Every year in June, well-meaning colleagues, neighbors, and relatives ask me about my summer plans. Although I generally take a week or two of vacation, my answer is, “I’ll be in my office, in the Student Services Center, most of the summer.” And then they say, “Oh, yeah, you don’t have summers off, do you?”
No, I don’t have summers off. Now, let me say from the start that I have many colleagues who are faculty members, and even though they might technically “have the summer off” from teaching, I know that they spend quite a bit of time working in the summer. (Some of them happen to be members of my dissertation committee, so I should know.)
As for me, I do have a more flexible schedule in the summer, but there is still plenty to be done in the office. Grant and departmental budgets and reports are generally due in June, along with written goals and assessment plans for the next academic year. Orientation sessions start in June and continue throughout August.
Orientation requires advance planning and coordination of multiple departments, and boatloads of mental and physical stamina the day of each session. We may have over 125 students and parents on campus, with a fairly small staff to handle concerns from “How do I get a parking pass?” to “What services can you provide my son, who has a learning disability?” Throw in an audio-visual glitch or a couple of sick staffers, and watch Julie’s head spin.
August is when things really get interesting. As a community college committed to the goal of educational access, we will still have students enrolling up until the very last minute. The lines get longer, the transcripts pile in, and the stress becomes palpable. By the time mid-September rolls around, the sigh of relief from the Student Services Center is audible.
Once the academic year is underway, we can have just a bit of a break. That is, of course, until the first big student activity gets underway. And then around the fourth week of the semester, our personal counseling services will see a huge demand, as students struggle to balance personal and academic demands. After that, academic-advising services will pick up, as we get ready for spring semester.
And so the cycle goes. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Working in the field of student services is a great gig, as I’ve written before.
But please, when you see me around Labor Day, don’t ask me what I did over summer vacation.