New “Flameside Chats” premiere with Beau Weston

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Alumni, Anthro/Soc, News 02 Oct 2014

flamechatEvery current and former college student secretly dreams of being able to attend class in PJs and their favorite slippers. Now, an exciting new interactive, online learning experience called Flameside Chats will give the Centre community the opportunity, no matter where they are in the world, to do just that as they revisit the Centre classroom from the comfort of their own home.

Beau WestonThe first Flameside session, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, will be presented by John M. and Louise Van Winkle Professor of Sociology Beau Weston (pictured right), and will stream live using Google Hangout on Air.

Like the virtual equivalent of a real classroom, viewers will have the opportunity to submit comments and questions in real time via the Hangouts app or Twitter, and they will appear in the comment window or may be shared by a moderator.

Weston, who in 2011 was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to develop a course on “The Happy Society,” will talk about how you can be a happy person and contribute to a happy society.

“My work on happiness is especially good for conversation, because it is a subject, as Aristotle reminds us, that everyone is interested in,” Weston explains. “The research on how the actions that make society better are also likely to make us happier is particularly welcome at Centre, which has a strong emphasis on service.”

Laura Coleman Pritchard ’05, director of campaign communications, feels that these events will fill a need among the Centre community.

“We know that alumni want the same types of experiences after graduation from Centre that they wanted when they were students: intellectually stimulating discussions with their faculty mentors and peers and opportunities for social interaction with their classmates,” Pritchard says. “While we do offer many opportunities for our alumni to get back in touch with each other at our social events, one part of our programing that we felt we should supplement involves faculty—allowing our alumni and friends to participate in the same kinds of classroom and seminar discussions they took part in as students.”

Shawn Lyons ’81, associate vice president for development and alumni affairs, echoes Pritchard’s contention that former Centre students are eager for interaction with faculty.

“Back when Centre did not have classes on Wednesdays, it was a fairly common thing for us to take faculty members to alumni events on Tuesday evenings,” Lyons says. “We could return very late that night and not have to worry about them teaching a class the next morning. With the modern class schedule, it’s difficult for them to accompany us to these events.

“Centre’s alumni are looking for opportunities to rekindle some of the same kind of intellectually stimulating interactions that were part of their Centre Experience—whether in the classrooms, at convocations, over meals at Cowan or just in late-night ‘bull sessions’ in the residence halls,” Lyons continues. “With the technology available today, we’re looking for opportunities to create experiences that aren’t limited by traditional constraints, such as geography, time difference or limited budgets. We’re excited about the possibilities and think our alumni will be as well!”

A second Flameside Chat is planned the day after the general election, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5. Dr. Dan Stroup, Pierce and Amelia Harrington Lively Professor of Politics and Law; Dr. Ben Knoll, assistant professor of politics; and Dr. Lia Rohr, visiting assistant professor of politics, will debrief viewers on the outcomes of the election, particularly Kentucky’s hotly contested Congressional race.

Kristi Burch, Centre’s academic technology specialist, has worked closely with the staff of alumni affairs to make Flameside Chats very much like an actual classroom by using advances in technology. Viewers will be given the opportunity to submit questions in advance and also live during the broadcast.

“The Hangouts app has a recording and live streaming option, which automatically pushes the broadcast to YouTube for live streaming and commenting,” Burch says. “Up to 100 viewers can watch via a link on Google+ or YouTube, and submit comments for faculty to answer during their talks. It is very much interactive. They can also tweet @CentreAlumni with the hashtag #flameside, and we will try to incorporate those comments and questions through the moderator.”

“I’m excited to participate in this project with my friends and colleagues on the faculty and in alumni affairs,” says host and moderator Jami Powell, evening circulation librarian. “The real-time online video chat is a fun medium for sharing with the non-campus world the instruction and discussion usually reserved for physical classrooms. For Centre alumni or anyone interested in learning, it’ll be like hanging out with a really cool, engaging professor for a little while. I’m looking forward to the learning experience myself.”

As the inaugural Flameside presenter, Weston is very excited about the interactive nature of his presentation.

“I am looking forward to Flameside Chats. The best part of class and public lectures is the question-and-answer section, which the ‘hangout’ format will encourage,” Weston says.

“Our alumni are extremely loyal, both to the College and to the professors they had while they were at Centre,” Pritchard says. “Through Flameside Chats, we hope to provide our alumni the opportunity to re-engage with their professors and to introduce them to faculty members who may be new to them.

“We are fortunate to have a very strong faculty here at Centre—committed to truly engaging our students in the learning process,” she continues, “and we are excited about connecting our alumni with them.”

An email will be distributed to alumni as scheduled Flameside Chats events approach, and information and links will be posted on the Centre College Alumni Facebook page and via @centrealumni on Twitter. For those unable to participate in the live Chats, recorded versions of the broadcasts will be available on YouTube and also posted on Centre’s website.

by Cindy Long