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The Friday Letter

The Friday Letter is U of I’s long-running, weekly message straight from the president to members of the Vandal family. Each week during the academic year, and with breaks for holidays, the president offers an update on Vandal teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and notable initiatives and priorities. Alumni and friends are welcome to join students, faculty and staff in receiving the newsletter.

Letter from the President
Office of the President |
June 17, 2022
Dear Vandals,

Professor Jerry Fairley’s Field Geology Methods course could easily be renamed Epic Summer Adventure.

Each year, Fairley teaches his students basic mapping and practical geology skills before leading them on a two-week journey to Utah. The students set up camp, hike near Zion National Park and get hands-on experience identifying geological formations and working together to solve problems.

“The idea is, if you want to pursue geology, now you’ve seen some things in the field and you have something to compare with,” said Fairley, who has taught the course for more than a decade. “It’s very common for students to come to me and say, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t know this before,’ or ‘This is the most I’ve ever learned in a class.’”

The immersive course is one of many unique offerings through U of I’s summer session. More than 2,500 students are taking at least one summer course, a 12.5% increase over last year. For undergraduates, there are 300 courses available, including 159 online. Summer courses vary in length and are held from May through July.

Fairley’s course is open to students in any major who’ve taken an introductory geology course. The students spend one week on campus, learning basic skills, sorting out logistics and preparing for their trip. He said he always includes teaching assistants so that everyone feels safe and supported. The scenic Colorado Plateau region is full of distinct geological features. It's conducive to engaging with the natural world, and for some students, thinking about what their future might look like.

“We really encourage people to learn more and worry less about grades,” Fairley said. “One evening during the trip I’ll talk about job opportunities in the field, preparing for a career, or graduate school.”

Along with practical skills like identifying rocks and learning how to use a map and a compass, students gain an appreciation for using the environment around them as a classroom. Unlike traditional semester classes, summer courses provide more space for intensive and sometimes immersive experiences.

“I would say with all summer classes, it’s a chance to really concentrate on one topic and it makes a huge difference in understanding and performance,” Fairley said. “For undergraduates, during the academic year you’re hopping around from subject to subject and you’re always playing catch up. During the summer you’re focused on one thing and our field camp is really like graduate school.”

Go Vandals!

C. Scott Green


Hermann takes 10th at NCAA Championships: Sophomore Lorenz Hermann finished 10th overall in the 800 meters at the NCAA National Championships last week in Eugene, Ore. Hermann earned second-team All-American honors after breaking the school record in both the 800 (1:46.90) and the 1500 (3:42.11) earlier this spring.

JAMM helps Webb pursue dream career:  John Webb hasn’t graduated yet, but he’s already embarking on his dream career. He will finish his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism in the fall while working for KHQ-TV in Spokane.

Help us name U of I's online initiative: The U of I has a new online education initiative and it needs a name. Members of the Vandal Family are encouraged to cast their vote for the name that best represents our outstanding online programs. Voting ends on June 24.

U of I's student-run radio station, KUOI 89.3 FM, started in 1945. It operates from the top floor of the Pitman Center and boasts the largest music library of any college station in the Northwest.

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