Aphra Mednick creates transformative experiences as new assistant dean of Summer Term

December 6, 2018 By Dean Robbins

Aphra Mednick was always a fan of Madison summers, to the point where she avoided scheduling family vacations during the warm-weather months.

“Why leave at a time when the city is at its most appealing?” she asks.

In her new role as assistant dean of Summer Term, Mednick has a chance to make summertime even more appealing for University of Wisconsin–Madison students. As Summer Term’s interim director for 2018, she and her team created several innovative programs, and she has even more ambitious plans for next year and beyond.

Aphra Mednick

”I was a first-generation college student,” Mednick says, “so I feel strongly about students having access to higher education and reaching their potential on campus. It’s been gratifying to grow Summer Term to help them better succeed at UW–Madison.”

Mednick loves the process of launching educational initiatives. She began her UW–Madison career 11 years ago as program coordinator for the Center for Patient Partnerships, where she significantly expanded curricular offerings. Next she developed groundbreaking programs for human services professionals at UW–Madison Continuing Studies, including an internationally renowned coaching certificate.

With Summer Term, Mednick is in her element collaborating with schools and colleges across campus on a lofty goal: transforming the summer experience to give students what they want and need in their academic careers.

Photo: Students gather around a keyboard while a woman sings.

Students gather around a keyboard as they perform in Imaging Self, a summer term program. Photo by David Giroux

UW–Madison began revitalizing Summer Term in 2016 by increasing scholarship funding, online courses, high-demand courses, research opportunities for undergraduates, and cutting-edge learning experiences. The new approach encouraged more students to enroll in accelerated summer courses so they could make progress on their degrees, graduate on time, and prepare for future careers.

In 2018, Mednick and her campus partners took Summer Term to the next level. She helped make the summer experience more accessible with a higher level of scholarship funding and an affordable housing program. She also made it more valuable to a wide range of learners with new early-start programs for incoming freshmen, as well as UW–Madison’s first residential for-credit program for high school students, Imaging Self. She’s particularly proud of a student ambassador program that involves undergraduates themselves in the communication and outreach for Summer Term.

All this creative thinking paid off with a 7 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment in summer 2018.

Student Julien Johnson recites a poem in Imaging Self, a summer term program. Photo by David Giroux

“Aphra’s innovations with Summer Term have helped open UW–Madison’s doors to a more diverse group of learners, including high school students, international students, adults, and students from other institutions,” says Jeffrey S. Russell, dean of Continuing Studies and vice provost for Lifelong Learning. “She’s working hard to ensure that Summer Term meets students’ individual needs, whether it’s reducing time to degree, getting back on track, or getting ahead of the game.”

You can bet Mednick is busy with new ideas for 2019. She’s increasing scholarship support and preparing an early-start online program, the Wisconsin Experience Summer Launch, that’s open to all incoming UW–Madison freshmen.

While focused on the future, Mednick is still reflecting on an especially rewarding experience from last summer. She attended the final showcase for high school students enrolled in Imaging Self, which offers a university-level immersion in visual art, dance, and theater.

Watching the teenagers sing, dance, and recite poetry at the School of Education, Mednick marveled at their transformative experience in a Summer Term course.

“Imaging Self was one of our pilot programs for 2018, and it was powerful to see the difference it made in students’ lives,” she says. “It gave them a sense of belonging and a sense of identity, opening their eyes to the opportunities of a college education.”