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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A Universally Fun Summer: Sophomore Summer for Professors

Two Dartmouth professors — Cal Newport ’04 and Sarah Smith — share their views on being in Hanover during sophomore summer.

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Since I arrived at Dartmouth, the phrase “sophomore summer” has always been spoken by upperclassmen with reverence, like a secret club that no one could truly understand until they were on the other side of it. The term conjured for me images of calm, carefree days — released from the stress of more structured terms during the traditional academic year.

But, do only students notice the change of pace which sophomore summer brings? Perhaps not. According to some professors who are teaching courses this term, they also await the sophomore summer bliss throughout the year. Like students, they look forward to throwing their winter coats in their closets, trading them for swimsuits and accepting a somewhat more laid-back term. 

Cal Newport ’04, an associate computer science professor at Georgetown University, has returned to Dartmouth to teach in the computer science department. Brought to Dartmouth through the Montgomery Fellowship, he explained that the program has been going on since the 1970s, with the intention to bring distinguished individuals to campus. The position, which typically rotates termly, comes with a house on Occom Pond called the Montgomery House. 

“The offer was an honor,” Newport said. “I was very happy to accept it.” 

As an alumnus himself, Newport said that “there’s a lot that feels very comfortable and nostalgic” while living in Hanover this summer. Coming from Georgetown’s campus in Washington D.C., Dartmouth’s rural location is refreshing, according to Newport. 

“Everything’s spread out [at Dartmouth], and you can wander around,” he said. “Coming from a university that’s in the city, I’m really enjoying that.” 

As for the students, one of the first things he noticed this term was how similar the undergraduates are at both schools. He described both groups as “very interesting and engaged” with “diverse … interests and backgrounds.” 

Senior lecturer in writing Sarah Smith is currently teaching the course ENVS 25, “Agroecology.” The class, which is only offered during the summer term, takes place at the Dartmouth Organic Farm — about a five-minute drive from campus — which Smith said has been a lot of fun. 

“Even though we’ve had this super rainy summer, every Thursday, [when] we’ve had our lab at the farm, it has been beautiful,” Smith said.  

Smith said that although she doesn’t usually teach during the summer, she appreciates that the summer brings less crowds to Hanover, making it easier to find parking. She added that the summer term feels “a lot more chill” and that “the students just seem to want to have fun.” Smith noted that one week, half of her students even canoed to class. 

“It was the greatest thing,” she said. “There are a lot of attempts to make the summer special.” 

Amelia Hartshorn ’25 — who is in “Agroecology” this term — was part of this canoeing group. Hartshorn said she has loved the class, as sophomore summer is “all about trying new things,” which the class certainly embodies. Hartshorn explained that because Professor Smith teaches both writing and environmental studies courses, she has learned how to convey her ideas about science “in a more thoughtful way.” 

Smith primarily teaches first-year writing classes and said she is reminded of her first-year students this summer because they are eager to learn and do well. Smith added that sophomore summer feels almost like a return to the joy of freshman fall. 

“It takes a bit of the pressure off,” she said. “The students are so excited to learn and have fun and be outside.”

Not only is sophomore summer a break from the typical pace of campus life for students, professors also escape the breakneck speed of the typical 10-week term. Sophomore summer seems to provide the opportunity to rediscover the beauty of Dartmouth that we may have forgotten during the stress of normal terms. It’s an experience none of us should take for granted.