Covenant Offers Summer Institute

This summer, younger students will have the opportunity to learn from Covenant professors. For the first time, Covenant is offering a week-long summer institute for high school students.

The institute will run July 22-27 and will offer a choice of two classes, both worth one credit hour, to rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Each class is limited to ten students.

Dr. Nola Stephens, associate professor of linguistics, will teach a class called “The Nature of Language: Who Talks Funny?” The class will examine “the social aspects of language variation” and how our identities and context affect the way we speak.

“It’s really rare for students to get any linguistics in high school, but it’s valuable and interesting, so it’s exciting to get to expose students to this for the first time,” Dr. Stephens said. She wants to help students think “about language in a different way than maybe they’ve thought about it before.”

Dr. Heath Garris, assistant professor of biology, will teach “The Language of Nature: How Do Plants & Animals Communicate?” The class will survey plant and animal communication through fieldwork as well as classroom lectures. For example, the class will use acoustic sensors recording high frequency sound to listen to bats at night.

Dr. Garris looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for biology.

“Caring for creation is a calling that’s worthy of Christ-followers, and that will show up in our discussions,” Dr. Garris said.

Students will live in residence halls, attend lectures in the mornings, study or do research in the afternoons, and participate in activities during the evenings.

Although the students will take only one of the two classes, they will be able to interact with students from the other class during mealtimes and/or other activities.

“It will be interesting to hear their ideas as they share with each other after class,” Dr. Stephens said. “They’re similar topics in very different fields. I think it will give them a bigger appreciation for both.”

Dr. Stephens taught a similar week-long class for high school students at Stanford University last summer. She said she enjoyed the “really delightful, thoughtful conversation” she had with the students and anticipates a similar experience this summer.

“The students were there because they wanted to learn and work hard,” Dr. Stephens said. She is also looking forward to integrating her Christian perspective into the class, something she wasn’t able to do at Stanford, a secular school.

Dr. Jeff Hall, vice president for academic affairs, said last summer, President Derek Halvorson had suggested the idea of a summer institute for high school students. A large committee started planning the institute last summer and through the fall.

The planning committee included professors Paul Morton, Bill Tate, Nola Stephens, Don Petcher, and John Wingard, as well as Director of Administration Jen Allen, Dean of Records Rodney Miller, Conference and Events Manager Caleb Mask, Associate Dean of Students Jon Wylie, and admissions counselor Callie Nelson. The committee covered everything from housing to academics to admissions, Dr. Hall said.

“We wanted to be able to give high school students a taste of life at Covenant, and some college credit,” Dr. Hall said. Those students might then be more inclined to attend Covenant.

Hall encourages current students to invite friends or family members to attend.

“From an admissions perspective, we think giving them [high school students] the chance to study with Covenant faculty and experience the richness of class discussion and res life will help them figure out if Covenant is a good fit for them,” Callie Nelson said.

Dr. Garris said the week is meant to be a “snapshot” of what it’s like to be a student at Covenant.

“It could be a really effective showcase for the kinds of things we do on campus,” Dr. Garris said.