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#112 Summer School Brought Engineers Closer to Partridge for 70 Years

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats

For over 70 years, from approximately 1899 to 1970, summer school was a requirement for all civil engineering students at Norwich to gain practical experience in the field. It was a natural extension of Alden Partridge’s “American system” of education. The sessions ranged in length from three to five weeks, and were at various times offered to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

For much of its existence, though, the engineering summer school program was most closely associated with the summer before a student’s junior year, the halfway point of a Norwich education. Students often stayed in tent encampments for the summer. For this reason, the program is sometimes referred to in historical records as “the junior encampment.”

Summer school was a key opportunity for students in the university’s flagship civil engineering program to hone their surveying and drafting skills, essential components of their future careers as engineers. The curriculum was wide-ranging and intensive, designed to breathe life into the theories that were taught in the classroom during the traditional academic year. In the 1930s, for example, senior summer school students conducted a survey and drew up plans and cost estimates for a single large engineering project over the course of a four-week session.

Throughout the 70 years of the engineering summer school’s existence, in addition to valuable experiential learning, many cadets’ fondest memories were formed during the summer encampments. Memory books, photo albums, and memorabilia collections in the Norwich University Archives often depict the fun and good humor that was shared during those waning days of summer.