The purple lawn signs began popping up across campus in the first week of June. “Escape,” they read, or “Great Books,” or “The IMC, this way.”

This season, the Summer Programs staff will welcome to campus 45 different camps, classes and groups, and 4,600 participants and staff. These programs— ranging in size from 15 to 350 participants and in subject from youth athletics to adult masterclasses—will last anywhere from three days to eight weeks. 

“We’re fortunate that a number of programs have been to campus for a number of decades,” said Associate Director of Conferences and Special Events Austin Hout. “A lot of people are interested in hosting programs at Amherst College because of who we are in the world of higher education.”

While on campus, program participants will work with a range of College staff, including Ilan Stavens, the Lewis-Sebring professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, who created the Great Books Summer Program, with the aim of preparing middle and high school students for the rigors of college academics. Chris Boyko, the College’s head strength and conditioning coach and fitness center director, also runs Escape, an adult sports camp. Staff in Valentine Dining Hall cater to the nutritional needs of young people with a range of fresh and local foods, while the Admission office works with a diverse range of high school student visitors to give them a solid preview of the college experience. In the athletics program, assistant coaches work with high school athletes who might be future recruiting prospects. 

Behind all of this is the “Purple Team,” as the three full-time staff and three students of Summer Programs are informally known, in honor of the brightly colored polo shirts they wear.

“This office wears a lot of hats and does a lot of work,” said Dominique Manuel ’20. Since starting in her internship with Summer Programs in June, Manuel has worked with an adult tennis camp, schoolchildren from Japan and an adult art masterclass.

“We really focus on the customer experience,” agreed Huot, who will soon introduce all-campus movie nights for camp participants. Summer Programs also extended its hours to nights and weekends. As a fun bonus, the staff plans to distribute #AmherstSummer selfie sticks, some 250 in all, to program leaders. 

Rebecca Leveille-Guay, founder and director of The Illustration Master Class (The IMC), has been one of the longest repeat Summer Program clients. Her professional immersion program is in its 10th year at Amherst.

Leveille-Guay, an Amherst-based artist known for her illustration and gallery work, said the attraction is threefold: well-organized and professional Summer Programs staff, aesthetically pleasing studios in Fayerweather, and a community atmosphere on campus.

As with other groups that use the campus during the summer, Leveille-Guay said the IMC is careful to explain that theirs is not an official College program. Still, she believes the location brings its own cache. 

“We respect that we’re allowed on campus to use the facilities,” Leveille-Guay said, “because the name does matter. If you say it’s Amherst College, everyone recognizes that name means something of quality.”