Summer session offers unique academic opportunities


Collegian | Charlie Cohen

Barnaby Atwood, Staff Reporter

While the Colorado State University academic year ends in May for most students, there are still options for students to continue their education over the summer.

Starting March 21, students have been able to apply for summer semester classes at CSU with the last day to add each courses listed on the class schedule. Additionally, nonresident undergraduate students’ summer semester base tuition is 30% less then their base fall or spring tuition.


Ellen Audley, a 2021 CSU graduate, is the program coordinator for CSU Summer and has taken summer classes in the past.

The wonderful thing about summer, as far as face-to-face courses, is the campus is really, really quiet,” Audley said. “I took a database class that’s usually 200 people in the fall or spring, and it was 16. (I) got it done in four weeks, and I learned about as much from the other students practically as the professor because we had so much more time for questions and things.”

Typically, Audley said, the thing students say is the best about summer semester is the immersive class experience. While the course load is more rigorous due to the shorter time frame, the reduced number of credits and overall students allows summer semester students to put more focus into their classes and generally get more individual help from instructors.

“Instead of being in the classroom all day, … we’re actually out in the world experiencing those landscapes.” -Sarah Payne, associate history professor

It also gives students the ability to offload harder classes or All-University Core Curriculum classes to summer semester instead of having to do them on top of their regular fall and spring classes.

Audley said students should decide to do courses based on their own situation; however, due to the difference in environment, it can still be a good experience because students take shorter-term courses and still have the rest of summer to relax or focus on work.

“I know they’re not for everyone, but I personally like them just because I don’t like having the full 15-credit semesters every semester,” said Caroline Craycraft, a senior psychology student. “Being able to take like six credits over the summer so that I can take 12 credits (during) fall and spring semester has been really nice for me. And I have found that if there’s a class I’m not super excited about, I can just take it over the summer.”

The CSU Career Center also offers their services throughout the summer semester and can help students with finding summer internships and other experiential learning opportunities such as research, field studies, volunteering, study abroad and micro-internships.

“The easy way to describe experiential learning is just learning by doing,” said Marie Tyrrell, internship development coordinator with the Career Center. “So you have an experience, you reflect on it, you think about … what you could do to improve upon that — maybe problem-solve — and then you try again. It’s a little bit more active than sitting in a lecture and just learning about things.”

Outside of getting general AUCC credits and internships, there are other programs that allow students to get unique experiences, like the environmental humanities courses held at the CSU Mountain Campus.


Ken Shockley is one of the professors who teaches the environmental ethics class and played a role in establishing the program as a whole.

“For several weeks, … students think deeply together about environmental matters,” Shockley wrote in an email. “We walk and talk and reflect. The proximity of students to one another and to a place that in its history, local significance and beauty inspires a deeper and more sustained reflection than what one might get during the typical two-or-three-times-a-week meetings in a traditional classroom.”

There are four classes in total that make up the program, and students from any major can sign up for one or more after contacting the respective professor. The courses available are all upper division and include art, English, history and philosophy. Sarah Payne and Matthew Cooperman teach the environmental history of Colorado and the literature of the earth courses, respectively.

“Instead of being in the classroom all day, … we’re actually out in the world experiencing those landscapes,” Payne said. “(We’re) looking at the historic structures that are there on the (mountain) campus to help us understand how people in the past have related to the plants, the animals, the climate (and) the geology of that place.”

“We will move around and do different writing exercises in the field and go on long hikes and have some private kind of contemplative moments with literature,” Cooperman said. “It’s things we do together and things we do separately. I think it’s such a beautiful campus, and the opportunities up there are kind of endless.”

Grace Cooper is a senior majoring in dance and English who took the literatures of the earth course last summer. Due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Mountain Campus, the course had to be restructured to primarily take place on the main campus, but students still got to experience different natural areas in Fort Collins.

Cooper said she took a lot of the concepts she learned from the course and applied them to a dance piece she’s working on for the CSU Spring Dance Concert.

“I just really liked how immersive of an experience it was,” Cooper said. “I felt like while I was sad that it wasn’t at the Mountain Campus, I also really enjoyed that the class was held in Fort Collins because so many of the places we went to were local. I really got to know the local area, and Matthew Cooperman has so much knowledge about Fort Collins, which was really great.”

Reach Barnaby Atwood at or on Twitter @Barnaby_Atwood.