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Photo: Julio Sosa

For most students, summer is a welcome break from homework, tests and essays. Some professors will choose to deviate from the norm and assign homework or reading over the summer.

Penn Design professor Francesca Russello Ammon, who teaches Urban Studies class “Introduction to City & Regional Planning,” gave her students one mandatory article to read before the first class, along with several suggestions of books to read. 

Ammon said assigning summer reading allows the class to have a more substantive discussion during the first class meeting and also allows her to engage her students from the get-go.  

“The goal of optional readings,” Ammon said, “is to offer interested students the chance for more in-depth exploration of important aspects of our subject matter should they have time to read one of these books in full before classes fully get going.” 

Ammon added that she doesn't necessarily assign pre-reading in every course she teaches, but has done so “when it made pedagogical sense.”  

Wharton sophomore Katherine Salvatori, who is enrolled in Ammon’s course, said the article she assigned was pretty short, though the suggested books were lengthy.  

“I started one of the books, and it’s actually a really good read,” Salvatori said. “I’m happy to have some sort of background going into the class.”

Salvatori added that she is relatively unfamiliar with city and regional planning, so she finds the readings helpful.  


Welcome back to school! Read our other stories on NSO including an investigation into the half-century history of the orientation program. 


But not all summer assignments entail just reading. Engineering sophomore Nidhi Kapate said that for her Chemistry-101 course that she took last fall semester, students had to complete different modules and review high school chemistry topics. The assignment was only considered as completed once they "mastered" the material by completing online quizzes.

“It wasn’t that difficult, but it did take a lot more time than I expected,” she said. “I took [chemistry] sophomore year, so I didn’t remember much and definitely had to brush up on stuff."

Kapate said although the work was time-consuming, it didn't interfere with her New Student Orientation experience because she finished the assignment before moving in to Penn. She did say, however, that she's thrilled that she wasn't assigned homework this summer.  

College and Wharton sophomore Liam Huebner had to read a book in French this summer before starting French-225. 

Huebner’s professor, Mélanie Péron, sent an email to her students detailing the assignment. In French, she told them that she didn't want to spoil their vacation by giving them homework but asked them to read the novel before classes start.  

“I didn’t really start doing it until a week and a half ago,” he said. “It’s like 20 minutes a day for two weeks and you’re done.”  

Huebner also said he is not against summer homework if it lightens the workload during the semester.

“They’re gonna teach the course the same way one way or another,” he said. “So either you’re gonna do the reading a little bit early, or you’re gonna have to cram the book in when you’re super busy at school.”  

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