Incorporating New Programs with Traditions Creates a Vibrant Summer Community at Colby

Nearly 2,500 people will participate in non-credit courses, seminars, and camps

The robot Spot interacts with students from Colby and those participating in the Putney Pre-College summer program. The robot resides in Colby’s Immersive Navigation Systems and Inclusive Technology Ethics Lab, offering students from the college-preparation program the chance to learn about modern technologies.
By Kristen Shen '24Photography by Caitlin Penna
July 15, 2022

Over the course of the summer on Mayflower Hill, more people will attend professional training courses, participate in conferences and seminars, and compete in sports camps than enroll at Colby during the regular academic year.

The College has offered summer programming for more than 60 years and developed long-standing relationships with many organizations around the country that come to the idyllic retreat-like setting of Colby for intense and memorable learning opportunities.

This summer, nearly 2,500 people have signed up for non-credit programs, including many who will come to Colby for the first time and many more who have been here before. The programs attract a wide range of participants—students and professionals alike—and introduce Colby to a broad audience, said Brian Bray, director of special programs and conference services.

“I think a lot of people assume that it’s a very sleepy, quiet campus and nothing is happening in the summer. In fact, it’s a very vibrant campus with hundreds of people from around the world engaging in various activities and programs,” he said.

Among the newcomers this summer are 135 students participating in Putney Pre-College at Colby College, an academic and social program that helps prepare students between ages 14 and 18 for the college experience. Based in Vermont, Putney Student Travel has offered summer programs for high school and middle school students since 1951. 

Kevin Weidner, marketing director at Putney Student Travel, said Putney students will benefit from a range of first-rate facilities and academic resources, including the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “And with access to vast campus green spaces and day trips to the seacoast or Portland, students will get a true taste of college life, all in an idyllic Maine setting, where they will be able to refresh, recharge, and reinvigorate themselves and their intellectual curiosity,” he said.

Michelle Phan ’25 interacts with a student from the Putney Pre-College program while discussing the virtual reality environment she helped build for a research project about wind turbines. About 135 students from the Vermont-based Putney Pre-College program are on campus this summer to help prepare for their college experience.

“We are excited to work with Colby College because we believe Colby’s rural nature and collegiate environment, combined with its impeccable reputation for academic excellence, make this campus the ideal place to host a Putney Pre-College summer experience—one where students can truly stretch their legs and expand their social and academic horizons.”

Bray said that adding the Putney students to the roster of summer participants reflects well on the College, and he hopes the program becomes an annual tradition. He touted Colby’s resources as an enticement.

“Putney has programs at other distinguished academic institutions, such as Oxford University, Columbia University Climate School, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,” he said.  “We’re hopeful that we will have a seminar in environmental science where we can use all of our resources, including Allen Island and the learning laboratory for students. We are hoping for a long-term partnership with Putney that will allow us to use our resources and to focus on our academic strengths to help develop their seminars,” he said.

While he talked, Bray flipped through a large binder of pamphlets promoting all the summer programs, which Colby introduced in the late 1950s. The range of topics is vast, and Colby’s long-standing partnerships with different institutions have created a tremendous amount of loyalty, he said.

“I think a lot of people assume that it’s a very sleepy, quiet campus and nothing is happening in the summer. In fact, it’s a very vibrant campus with hundreds of people from around the world engaging in various activities and programs.”

Brian Bray, Director of Special Programs and Conference Services

For a week beginning July 17, the Great Books Institute will return to campus for its 66th year, he noted. About 50 people, adults and young readers alike, will attend this year’s institute to discuss literature and share their perspectives.

“There are people who have been coming here for more than 60 years, and they were coming as kids. And then they started bringing their kids with them and now their grandkids are coming in,” Bray said. “And to me, that says a lot about the program itself.”

The Atlantic Music Festival, hosted by Colby for more than a decade, brings 120 top-tier young musicians and instructors from prestigious conservatories such as Juilliard and the Curtis School of Music to the College for six weeks. In addition to their studies, they perform a series of free concerts throughout the summer that supports Colby’s mission of expanding arts opportunities on campus and in central Maine, Bray said. “The festival is truly a gift to the community,” he said.

Hitomi Koyama plays the piano while Robert Johnson plays the French horn in Lorimer Chapel as part of the Atlantic Music Festival.

Solbong Kim, director of the Atlantic Music Festival, values this partnership with Colby and is excited to expand the program in years to come.

“The Colby campus is breathtaking, and it’s more than just an idyllic environment for our musicians. The College and the Special Programs Office have generously devoted efforts to ensure our success for the last 14 years,” he said.

There are also multiple sports camps, with participants taking advantage of Colby’s exceptional new athletics facilities, including the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center and its state-of-the-art pool. This summer, more than 600 athletes will participate in the Maine Swimming Long Course Championships. 

Among the groups who keep coming back are a variety of medical and allied health professionals.

Two educational programs for doctors, the Maine Orthopedic Review and the New England Seminar in Forensic Sciences, send more than 100 participants each, filling the campus with surgeons, medical examiners, and forensic scientists.

Dr. Gregory J. Davis, professor and director of Forensic Pathology Consultation Service at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said he developed a strong connection to Colby over the 30 summers he’s been coming to Mayflower Hill.

“I come back to Colby year after year first and foremost because of the people—the attendees, the faculty, and the Colby students and staff with whom we interact. That more than anything makes it not only an educational but also a delightful conference,” he said. “The didactic lectures and fieldwork are great, and getting to chat over coffee breaks and communal meals reinforces learning and also is a catalyst for lifelong professional and personal friendships I’ve formed over the last 30 years. I will always have a warm place in my heart for all Colby has done for the profession of medicine, of forensics, and for me.”