August 1, 1997
Ah, summertime in New Orleans. The grass grows an inch a day, heat shimmers off rooftops and cars in visible waves, afternoon storms generate steam on the sidewalks. It's summertime at Tulane, too. Students are few and far between, most of the faculty has left for parts unknown, and staff members can take a deep breath, prop their feet up for a well-deserved rest, and contemplate the meaning of life.
Well, perhaps in a perfect life that's the way it should be (just ask a staff member), but in the well-ordered universe known as a university, summertime is often as busy, if not busier, than the academic semesters. Some departments have a steady stream of work throughout the year, and summer produces little change.
Others, particularly those that deal directly with students, spend the summer frantically gearing up for fall. Still others use the summer months to tackle projects that there is no time for in fall and spring. Following is a small survey of how some departments are spending the lazy, hazy daze of summer.
Taking care of the wear and tear
Those spending time on the St. Charles-to-Freret side of the uptown campus this summer would be hard pressed to miss evidence of how the Tulane Physical Plant's summer is going: It's busy. While the students and faculty are away, it's time for progress to be made. While outside contractors are re-roofing Gibson Hall and installing an elevator, revamping Stanley Thomas and laying new pipe along Law Road, the university's physical plant staff is taking advantage of a less-crowded campus to paint classrooms, renovate offices, and move furniture and files for offices changing locations.
"Summer is the time when we hit a lot of the projects we try not to do during the school year--those projects that make noise or create outages," says Mike Jester, director of the physical plant. "Summer also allows us to get into areas we can't get into during the school year. An example would be going in and painting a classroom."
Among the smaller projects being done this summer are the renovation of an office and lab for a new chemical engineering faculty member, alterations to three rooms in the Murphy Institute in Tilton Hall, and a renovated lab for sociology in Newcomb Hall. Summer vacancy in the dorms, Jester says, allows his staff to identify needed work. "We take care of wear and tear, or vandalism that has occurred during the school year, so that the dorms are ready for the incoming class in the fall. You can get in and do regular maintenance."
Normally, Tulane's traffic office can relax a bit during the summer, handling projects that the normal school year's schedule doesn't allow. But Lt. John Heidel of the Office of Public Safety will be the first to tell you, this is no normal summer. The construction projects on the uptown campus,which have caused full or partial closures of parking lots, have thrown normal parking into turmoil.
"All summer, problems have been mounting and keep mounting with all the construction," Heidel says. "We've had a lot of people calling and complaining about it." While registration is a hectic period in late summer, Heidel says the department is prepared for that type of activity, and has a plan to handle it. Otherwise, summer is usually much slower. "Normally, we slow down and handle the projects that need to be done at the nd of the school year," he says.
After the Tulane Medical School's graduation ceremony, which usually takes place in late May or early June, staff members in the dean's office breathe a collective sigh of relief, says office manager Nita Breckenridge. "Everyone who put off vacations is now allowed to take them," she says.
June might offer a brief respite from the hectic atmosphere when school is in session, Breckenridge says, but things heat up in July when the third- and fourth-year students return to start their yearlong clerkships. "We can count on about a month of quiet to wrap up graduation and get things settled," she says. There is little summer "downtime" for the dean's office staff, but Breckenridge concedes that there are others in the same boat: "The students don't get much of a break, either."
The College World Series has long since passed and football is still two months in the future, but the sports information staff is up to its neck in preparations for the coming year. "Well, there aren't as many night events to go to," says Lenny Vangilder, assistant athletic director for sports information, commenting on how his staff's schedules change during the summer. "But we are busy getting geared up for football season."
While the football programs are at the printer, the media kits for the 1997 football season were mailed in the spring semester. This summer, Vangilder is already handling requests for basketball media kits. "There is a lot of preparation to be done before a season starts," Vangilder says. "The summer is really spent getting geared up for the coming year."
Swimming in red tape
Student applications keep Jefferey Johnson busy throughout the balmy days of summer at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. An admission coordinator, Johnson handles admission for six departments in the school and oversees seven satellite projects as well as the school's joint-degree programs. Summertime offers special challenges for Johnson.
"We have a new group of students coming in the fall, and a lot of the foreign nationals getting in at the last minute," he says. "We have to process their visas through the International Student Center and get their paperwork in order. And we do quite a bit of work with the World Health Organization and the Institute for International Education. There's just a lot of red tape."
Johnson's next project will be to have e-mail accounts set up for the students arriving at orientation in August. Since the public health school has rolling admission throughout the year, it's always busy in his office, Johnson says. "It's quieter in the summer without the students, but that can fool you. You have to keep busy."
Very, very busy
The University Center is a peaceful spot during the summer months, but the dearth of students hanging out in the Tulane Bookstore is deceptive. Just ask Victor Hall, head of the textbooks division. "The store itself gets less busy, but our workload can increase in the summer," Hall says. "Our focus is getting ready for the students in the fall."
Tulane faculty members are asked in the spring to turn in their textbook needs for the next fall, Hall explains. "We're placing the spring orders for fall merchandise, and it's a very, very busy time for us right now."
It's project time
"Summertime is project time," says Jamie Lax, acting director of career services. The office will be sponsoring a job fair for graduate and professional students in October, and mailings have begun for that, she says. "Those types of events require a great deal of planning, scheduling workshops, getting speakers lined up," she says. "It keeps us busy."
The office is also scheduling the companies that will be interviewing on campus in the fall--a lengthy process that involves not only scheduling and confirmation but also publishing a list of who will be here, and when.
"It's one of the first things the students want to know when they get here in the fall--who's going to be interviewing on campus," Lax says. While the office is handling those projects, plus getting its annual career guide ready to publish, staff members are also working to implement a new computer system, which they hope to have operational by the fall semester. "It will allow us to network between offices and offer a lot more flexibility to the students," Lax says.
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