Summer Sessions at Hillsdale College
Written by Mark Naida
The campus of Hillsdale College is quiet during summer session. In the Grewcock Student Union, the only sound is the buzzing of an ice machine. In front of Central Hall, wind blows through the trees, and professors chatter and lug library books back to their offices to settle into summer research. AJ’s Cafe leaves free coffee out for students. Flip-flops and shorts find their way out of winter storage. While finals week left dark circles under everyone’s eyes, summer puts color back into their cheeks.
During summer session, students and professors operate by the rule of threes: three weeks of class, three hours per day, and three credit hours earned. The courses are time consuming as students contend with unabbreviated reading lists and the allure of the breezy Michigan summer.
Sophomore Natalie Glitz particularly enjoys Biology 101, thanks to Dr. Van Zant’s talent for storytelling. It can be difficult to concentrate on the material during three-hour classes, so Dr. Van Zant brings out a couple of stories at the two-hour mark. Natalie’s favorites are anecdotes about his doctoral dissertation on beach mice.
“The whole class laughed when he shared that the other professors began to call him ‘Jeffrey the Great White Mouse Hunter,’” Natalie said.
Some students, like junior Elise Farley, have the added challenge of taking a four-credit course with an added lab component.
“There is a lot to learn in a little time,” Elise said. “There are three hours of lecture in the morning and two hours of lab in the afternoon.” Despite the difficulty and stress of the coursework, Farley is still able to enjoy the weather. “I went paddle boarding last night, so I am still able to enjoy the summer,” she said.
The quietude of Hillsdale caused Senior Jacob Coonradt to remark that campus is “quaint and idyllic” in the summertime. As someone who grew up in Hillsdale, Jacob said he loves the lifestyle and that Michigan is a place for easy living in the summer.
“I have one chair out on my front porch so that I can sit alone out in the perfect weather and read,” he said.
The students also enjoy the immersive nature of the coursework during summer session. Unlike the academic semester, in which students spread themselves thin as they juggle four or five academic courses and various extracurriculars, students are able to narrow and refine their thoughts to focus on what interests them most.
Senior Andrew Kern is taking two summer session courses: Constitution 101 with Dr. Portteus and a one-credit seminar course on chemist-philosopher Michael Polanyi with Dr. Barnes. The course is unique because Dr. Barnes is normally a professor of psychology.
“It gives him a chance to branch out, and it is nice to see a bit of a different approach,” Andrew said.
Friendships are another great benefit of summer session.
“In summer session, you are free from the distractions of the school year, so you can be intentional with everything,” said junior Brooke Sabina. She is currently taking Dr. Somerville’s course on Southern fiction after Faulkner. “Because there are usually only a few friends left for summer session, you can be very intentional about spending time with them and building strong friendships.”
Summer session knits the already tight Hillsdale community closer together through education, storytelling, and friendship. Though it is a lifestyle that only lasts a few weeks, summer session allows students to get ahead on credit hours while also experiencing a more leisurely and focused intellectual life.
Mark Naida is a senior studying French and English. He writes for the Forum Magazine and the Hillsdale Collegian and also participates in the music and theater departments.