Enhancing University Summer Session Programs: The Role and Effect of Visiting Faculty

Article excerpt


College and university Summer Session deans and directors are challenged to provide quality courses to their students. At research institutions, for example, the composition of the Summer Session faculty is affected by the number of regular tenured and tenure-track faculty who want to focus on their research, scholarship, and other activities during summer. As a result, Summer Session programs may employ fewer tenured and tenure-track faculty and more instructors, graduate students, and, on occasion, visiting faculty from other universities.

In 2002, the University of Colorado at Boulder established the 'Faculty in Residence for Summer Term' (FIRST) program to enhance the range and quality of Summer Session courses by systematically encouraging CU-Boulder academic departments to invite distinguished scholars from other U.S. and international universities to teach Summer Session courses. Over a six year period from 2002-2007, 63 visiting faculty members were invited to teach undergraduate and graduate courses at CU-Boulder. It was anticipated that these visiting faculty would expose students to academic content and culture from other universities and countries. In some instances these visiting faculty members collaborated with CU-Boulder faculty in their research and scholarship, provided department colloquia, outreach programs, and public lectures. However, these activities had not been systematically studied or well understood. Using case study method, this research project investigated the role and impact of CU-Boulder's visiting faculty program upon Summer Session students, faculty and, academic departments.

Relevance of the Issue and Purpose of the Research

Summer Session deans, directors, and other university leaders generally recognize the importance of providing a quality summer program to their students. While Summer Session programs attract a range of student groups, they typically serve the degree students of the home institution, enabling them to accelerate their time to degree (Martin, 1997). Further, the quality of Summer Session courses can impact course enrollment and, in turn, the ability to generate net revenues to supplement campus budgets. While resident faculty often teach Summer Session courses, these programs may be enhanced by employing visiting faculty from other universities. Still, the role and effects of visiting faculty are not well understood.

The purpose of this research was to evaluate the FIRST program over a six-year period (2002-2007), to describe what was working well and identify any needed improvements for the program at CU-Boulder. However, the lessons learned and recommendations may assist other universities' Summer Session deans, directors, and administrators in determining whether a systematic visiting faculty program may be appropriate for their institution. That is, the particular experiences of the faculty, students, and staff involved with the FIRST program may inform a broader understanding of a visiting scholars program. Also, program evaluations are useful in demonstrating value and service to the public interest (Ashcroft, 2006).

In addition to accelerating their time to degree, Summer Session programs influence undergraduate students' ability to persist and graduate (Taylor & Doane, 2003). According to a recent U.S. Department of Education report, students were more likely to complete a bachelor's degree if they had earned more than four credits during a Summer Session. Eighty percent of all students who earned more than four summer credits obtained a bachelor's degree, compared to 68% of students who earned from one to four summer credits, and 56% who did not earn any Summer Session credits. Among Black students, the effect is even more striking with 78% of Black students graduating if they earned more than four summer credits, 43% of Black students who earned from one to four summer credits, and 21% of the Black students graduating who did not earn any Summer Session credits (U. …