Summer “Vacation” is Anything But

By: Joe Wilck, Ph.D., P.E.

It seems like I was attending Spring Commencement and the IIE Annual Conference in Puerto Rico just yesterday, and now I’m already two weeks into Fall semester.  The life of an academic is a bit unstructured, especially during the summer, but there are many things to do.

I would surmise that most academics went to at least one, and perhaps many more, conferences and workshops to present work, network, and learn new ideas and skills. Conferences and workshops are a little easier to attend during the summer since we don’t have to find a substitute for class or plan an extensive out-of-class activity to take its place (assuming we are not teaching).

Summer is also the time many academics either start or finish an employment position; perhaps starting a new graduate program, joining a group as a post-doc, or starting a new faculty position at a different college or university.  Inevitably, this means saying goodbye and congratulations as students graduate or colleagues move away.  But there are always new students and colleagues joining in the fall to get to know.

For faculty there are a few major grant deadlines during the summer.  Thus, there may be sleepless nights and frantic pushes to meet the deadline.  And with online submission processes, these sleepless nights can be anywhere.  Summer is also a time to finish up papers and projects that have been “put on the back burner” during the academic year.

Summer on a college campus or in a college town is unique.  The restaurants are less crowded, parking is more readily available, and things slow down a bit.  It may be possible to catch the Dean, or some other ivory tower figure, dressed for the season rather than for business-as-usual.  Of course, they may not be recognizable in their new attire.

And finally, summer is a good time to visit family and friends that live afar.

In any case, I hope everyone is ready and excited for the new academic year, and had a great summer.

Joe Wilck is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at East Carolina University. He is also the Vice President for Student Development for IIE.