Summer classes off to rough but encouraging start

This past summer the New College bubble was pierced from the outside by 15 students and area residents who participated in the Summer Pilot Program (SPP), an experiment put together during the 2013 spring semester in an effort to increase funds and attract potential donors by introducing Sarasota residents to the school. Originally offering seven
courses, the list dwindled down to two following less than promising enrollment figures. A report sent out by Provost Stephen Miles to faculty on Wednesday, Sept. 18 examined the program’s results and set the net revenue at $6,073.

The general consensus is best stated in a succinct message from Miles’ memo to faculty: “We need to plan earlier.” Miles noted that in order to properly determine the potential of summer courses, the program would have to run for three years. According to the memo, a motion passed last year stated that repeating the program would require faculty approval. Miles urged interested faculty to contact him so that a plan can be set in motion by the end of October or early November.

Professor compensation was another topic raised in the report. President Donal O’Shea’s vision for the summer program was entrepreneurial in nature, with professors getting paid per each student enrolled in the course, whereas other institutions in the State University System of Florida pay professors 12.5 percent of their nine-month salary.

Although the school spent $2,954 of the gross revenue on ads, some faculty and students felt that it was too little, too late.

“When I advertised it around town to friends and so on there were some people who were interested but some folks were saying ‘if I had known ahead of time,’” Associate Professor of Sociology Sarah Hernandez said.

Hernandez was one of the two professors who taught a summer course. Her six-week Alternatives to Capitalism and Socialism class enrolled nine students while Assistant Professor of Sculpture Richard Herzog taught six students in his four-week 3-D Modeling and Printing class.

More than half the participants were either already enrolled at New College or affiliated with the school in some way. Although, according to Miles, the target audience for the summer program remains unclear, professors were looking forward to having a more varied turnout.

“My hope had been that there would be more people from the [Sarasota] community,” Hernandez said.

Herzog, who had one elderly Sarasota resident enrolled in his course, praised the mix of ages.

The remaining five course offerings fell through due to insufficient or untimely enrollment. Participating professors had a minimum quota, varying from four to twelve, which, if gone unmet, prompted the cancellation of their course.

Initially, Associate Professor of Chemistry Suzanne Sherman’s class offering, General Chemistry 1, was in the lead in terms of enrollment but interest faded upon notice that the course would not offer a lab component. Given the high interest, Miles hopes that any summer science courses offered in the future will include a lab.

Despite the modest revenue and enrollment numbers, response from participants as well as Herzog and Hernandez has been positive.

Although both professors expressed interest in teaching another summer course Hernandez admitted she would not consider offering one every year.

“I enjoyed the course very much,” Hernandez said. “But by the end of that I only had about a month or less to get my things together to get moving for this year so that didn’t give me a whole lot of time to do my own research.”

First-year transfer student James “Jesse” Robison, who took Hernandez’s class, found it a worthwhile experience not only because of the subject matter but also because it allowed him to explore New College and the surrounding area before the start of the fall semester.

“I’d probably recommend it more to incoming students,” Robison said. “This is a way of researching the college before you come.” Robison was one of three students to live on campus during the summer program.

“Showing up on moving day having lived here for a couple months was really invaluable,” Robison added.

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