Flash Seminars at UVa

Attending Flash Seminars at UVa is a great way for students, faculty, and Charlottesville residents to learn more about a newsworthy topic. Flash Seminars are one-time events that last one hour and are hosted by a professor or another community member who is a specialist in his or her field.

Flash Seminars are planned by UVa students looking to bring awareness to a particular topic, encourage dialogue among people from many different walks of life, and build relationships between professors and students. In fact, the seminars are a great way to meet interesting professors as well as students who are attracted to accruing knowledge for knowledge’s sake. According to a Washington Post article from 2011, each Flash Seminar is an example of “an ad hoc performance of pedagogy.” The goal of each event is to increase the student learning in college that goes on outside of a classroom.

Seminar topics range from feminism, to sustainability, and even to the branding strategy of TOMS, the shoe company. Last spring, there were seminars on topics like “North Korea: Who is Kim Jung Un?” and “Yoga and the Art of Meditation.” In the fall, Media Studies Professor Aniko Bodroghkozy hosted a seminar on the Kennedy assassination while Politics professor Herman Schwartz hosted a seminar in 2011 on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Last year, there was a seminar led by Dean Meredith Woo entitled “Can Women ‘Have it All’?.”

I attended a Flash Seminar last spring, hosted by UVa Law professor Anne Coughlin. She talked about women and the military and their changing roles in combat. In 2011, Professor Coughlin and a group of UVa Law students were instrumental in the legal battle “to open the profession of combat arms to women on an equal basis to men.” This influential woman was kind enough to sit down with a small group of students on a rainy evening last March to talk about the policy implications and the reasoning behind the repeal of the Combat Exclusion Act, which excluded women from seeing combat in the military for much of recent American history. I am now employed by the UVa School of Law as a Research Assistant to Professor Coughlin, all because of the Flash Seminar that brought a professor and students together in an intimate setting that enabled all parties to speak freely and openly about important issues.

This coming semester, the students planning Flash Seminars are back at it, with an exciting lineup of speakers and topics organized already. Kath Younger, healthy food blogger and part owner of Great Harvest bakery, is coming to UVa to host a Flash Seminar. Look ahead to other exciting topics, like “Free Speech and Duck Dynasty,” along with a whole host of others.

The purpose of a Flash Seminar is to encourage an increase in discussion around Grounds between faculty, students, and the greater Charlottesville community. Flash Seminars are truly Jeffersonian in their vision, as they are focused on the “diffusion of knowledge among the people.” If you want to subscribe to the EngageUVa listserve to get weekly email reminders about Flash Seminars and other events happening in a given week in Charlottesville, sign up here.

By Mirenda Gwin, On Grounds Editor

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