With the start of Summer A and C, I’m reminded that summer is my favorite time of year at UF.

My first experience with summer classes was at Miami Killian Senior High School in Miami in 1972. That year, Killian offered students in my senior class the opportunity to graduate in January instead of May if we attended school the summer before graduation.  Many of us wanted to get out of high school as soon as possible, so we took a full load of summer classes. I felt that I learned more in those summer classes than I did during the usual academic year.

Some 34,000 students will attend at least one UF Summer session this year. Currently, in sessions A and C we have more than 27,000 students, with more than 18,000 undergraduates and more than 9,000 graduate and professional students. The number of undergraduates is significantly larger than previous Summers due primarily to federal Pell Grant and Florida Academic Scholars funds now being available for summer school.

Summer at UF has a different vibe. There are plenty of students, faculty and staff on campus and everyone is working hard. However, there is more time to work on large projects and strategic goals. As a student, although many faculty travel in the summer, there is more opportunity to get to know one or two professors in depth. Faculty often use much of the Summer to attend conferences and work on books, papers, proposals and preparation for the Fall semester.

Summer is a time for personal and physical renewal, including renewal of our campus facilities and infrastructure. Campus facilities projects this summer include upgrading the Hub ground floor lobby area, upgrading Pony Field for marching band practice, repairing multiple roofs, replacing HVAC units on several buildings, renovating the Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium and enhancing the entrance to Library West.

Summer is also a time when UF renews its people. New students are introduced to UF through Summer Preview; many new students start their time at UF in Summer B, and many new faculty and staff begin their appointments in the Summer.

For students, although your classes may be intense, I believe you will find, as did I some 46 years ago, there is something special about taking classes in the Summer. I have two recommendations to further enhance your experience. First, I recommend you spend time with at least one professor outside of classes. Make an appointment to ask the faculty member for their advice on courses, internships and careers or volunteer to help them in their research, course development or other projects.

Second, I recommend you do something significant and memorable in our Gainesville and Alachua County community outside of the classroom. Here are a few personal recommendations:

1) Spend a half day with a guest at UF’s RecSport facilities on Lake Wauburg. Bring your Gator 1 Card and enjoy the lake.

2) Ride your bike, jog or walk the 16-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.  Look out for the bison and the alligators.

3) On July 3, enjoy Fanfares and Fireworks at the Bandshell on Flavet Field, sponsored by WUFT and the College of Journalism and Communications.

4) Tube, canoe or swim Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park and Ichetucknee State Park.

5) Discover a new favorite ice cream shop.

Finally, a number of Gator sports have not yet finished their seasons. This past weekend we watched baseball win the SEC championship, men and women track and field teams win SEC championships and softball win the SEC tournament. Gator sports in the Summer are worth watching.

If you are new to UF, welcome!  I look forward to meeting you this Summer.

Kent Fuchs is the president of UF.