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May 4, 2017

Lancer Learning Community

Lancer Learning Community Overview

By Dr. Jeannine Perry, Dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies

The Lancer Learning Community initiative is part of our effort to establish a vibrant Continuing Education presence at Longwood University under the facilitation of the College of Graduate & Professional Studies.  Many other universities in the commonwealth and across the nation have continuing education and/or professional studies departments and Longwood had one many years ago.  These departments can bring additional learning opportunities to the university and the community that are not part of traditional programs of study.  Continuing education offers non-credit classes to promote life-long learning and includes those offered by the Lancer Learning Community.  Professional studies offers for-credit classes to be taken by people who are not in a Longwood program but would like to add additional college credits to their resume, earn a certificate, or gain specific knowledge for their profession.

This past year, the College of Graduate & Professional Studies was able to dedicate the time of two people to the immense task of rebuilding Continuing Education and Professional Studies.  Shelly Madden, Professional Studies Coordinator and Cindy Harris, Lancer Learning Community Coordinator.  Dr. Jeannine Perry, Dean of the College of Graduate & Professional Studies, is also spending a portion of her time overseeing the new projects involved.

This article is focusing on the Lancer Learning Community portion of the larger project described above, so Cindy Harris and Dr. Perry will answer the questions.

1. Dynamic: How do you think this will change the dynamic between the Longwood community and the FarmVille community as a whole? 

Cindy Harris: The intention of Lancer Learning Community is to offer fun, purposeful and inexpensive non-credit classes showcasing the talents of residents, students, merchants, faculty and staff of all educational institutions in the area.  In so doing, we anticipate social, informative and interesting classes uniting the community as participants, teachers, and attendees.  Additionally, by choosing a variety of venues, we hope to impact the economy of Farmville/Prince Edward County by using and showcasing their businesses.  We see Lancer Learning Community as a win, win, win situation; particularly because we anticipate the eventual reinvestment of some of the funds into the community’s needs.  People learn, socialize, spend nominal funds in the classes AND community needs are met…We don’t think it could get any better than that!

Dr. Perry:  I can answer this question from a very personal perspective.  Last week, I took my dad (a senior citizen in the community) to a coffee class offered at the Woodlands where we learned really cool facts about coffee and sampled a variety of different coffees.  I also attended one of our Right Brain Alley classes at Mainly Clay and joined in creativity and laughter as we all made dishes out of clay.  Finally, on Friday night I had an amazing experience as a longwood graduate student, Brittany Bishop, taught a group of us how to do a dance called the hustle.  Each time, I met new people and learned something new.  Each time I was able to interact with college students, senior citizens, community members, business owners, and Longwood faculty and staff in a meaningful and fun way.  I ended the week firmly committed to making this initiative work.  It is just what our wonderful Farmville community needs.  It will bring Longwood (and hopefully Hampden Sydney) faculty, staff and students together with the community members in very special ways while promoting a love of learning for all ages and stages in life.  It is an amazing initiative—now we just need everyone out there to try it and see just how amazing it is!


2. Idea: Where did this idea exactly come from? 

Cindy Harris: Back in September, three of us began brainstorming the concept.  We desired differentiation from other life-long learning programs.  We truly desired a program that would inspire the entire area to attend and teach, to showcase and harness the talents in this community.  We brainstormed names, engaged with students to create a logo, met with merchants, faculty and staff and started talking about our concept.  The concept’s reception was met with excitement, energy and exploded from there.  Now we continue to grow the program by expanding the programs, speaking at meetings, social media outlets, newspaper ads and radio!

Dr. Perry:  Ms. Harris is a consultant who is only supposed to work 20 hours a week but who is so committed to this initiative that she has invested far, far more time and personal commitment than those 20 hours to build, and often rebuild, this idea that is now just over 6 months old.  Shelly Madden has also spent many, many hours above and beyond her tasks in professional studies to support and participate in the Lancer Learning Community development.  I think the idea reflects a love of learning and a desire to share that with many different people from many different walks of life.  Farmville is already a unique and exciting community.  We felt the Lancer Learning Community would build on what is already here and increase the opportunities available for everyone to live and learn together.


3. Funding: Where does the funding for these classes come from?

Dr. Perry:  For this year and next, we are using a small portion of revenue from other professional studies initiatives to get the Lancer Learning Community started.  After that, it will need to pay for itself through the fees paid by participants.  As an institution of learning, we are not looking to ‘get rich’ from the Lancer Learning Community but we will need to break even so we can cover all costs and not require any additional funding from the university.

Cindy Harris: Our objective is to become self-sustainable and utilize excess funds to financially benefit a need in the community.


4.  Students: Are Longwood students able to attend these classes? 

Cindy Harris:  We welcome everyone!  By making all feel welcome, we further engage the entire community in this endeavor, prompt multi-generational conversation and, once again, show the immediate and surrounding areas, the talent and provisions of Farmville and Prince Edward County!

Dr. Perry:  Absolutely!!  We have already had both graduate and undergraduate students attend.  Lancer Learning Community classes make great gifts if parents or friends are looking for something unique, reasonably priced, and meaningful.  They provide a great venue for student groups to spend an hour or two engaged in something fun and different right here in Farmville.


5.    Teachers: Who teaches these classes? 

Cindy Harris:  We have retired teachers, Longwood students, Longwood’s Provost Dr. Neff, merchants, residents, farmers and anyone who wishes to share their hobby, passion, talent and knowledge.  We all feel better when we learn and even more energized when we teach and share!

Dr. Perry:  that’s one of the most exciting things about the Lancer Learning Community—people can not only attend classes but teach them.  Our dance instructor, Brittany Bishop, exchanged her instructional time for a free seat in two of our other classes but she also hopes to promote dance in Farmville as she misses that opportunity from her home in northern Virginia.  Many people are passionate about a talent or skill they have developed and eager to share it with others.  That is as much a part of bringing a community together as attending the classes!!

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