Last May, CHASS piloted Maymester, a three-week academic session that combines an intensive schedule with small class sizes to create an enriching and in-depth educational experience for professors and students alike.
Victoria Gallagher, associate dean of academic affairs for NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, along with former director of summer sessions Cindy DeLuca, were the enterprising duo that brought Maymester to the university. After teaching a communication ethics course during a five-week summer session, Gallagher was struck by the way the students responded to the intensity of the compressed course – they found the shorter schedule stimulating and exhilarating.
Among the students who praised the design of the course was graduate student Nathan Johnson. Johnson traveled to Washington, D.C., to take a graduate course called “History and Memory,” and embraced the challenges of the course. Although the accelerated nature of Maymester courses seems daunting, Johnson assures prospective students that it was his “perfect vacation.”
History major Sonya Laney found the curriculum worked in harmony with the professor-led tours around the capital. “Our classroom was wherever we happened to be that day: the steps of the Jefferson Monument, the Capitol building, the Vietnam Memorial. It made learning really interesting and hands-on,” she says.
Gallagher, DeLuca and other organizers, including CHASS Dean Jeff Braden, considered research related to intensive learning experiences and explored how other schools developed shorter terms. They found that condensed terms, such as Wintermester, existed primarily at small, private liberal arts colleges, and facilitated unique and meaningful academic experiences.
“I was very excited about bringing a condensed term to CHASS,” says Gallagher. “In our college, we do a lot of pedagogical exploration and innovation and I felt our students and faculty could benefit from a program such as Maymester.”
As organizers outlined the pilot, they refined their intentions for Maymester. Attracting new populations of students and faculty was central.
“We wanted to attract faculty and students who would not normally participate in summer sessions because of other interests or obligations,” says Gallagher. “Many faculty utilize the summer for scholarship or research, and students often forgo summer sessions in order to study abroad, work, or travel. We also hoped that the compact schedule would interest non-degree or life-long students, many of whom are professionals who would benefit from courses but may not have time for a standard semester.”
Based on positive feedback from faculty and students who participated in the first Maymester pilot during May 2013, the college has been asked to organize Maymester 2014. “Ultimately, the university would like to make Maymester courses available through colleges across NC State,” says Gallagher. “We are proud to run the pilot program to help the university determine the best course going forward.
This year, CHASS is eager to introduce several new Maymester courses that were not offered last session. When selecting courses, some students might choose to concentrate on their career goals, while others might elect to explore an equally enriching experience in an unrelated field. For example, a student pursuing her master’s degree in public administration could take the intensive ‘Preparing for a Field Experience’ course, while another student enrolls in the more general but equally challenging ‘Topics in the Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean.’