College launches redesigned Miniversity programming

by Elizabeth Smith | 3/31/14 6:35pm

Facing low enrollment and declining interest in teaching courses, the Collis Center for Student Involvement cancelled the majority of its spring Collis Miniversity course offerings. Instead of ending the program outright, however, the Center is launching a redesigned Miniversity, including events under the banner “Not Another Lecture Series.”

These events will invite attendees to interact with faculty and alumni presenters instead of simply listening to speakers and asking one or two questions, Collis Center intern Sam Rauschenfels ’14 said.

Rauschenfels is a former member of The Dartmouth senior staff.

The Miniversity program allowed students and community members to propose and teach classes outside of typical academic offerings. Past class proposals have encompassed topics like speed reading, chess, cake decorating and Farsi.

After they noticed a decline in the number of Miniversity proposals as well as lower class enrollments, Rauschenfels and Collis Center program coordinator Juliann Coombs worked together to create the new program, Collis Center director Eric Ramsey said.

Collis staff members, after meeting with students and stakeholders, determined that events that let students discuss interesting research and career trajectories with faculty and young alumni would be both beneficial and well-received, Ramsey said.

The events will take place in One Wheelock, using the space’s informal atmosphere to foster discussion, Coombs said.

Rauschenfels said that he and Coombs began the transition in January, aiming to launch the series this spring. They developed the project throughout the winter, contacting alumni and faculty to speak as guests.

Caitlin Zellers ’16, who taught a Collis Miniversity cooking class last spring, said she enjoyed the experience.

The program brought students together from all parts of campus, Zellers said. Rauschenfels said the new program attempts to preserve this quality.

“Miniversity has always tried to provide extracurricular academically enriching experience that includes as many people with diverse views and diverse talents as possible,” he said.

“Not Another Lecture Series” includes discussions by economics professor Charles Wheelan ’88 and writer Harry Enten ’11, though more programming may be added later in the term.

Wheelan will discuss his 2013 book, “The Centrist Manifesto,” Thursday. The book examines the Centrist Project, an organization promoting the political middle and independent candidates with centrist tendencies — a topic that reliably sparks discussion, Wheelan said.

Enten, a former writer for The Guardian who now works as senior political writer and analyst for data journalism website FiveThirtyEight, will talk to program attendees on May 8 about his career trajectory.

Some students who have not previously enrolled in any Collis Miniversity courses said they would be inclined to attend events in the new program, especially as they are free.

Tsion Abera ’17, for example, said she liked the idea of bringing in faculty and alumni for possible networking opportunities.

Wheelan’s April 3 discussion is co-sponsored by the Centrist Project. The new series will be open to the public.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!