A President's Reflections

Summer courses

Posted on May 29, 2009

T. S. Eliot said “April is the cruelest month,” but I might argue for May.  With year end events almost every night, the meeting of the Board, a new annual budget to put to bed, and Commencement to hold, it is a grueling stretch of time.  It is also celebratory, fulfilling, and bittersweet (as we say goodbye to favorite students).  I am grateful for May and happy to see it done as well.

The week after Commencement arrives and it’s as if the volume has been turned down on campus.  Parking spots are abundant (I know, sort of not my usual worry), there are no lines at lunch, and the flow of e-mails subsides a bit.

It’s also the time when I make my annual start of summer to-do list.  It’s ambitious and runs from the mundane (clean the garage) to the grand (learn – or relearn – French).  When September rolls around I usually have checked off fewer than half the items on the list, but I do have one set of items that usually make it to the “done” side of the ledger.

When I used to commute I discovered “The Great Courses,” sets of taped lectures on various topics almost always done by brilliant lecturers.  I now start the summer by ordering a new set in areas I want to know more about in these long days ahead.  I finish them because I listen to them while working out, so they become part of my daily routine.

This summer’s line up?

  • Quantum Mechanics (by Prof. Benjamin Schumacher at Kenton College)
  • Game Theory (by Scott stevens at James Madison U.)
  • Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition (Various lecturers)
  • Buddhism (Prof. Macolm David Eckel, BU)

The great minds is a bit of refresher for some things I haven’t revisited since college, but the other three are outside of my knowledge and should be great fun.

I’m happy to share them with anyone who is interested as I finish them (and  I have some from previous summers at home as well).   In my experience, very few people are great lecturers and all the research tells us that “sage on the stage” teaching is relatively ineffective and becoming more so with a new generation of students, but those rare people who do lecture well (the Great Courses people really know how to find them) can be thrilling.

4 thoughts on “Summer courses

  1. Jason Mayeu says:

    “The Great Courses” sounds very interesting. Your choices for this summer sound interesting. I’d love to hear what other editions you have from previous summers. I could stand to better utilize my ipod during my workouts rather than just filling it with music…at least some of the time anyway.

  2. Mark Friedman says:

    Sure, I’d like to listen to “The Great Courses” when you’re done with them. I can play them in the car while commuting. Thanks.

  3. Paul Leblanc says:

    I’ll bring these courses in and let anyone interested check them out from my office.

  4. Paul Leblanc says:

    Ouch! I mixed up my literary references. It was T. S. Eliot in The Wasteland that described April as the cruelest month. Chaucer extolled April. Brain laspe. I’m changing the original post.

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