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Breaking down the ‘July-mester’: A trial run for fall

The July-mester is offering students select in-person classes that are more difficult to teach remotely.
Image by Nur B. Adam
Social distancing signs flag down seats in Hanson lecture halls on Tuesday, July 28 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. All classes during July-mester enforced social distance protocols.

The University of Minnesota is in the midst of its July-mester — select in-person classes serving as a trial run for the fall semester. 

The University is using the July-mester to help determine how to implement health and safety precautions during classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The classes, held in three separate terms from July 6 to Aug. 21, also target students taking experiential courses better taught in person, like dance and laboratory courses.

“The students have access to this really exciting curriculum face-to-face that might be offered online in the fall,” said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. “So it really was an attempt to provide an opportunity to offer these experiential classes that would have been difficult online.”

The classes currently in session have already implemented the safety measures and precautions that will be in place this fall. Each July-mester class is held in-person with a maximum capacity of 25 students.

“Our classroom has signs on the seats that clearly indicate where students can sit to ensure proper social distancing. The classroom is equipped with extra face masks and disinfectant wipes for all to use,” said Lisa Novack, associate director of student services in the Carlson School of Management. 

Novack is teaching a career skills course throughout the July term.

“July-mester gives students an opportunity to make degree progress and also focus on a smaller number of classes at a time,” she said. “An added benefit of smaller class sizes is that we have even more opportunities for discussion, participation and interaction in class.”

The University is one of the only schools to adapt its summer term to offer in-person classes, McMaster said.

“It’s a great way to use the summer and bring students back to campus,” McMaster said. “And for as far as we know, we’re the only ones that did it.”

Forty-eight students are currently enrolled in July-mester classes, McMaster said. This is because many of the classes only apply to students in specific majors, and many students already have summer commitments.

University Italian and French professor Lorenzo Fabbri intended to teach a July-mester course on diversity and inclusiveness through documentary films, but it was canceled due to low enrollment numbers. Of the 13 classes offered, six have had low enrollment numbers.

“Personally I just saw an email from President Gabel announcing the new semester, so I got in touch with them and I proposed a course,” Fabbri said. “We decided that it was a good occasion to adapt a course to the current situation, to do something related with the regeneration of the justice movement.”

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