In May 2018, Florida State University graduated another 6,400 students, including over 1,000 from the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (COSSPP). The end of the Spring Term represents the traditional end of the academic year and in the eyes of many ushers in a quiet time for the college and the university.
Before I became a faculty member (yes, many years ago I recognize), I thought that summers were a time of calmer days for thinking and writing, catching up on reading, and trips to the beach and/or mountains. I envisioned a lifestyle of intellectual space, quieter hours, and the time necessary to give my classes and research the deep thinking required to make them excellent. In discussing the university lifestyle with non-academic friends and family, they too assume that the academic world shuts down in the summer.
Simply stated, in today’s modern university this could not be further from the truth. The restful, relaxing and thoughtful days of my imagination have proven to be an illusion. Higher education is a year round activity, with teaching delivery and prep, research projects, academic advising, and service duties taking root during the summer term. As Dean of a productive and amazing college of 150+ faculty and almost 5,000 students I can tell you that while the Summer Term is a tad quieter, the college remains a beehive of activity.
On the teaching front, the college is offering hundreds of courses on the main campus, delivering outstanding educational programming to thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. These classes are being delivered by a mix of our award-winning faculty and doctoral students, with the students earning valuable teaching experience while being overseen by faculty in their teaching duties. Outside of Tallahassee, COSSPP faculty are delivering a range of study abroad courses, including Economics in London, Public Policy in Sydney, Gerontology in Florence, International Development in Croatia, and Social Entrepreneurship in Bali. Summer may arrive, but the educational mission never ends!
Summer brings a period during which many faculty advance their ambitious and important research agendas for the betterment of people and communities around the globe. We have Geographers looking at the health of coastal ecosystems in Florida and tropical landscapes in Hawaii, Sociologists looking at microlending programs in India and assessing levels of discrimination in Florida’s cities, and a multidisciplinary team of Planners and Geographers assessing the SunRail expansion in Orlando.
Our faculty and students also engage heavily in local, state and national policy work. Faculty and students from our Emergency Management and Homeland Security program offer their expertise in disaster preparedness and response in Florida. Students in our Applied Economics program are completing their capstone projects on a range of issues, including economic development in Santa Rosa County, assessing the impacts of autonomous vehicles in Florida, and identifying methods for identifying high-risk patients in the health care system. The state and nation need ideas, analysis and insight into social, economic and environmental problems and the summer does not bring this work to a halt.
On one final note, I am thrilled to see progress being made on a massive renovation of the Bellamy Building’s atrium. Built in 1967, the venerable Bellamy Building is one of the defining elements of the college, and alumni around the globe fondly recall their time in the Bellamy Building. In speaking with alumni from all eras I often hear the line that “FSU’s campus has changed so much since I was at FSU, but Bellamy looks just the same”; I never fail to smile at this observation. Well, the facelift on the atrium is underway and come Fall semester alumni, students, faculty, and staff will see an atrium that is beautiful, modern, and social. While renovations are fun, they also bring great activity and occasional stress.
In sum, the college’s “quiet summer” is anything but that. Education, Research, Policy Analysis, and Professional Development all continue. Sure, fewer people are around on a daily basis, the student activity is somewhat reduced on campus, and parking gets a little easier, but we continue to be busy, active, productive and impactful. We remain committed year-round to our mission of Engaging Today’s World, Producing Tomorrow’s Leaders.
Dr. Tim Chapin is the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a professor in the Urban & Regional Planning Department.