This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

School out for summer? Not at UCLA

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No classes, no homework, no tests, no grades — for many students, summer is long-awaited liberation from the demands of the school year.
 
But for some, summer presents a whole new academic opportunity. At UCLA, 15,235 students are enrolled in Summer Sessions. Offering nearly 500 classes that are not limited to UCLA students, the program draws enrollees from around the world. This year, more international students —1,227 — than ever before are enrolled, some from as far away as American University in Cairo, which regularly sends Egyptian students to Westwood for summer classes.
 
Pursuing a wide range of goals, Summer Sessions students include incoming freshmen getting a head start on first-year classes, undergrads with an eye to changing the world, and students at all grade levels plugging into innovative online courses.
 
Getting a head start: College Summer Institute
 
More than 200 incoming first-year students have enrolled in the College Summer Institute (CSI) — an impressive number, given that the program is brand-new. Designed to ease the transition from high school to college, CSI will run from Aug. 2 through Sept. 10.
 
Heading up the program is Kathleen Micham, associate director of Summer Sessions, who noted that CSI is similar to “Early-Bird Engineers,” a program she initiated last year in which first-year engineering students get a jump on prerequisite classes.  
 
In CSI, students take a group of three courses: a general education class, English composition, and a two-unit civic engagement course in which students will volunteer in various campus departments, which will broaden their exposure to UCLA. In addition to classwork, academic counselors will offer seminars to aid the transition into college.
 
Micham believes the strong interest in CSI stems from highly motivated incoming first-years. “Many students asked if they could take more than three classes during the program,” she said. Participation is also bolstered by parents who, after learning about CSI, encouraged their students to enroll. The program is especially popular among non-resident students and international students — so much so that most of the enrollees will make their home at UCLA residence halls during the program.
 
Reflecting participants’ high motivation is enrollment in Chemistry 14A, which Micham said is one of the most popular classes in the CSI program, even though it’s also the most technically difficult. There’s also brisk interest in Environment 12, a new course that fulfills a growing interest among students in eco-consciousness.
 
Making the world a better place: Senegal Travel Study Program
 
Hands-on learning in an eco-village in Africa includes helping residents work with drought-resistant plants.
Hands-on learning in an eco-village in Africa includes helping residents work with drought-resistant plants.
Nineteen students interested in making the world a better place are on their way to Africa for Summer Session’s new eight-week Senegal Travel Study Program, which started June 28 and runs through August 22.
 
“This program was a sleeper hit this year,” Micham said. “We didn’t think so many people would be interested in traveling so far to West Africa.”
 
Focusing on the topic of sustainable community development, the course will combine theoretical and hands-on learning in economic, ecological and social development in a small suburb outside of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.
 
Andrew Apter, professor and director of the African Studies Center, is helping to lead the trip. “Our philosophy is to combine economic plus ecological means of achieving sustainability in environmentally-challenged regions with arid climates,” he said.
 
The UCLA Institute of the Environment, led by Academic Director and Ecology Professor Cully Nordby, will help lead the Senegal project.  Also partnering is the non-governmental organization Earth Rights Eco-Village Institute.
 
After spending their first four weeks studying theory and practice in Dakar, students will then go to eco-villages in the Senegal River Valley in Northwestern Senegal, where they will explore community development projects such as public health, women’s micro-financing, solar electricity and organic gardening. Cultural and language learning will also take place through home stays and language training in French and Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal.
 
“This course,” said Apter, “shows a new undergraduate momentum in service learning” — the intertwining of classroom and applied learning.
 
Innovative online courses
 
Summer Sessions is increasing its online offerings while also improving the production quality of courses, according to Kerry Nason, manager of operations and marketing for distance education research. From the School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT), for instance, last summer’s 12 classes have grown to 17 this summer, in subjects ranging from acting on stage and in front of a camera, to learning about the role of the creative producer in Hollywood. 
 
David Ravetch of the Anderson School of Management teaches the online course Management 400.
David Ravetch of the Anderson School of Management teaches the online course Management 400. View a video clip here.
In addition, producers in TFT’s film department have played a part in adding high-quality multimedia and innovative interfaces to improve the quality of the online learning experience in two courses outside of TFT. These include Philosophy 3, a new online course on the history of philosophy, taught by Brian Copenhaver, professor of history and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies; and Management 400, a mathematics course aimed at MBA students, taught by David Ravetch of the Anderson School of Management.
 
For more about Summer Sessions, visit the website.
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