The busy days of summer

07-20-2009

Summer on the Michigan State University campus brings Beaumont Tower carillon concerts, theatre performances on the banks of the Red Cedar, and garden and chapel weddings (and wedding party photos with Sparty). But it’s by no means a sleepy season.

For many of our faculty, it’s a time to travel, attend conferences, pursue research, and work with visiting scholars from around the globe. For students, it’s an opportunity to broaden their studies or charge ahead.

Biochemistry students, for example, could this summer take advantage of an intensive, combined class focusing on laboratory techniques and record keeping. This allows them to complete some of the required 16 hours of lab credit they need for graduation—more than any other Big Ten university—and with rising enrollments in the sciences, offering labs in the summer helps us serve more students and make prudent use of our facilities.

In summer, we also use our beautiful campus to engage youth and adults alike in enrichment experiences. There are youth sports camps, more than 250 professional and academic conferences, other professional development programs, and a plethora of educational programs.

We will host nearly 40,000 people in our residence hall system this summer. Most of these guests are K–12 students attending programs that broaden their world in a wide variety of ways.

One program, MST at MSU, brings academically talented seventh and eighth graders to campus for two weeks to work on solving real-world problems using math, science, and technology. The weeklong Broad Summer High School focuses on college preparation for Detroit Public Schools students. Music Recording Camp teaches the basics of audio recording for young musicians. And our 4-H programs range from garden camps to a business and entrepreneurship expo in June.

Not all our learners are young, however. Our very popular Grandparents University, in which grandparents and their grandchildren learn side by side, promotes both family bonding and individual growth. In three years, it has more than doubled the first group of 400 grandparent/grandchild participants.

Such programs add a different kind of vibrancy to the campus and are part of how we deliver upon the outreach and service aspects of our mission. But they also play an important role in introducing students to college in general and Michigan State in particular.

A couple of years ago, we surveyed students living in university housing and found that nearly two-thirds of respondents—about 63 percent—had their first contact with Michigan State through a summer program.

In the end, the activities that abound here during this time of year are actually a perfect metaphor for the MSU campus year-round: a mix of academic rigor, athletic excellence, personal growth, and the excitement of discovery.

Yet despite the fact that the old phrase “lazy days of summer” just doesn’t apply here at MSU, there is—and always should be—time to squeeze in a stroll to the MSU Dairy Store for a scoop or two of Final Four Fudge Dribble or Sesquicentennial Swirl.

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