Mason Boasts One of the Largest Summer School Programs in the State
By Frances Womble
In May, convocation and commencement ceremonies celebrated graduating seniors at Mason, but this summer many are back to complete one last course before receiving their diploma. In fact, nearly half the students participating in Summer Term are taking a course to complete their degree, according to a survey completed by the Office of Special Projects and Summer Term. Another quarter of the students use the summer to lighten their course load for upcoming semesters.
“There are so many opportunities in the Summer Term,” says Cathy Evans, director of special projects and Summer Term in the Office of the Provost. “Gone are the days when summer school had a negative connotation. Now it’s seen as an opportunity to advance.”
Mason offers almost 1,000 summer courses divided among two six-week sessions and one eight-week session, and with more than 12,500 students attending last summer, it was one of the largest summer higher education programs in the state.
“Our enrollment numbers aren’t finalized until the end of the summer, but we generally are either the largest or second-largest summer program within Virginia,” says Evans. “We’re expecting to hold our position this year.”
Although enrollment is fluid, several academic units are currently at or greater than 100 percent to target, according to Evans.
Of the three sessions, the first six-week session, known as Session A, is the most popular. Because of this demand, more courses are offered in Session A than the others.
“It’s the closest to graduation, so obviously, students who participated in Commencement want to finish their degree requirements as soon as possible,” says Evans. “Students and faculty like it because it ends in June, so they still have an opportunity to enjoy summer.”
Online courses have become more popular in recent years.
“We want to offer that accessibility to our students,” says Evans. “This option is appealing because it gives students the liberty to take classes from anywhere.”
Although more than 95 percent of Summer Term students are Mason students, summer courses bring some new faces to campus.
“We have always sought to bring in students from other universities to Mason,” Evans says. “Many are home for the summer, and it is an ideal time for them to experience what we have to offer.”
The university also allows a select few rising high school juniors and seniors to get a taste of entry-level courses.
“They may even experience dorm life,” Evans says. “It gets them excited about their future.”
During freshman orientation, incoming students learn that they may enroll in Session C, the last session during Summer Term, giving them the opportunity for an easier transition to college.
The Office of Special Projects and Summer Term offers thematic courses annually and aims to engage the community in these classes by advertising with local libraries, governments, and schools.
This year, nine special topic courses on global human rights are being offered, and about 15 students are enrolled in each course.
“The Office of Special Projects and Summer Term is not an island,” says Evans. “It takes great academic units and professionals to pull off one of the largest summer terms in the state. We work with everyone—Office of the Registrar, Office of Admissions, Office of Student Financial Aid, the Student Accounts Office, and all the academic units—to make this possible.”
For more information about Summer Term, see the website.
To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.