The original: faculty teaching students.The remix: students teaching faculty, staff teaching students, faculty teaching staff, and all other combinations thereof.This innovation is being made possible by USF’s new Resident Experts program, the brainchild of Charlene Lobo Soriano, associate director of First Year Student Services (FYSS).
Housed in FYSS, the program allows students, staff, and faculty to either teach or participate in a workshop where skills are taught and knowledge is shared.
“The Resident Experts program is an effort to provide first years and the university community with a way to learn new hobbies as well as invite others to teach hobbies,” said Soriano. “Resident Experts’ main goals are to create connections across the campus as capitalize on the wealth of knowledge that already exists in our community.”
It was originally and mainly created for freshmen, to help them “create connections with the larger USF community as well as highlight how talented our first years are and [encourage] them to become teachers in their own right,” she said.
Soriano’s sources for inspiration about this project were the Experimental College at UC Davis (which, according to the UC Davis website, offers quarterly courses that provide “an outlet for individuals to share their interests and skills in an informal, cooperative setting”), as well as a pilot that was done in the Academic Support Services office.
During the summer, Soriano said, she and the rest of the staff had gatherings once a week during lunch to share their skills or hobbies.
“I thought about the richness of my staff and realized that we have possibilities across campus – that were were people we meet/see every day that have talents we don’t even know about. They are our resident experts on many topics. The possibilities are fascinating – learning new things from each other and teaching our hobbies/skills to others as well,” said Soriano. “It’s really exciting to see people out of their expected element and doing something they truly love and are engaged in outside of work.”
Resident Experts debuted in Crossroads on Tuesday; at this event, Barbara Zunder of USF’s Student Disability Services taught the first of a series of knitting workshops for beginners.
Zunder can easily be considered an expert in her field. “I have been knitting for 18 years, off and on,” she said. “I started knitting when I was eleven, and was taught by various family members: my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. What I didn’t learn from them I learned from books, patterns, or online. There is a treasure chest of online instruction videos on Youtube that I use a lot when I’m stuck on a particular technique.”
She became involved in the program when, after having taught a few of her coworkers how to knit, she was asked by Soriano to teach in the Resident Experts program.
Regarding Resident Experts, she said, “I’m excited! I love any excuse to sit down and knit.”
As for Soriano, she will be teaching crocheting and bookmaking over the course of the semester; among the other courses that will be offered are photography, Polynesian dancing and cooking.
Each program, she said, is taught by an ‘expert’ to a group no larger than 15. Since FYSS sponsors the program, at least 10 seats are reserved for first year students in each program. Experts pick a day that works best for them and the community can sign up for the course on the Resident Experts website, said Soriano. Many of the programs are short one-hour sessions, but some, like Knitting, are series.
The program is free for participants, said Soriano. “In our tough economic times, I’m used to making something out of nothing, so our “Experts” are all volunteers, and they bring their own supplies. We don’t charge for the courses, and if we have to, it’s to offset supplies, but we haven’t had to do that yet. We use our resources available to set up a website, book rooms, and advertise. This program costs us little to nothing, and it’s a great resource to the community.”
Soriano believes that “We are all teachers. We all possess unique sets of talents, skills, and abilities that we pass down informally – for instance, to friends when we show them how to fold an origami crane because we’ve been doing it since we were a kid. Among us walk very talented photographers, calligraphers, artists, poets, crafters, chefs, but we would never know it because we’re not part of their informal circle. We walk by them every day – professors, staff, students.
The Resident Experts program, Soriano suggested, would help spread the knowledge that hides within communities. “We can learn inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “We learn best when we are engaged with the material and the teacher, working in small groups, when we are able to make meaning of what we’re doing.»
The program’s soft launch last semester, where two or three workshops were offered, was met with a tepid response, but “we are hoping for a larger response and to make this part of the culture of USF,” she said. “Each one, teach one!”