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The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
Please use this format to complete your progress report:
1. Summary of the project to date.
Flash Seminars are one-time mini classes led by faculty, grad students, and notable
community members. Since the program’s inception in 2011, we have planned over 300
seminars. There have approximately been 80-90 seminars per academic year. A complete
list up to the last academic semester is available on our old website
(http://www.flashsems.com/Previous_by_Date.html). We have also been actively
expanding the Flash Seminars “brand” by offering not just seminars, but dinnerdiscussions, field trips, and workshops. The Flash Seminars project has brought UVA
students and community members together to discuss topics like economic inequality,
food insecurity, race at the University, series with the Morven Summer Institute, and
discussions of recent events like GrExit, to name just a few.
2. Total cost to date for the project?
The total cost to date for the project is $3,056.77. In the past, we have not kept digital
records of our spending - something we started at the beginning Fall 2011. We have a
policy of only using the Jefferson Trust fund when its use will create a tangible benefit to
our programs (Flash Seminars are, by design, free to the public so funding is only used to
occasionally provide food for participants, fund fieldtrips, etc.) Over the past three years,
we have spent money on food, gas, advertising, and space reservations. In addition, we
started with small expenditures on advertising and marketing to increase awareness of
Flash Seminars around grounds. Such expenditures include stickers, food for info
sessions, or a new website.
3. Is the project completed at this time? If not, when do expect to see the project
completed?
The project is not completed (and we do not have any plans to complete it in the near
future). In fact, we believe that the Flash Seminars program has become an integral part
of the UVA community: Attending a Flash Seminar was just put on the list of “116 things
to do before you graduate” by the Class of 2016 Trustees. Furthermore, the Economics
Department reached out to us in the spring and supported with the creation of an ongoing series about economic topics of interest. Lastly, our impact is spreading both here
in Charlottesville and across the East Coast. We sometimes receive emails from students
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
at other colleges and high schools asking for advice on how to develop a program like
ours at their school. We hope that Flash Seminars will continue to grow and expand its
reach!
4. If there is an available remaining balance, how much do you plan to spend?
There is a remaining balance of $4,943.83. Our future costs will come from two different
sources. First, we plan to use our funds to enrich our programs and offer varied
experiences to Flash Seminars devotees. We have had great success in the past with
Flash!Field Trips, Flash!Dinners, and Flash!Labs. Therefore, we hope to hold similar
events in the future. Second, we believe that advertising is a crucial component of our
work, especially since UVA’s community is always in flux (every year, we must get the
word out about Flash Seminars to 1/4th of the undergraduate class). Since we are not a
CIO and do not have the options available to them (like participating at the Activities
Fair), we must find other ways to get out the word about Flash Seminars and the
connected newsletter [email protected] Therefore, we would like to use some of our budget
to advertise and create a brand. We want to continue with expenditure on stickers,
website, or info sessions about Flash Seminars.
5. What successes can you report coming out of the project?
With our Flash Seminars, we have been enormously successful in bringing together both
students and community members to discuss fascinating, often controversial, high-impact
topics. We have had great success in offering seminars that relate to current events or
controversial discussion topics. For example, we offered several seminars on current
economic events as they were happening like the decline in oil prices in January, GrExit
in February, or Black Monday in August. (They are examples of the collaboration with
the Economics Department). In addition, we were able to engage students and faculty by
building a portable “Flash!Lab” bubble to provide a space for innovative discussions.
Although many organizations, like TedX at UVA, Sustained Dialogue, the Jefferson
Society, and the International Relations Organization (to name a few) offer lectures or
promote discussion, the Flash Seminars program is unique in that it reaches thousands of
people all over the Charlottesville area (not just those who are directly involved in UVA)
and is 100% free to all participants. This makes the connecting students, community, and
expert aspect so much more valuable for all participants. Flash Seminars have provided a
forum for students to explore issues that are truly, deeply meaningful to them. Many of
our members are deeply engaged with the program because it typifies and hopefully also
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
emboldens academic curiosity and a passion for life-long learning. Another success is
that we were just able to update our newsletter [email protected] and switch to a more
streamlined system thanks to the hard work of our Outreach and Technology Chairs.
6. What problems, if any, have you faced as you rolled out the project?
The main problems that we have faced, in recent months, have been 1) keeping
attendance at seminars high, especially during the busiest times of the school year, 2) the
presence of the Flash Seminar brand, and 3) new member recruitment and member
retention.
Regarding our first challenge, we have noticed a clear divide between seminars that were
well-advertised or had “celebrity leaders” (e.g. seminars advertised heavily by the
Economics Department or seminars led by President Sullivan).
However, seminars on more unusual topics (e.g. guerrilla gardening) can attract as few as
five participants, which can sometimes be discouraging for the seminar-leader. Given the
positive results from the collaboration with the Economics Department we hope to build
similar connections with other Departments on grounds. For example, we hope to be able
to target specific major listservs and CIOs for specific topics in addition to the
[email protected] newsletter. We think that this is the best way to spread the word about
Flash Seminars and ensure that there are at least 15 participants at each seminar.
Secondly, we have struggled with the recognition of the Flash Seminars brand. Many
members of the UVa community - faculty as well as students - are unaware of the
opportunities that exist with Flash Seminars. Similarly, while many people know about
our newsletter [email protected] (approx. 8,000 subscribers), many others do not.
Therefore, updating [email protected] to a new system, working on a new website, and
having some promotional events is high on our agenda for the upcoming academic year.
Our last problem is that many of our previous team members just graduated or left for
other reasons. One of the co-presidents was able to develop a structured recruiting system
that we just put in place. (Before, members were recruited by word of mouth only.) We
hope that by having a real recruitment process we can gain more credibility. Along with
the recruitment we are working on a more formalized training to educate new members
about Flash Seminars logistics more easily. With those two things we hope that we will
also foster a sense of team spirit and community among all of our planners, which will in
return help with retaining members over several academic years.
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
7. What was the total number of people working on the project?
Approximately 10 students were actively involved in the project last year. We are
beginning to partner with CIO leaders and Department chairs to expand our offerings.
And if we include those designated contact people we would probably get around 15 to
20 people involved.
8. How many students were involved in the project?
There are about 10 “team members”—in other words, undergraduates who meet each
week to discuss their plans for seminars/meetings with professors. Given that some of our
student organizers graduated or are studying abroad we are currently down to about 5
active members. Therefore, we just started the recruiting process and hope to get an
additional 5-10 involved new members.
In addition over 2,000 (if not many more) students have attended Flash Seminars over the
past four years. Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact number as it is hard to keep track
of who exactly is attending for a project of this scope.
9. How many people did the project impact?
As mentioned earlier, this project has impacted upwards of 2,000 students and around
upwards of 200 professors, grad students, and community leaders. In addition, we have
received positive feedback from the Department of Economics that the seminars fostered
interaction. During the last years the Flash Seminars model is expanding nation-wide:
UNC recently developed a Flash Seminars program. And the previous team leaders also
helped a high school student in Georgia and a group of students at James Madison
University introduce Flash Seminars to their communities. Some of the founding
members of Flash Seminars at UVA have started a program that offers seminars in
Boston, San Francisco, and Cape Town, South Africa.
10. Do you feel that the project has had an impact on the University and /or the
University community?
Absolutely! The project Flash Seminars offers a unique experience to many students and
faculty at the University. Personally, I have gained much knowledge and many splendid
experiences from Flash Seminars that I would not want to miss. With respect to the
greater community, Flash Seminars create value for participants in four ways. First, they
allow students to explore interesting subjects purely because they are interesting. Second,
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
they also allow students to get a taste of subjects that are totally out of their comfort zone.
Third, seminars provide a forum of discussion to lively participate in conversations about
pressing topics otherwise not covered in the classroom. Lastly, they foster connections
between participants and also between participants and leaders. We often experience that
students will stay longer at the end to talk to the leader. Similarly, we are fortunate to
observe how participants who were strangers before will leave a seminar together still
chatting about the topic they just engaged in.
At the very last, Flash Seminars also provide a wonderful opportunity for student
planners to develop skills in organizing and planning a seminar. This includes outreach to
the professors, logistical planning, and even public speaking when opening or concluding
the seminar.
In sum, given the changing landscape of higher education, Flash Seminars are
increasingly important because they facilitate and promote a culture of learning for the
sake of learning.
11. Are there plans for the project to continue once this funding cycle is complete? If so,
what are those plans?
We hope that the remaining balance in the Flash Seminars’ Jefferson Trust will sustain
our programs well into the future. We have many ideas about how we can further
improve Flash Seminars to continue fostering an alternative learning opportunity for
many students.
12. Any other comments that you would like to share concerning this project:
Thank you so much for your continued support of Flash Seminars! Flash Seminars would
be a very different program without the support of the Jefferson Trust (if it would exist at
all), and we are extremely grateful for all your support over the past few years!
Some photos: Photos are attached below, available on our Facebook page, which is successfully
liked by over 1,000 people (https://www.facebook.com/flashsemsatuva), and soon also on our
new website.
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
The Jefferson Trust
Progress Report
Progress reports and any additional information related to your grant may be uploaded through the
Jefferson Trust website: http://jeffersontrust.org/grant-recipient/
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