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Mills introduces expanded course catalog for summer

Mills College is launching an expanded summer course list with more departments piloting new classes. Faculty members and students are excited about the session, but students have some reservations about taking them due to the lack of available financial aid.

The new summer session includes 28 courses spanning nine departments, including Art History, Book Art, Chemistry, Economics, Education, English, Ethnic Studies, Management, and Psychology. Each class must have a minimum of 10 students enrolled for a class to be held this summer.

Some departments, such as Education and Business, have been offering summer classes for several years, while other departments, like English, Chemistry, and Book Art, are offering summer courses for the first time this year.

According to David Donahue, Associate Provost, the administration started planning for the summer session earlier this academic year when faculty were asked to submit courses that would appeal to a wide variety of Mills students.

“The response from faculty was very positive,” Donahue said. He said that many of the offerings are courses that faculty have been looking forward to teaching.

As chair of the English Department, Cynthia Scheinberg said she tried to ensure a balance of options from which students could choose by offering different types and subjects of courses to meet students’ needs.

“We chose a strategy of offering courses that are not offered during the regular academic year, but could fulfill some of the credits and requirements our students need,” Scheinberg said.

Summer session is seven weeks long, while fall and spring classes meet for 14 weeks.

“The summer session is not shorter; it’s condensed” said visiting Assistant Professor Tarah Demant, who will be teaching Banned Books this summer.

Although the summer session is half as many days as a normal semester, students will spend more hours in class per class day.

“The five hours of weekly class time means that we can explore the course material in even greater depth” said Darshan Campos, visiting assistant professor in Ethnic Studies.

“A student can be sure they’re getting the same quality as a fall or spring course with the added bonus that… the professor’s attention [will not be] split between other classes” Demant said in an email.

Mills faculty members are excited for the new summer session, where departments will have the chance to expand on topics and test-drive new courses.

A summer course allows instructors to maintain smaller class sizes and offer new courses that departments may not have space to offer in fall or spring.

Associate Professor of Book Art, Julie Chen, said that with the limited number of courses the department can offer every year, some topics have to be left out or only lightly introduced.

“The summer session opens up an opportunity to focus in-depth on a special topic in a way that is not really feasible during the semester,” Chen said.

While summer classes could be a good opportunity for students, some are concerned about the lack of financial aid, saying that inadequate time to plan financially will keep them away.

Students will not receive  financial aid awards for summer courses, according to Mary Diaz, the student accounts coordinator, but current students who register for summer classes (not including internships or directed research) will be eligible to receive up to $2,000 in loans from Mills for each credit they are registered in.

“All students who have registered in a summer course by April 28 will automatically be emailed an offer for the Mills loan,” Diaz said.

The loan is meant to cover the cost of tuition for the classes only and will not cover the additional $85 Campus Comprehensive Fee that each registered student will be charged, according to Diaz.

“There will be no alternate or additional form of financial aid for living expenses,” Diaz said.

Students who do not wish to take out a loan can either pay their summer balance in full by May 19, 2013, or set up a payment plan by meeting with a student accounts staff member.

Lydia Ruesch, a Post-baccalaureate, said she won’t be taking summer classes at Mills because she does not think it is worth the cost.

“I like the idea of summer courses, but would rather take them at a junior college,” Ruesch said.

Harshita Beeravolle, who is majoring in Bio Chemistry and is the current senator-at-large, would like to take extra classes but is concerned with the cost of summer classes and housing.

“Dorms are not available during the summer,” Beeravolle said, “and if less than 10 students enroll in a class it will be cancelled.”

Dorothy Calimeris, Director of Auxiliary services in Sage Hall, confirmed that Danforth House is the only housing available over the summer, unless a student is living in Underwood or Courtyard, which are both available for year-round housing.

Olivia Mertz, a senior studying Creative Writing, goes home to Colorado for the summer but was interested in the classes.

“Since I’m in Colorado for the summer, I would be interested if Mills was offering on-line classes.”