosenthal. She is currently teaching an upper-division seminar on social deviancy in Victorian England, and finds that the summer session offers both challenges and opportunities in the class. "One of the biggest challenges to teaching a course like this in the summer is the short time frame. I have to choose fewer readings and combine themes in order to cover all the material. At the same time, however, the smaller class size allows me to get to know my students better, both because students are usually more willing to express opinions in a smaller group and because I can modify the class to accommodate the interests of individual students."
Other professors are teaching classes that would be impossible if not for the more open summer schedule. Visual arts professor Milbert Mariano is preparing to take a group of 12 Honors students to Florence, Italy for two weeks of aesthetic inundation. The class is simply called "Beauty," and the students will be taken on field trips to the region's artistic Meccas, as well as encouraged to keep a sketchbook and discuss different ideas of beauty in group settings. "It is less disruptive to the student's academic program to take this as a summer course abroad," says Mariano.
Whether opting for a unique learning experience or just trying to get ahead in their studies, students are taking advantage of the summer session. Elias Zermeno, a junior about to start the nursing program, is using the time to tackle a difficult microbiology class that would be much more daunting with a full schedule. "It's easier to take this class right now during the summer," he says. "I can get ahead and get that requirement out of the way."
While the schedules and the atmosphere around campus may change during the summer, education continues year-round at PUC. And if you're here watching very patiently on a quiet, warm afternoon, you may see a group of students shuffle across campus, off to learn something new.