Student Leads Effort to Chronicle U.Va.’s Speakers


UPDATED, May 3, 5:05 p.m., to reflect “U.Va. Speaks” as one of two student-led projects receiving 2013 Jefferson Trust grants, and to correct the link to the UVA Today story on the 2013 Jefferson Trust grants.

The University is nothing if not a center for sharing ideas, information and knowledge.

Most often, this happens in classrooms. But there are other common forums for such exchanges: speeches and panel discussions, staples of academic life. (If you lump together enough speeches and panels, you can call it a “conference” or a “symposium.”) Even casual followers of UVA Today or the University calendar know that these things happen on Grounds pretty much on a daily basis. Even a person of independent means, with unlimited time, would have to clone him- or herself to be able to get to everything.

Typically, a professor or someone prominent in a field will come to town, share some wisdom for an hour or so, stimulate a lot of thought and discussion, and then  … everyone leaves. Maybe someone took a few notes; maybe the speaker saved her text on her laptop; less often, someone may have audio- or videotaped the proceedings. But usually, the event is lost to the historical record.

That’s where Adair Zeigler comes in.

While taking a media studies course last year, she was assigned to do a digital humanities project. In her experience as a University Guide, she knew that there was no central repository listing the speakers who come to Grounds and what they talked about.

So the third-year student from Richmond decided to create one. “U.Va. Speaks” was born. Even when the course ended, she decided she wanted to keep pursuing the project. Next year, it’ll be her required leadership project in the McIntire School of Commerce, where she is concentrating in marketing.

“It’s very much still in its baby stages of creation,” she said earlier this week.

Zeigler is still wrestling with some big questions: Should there be some sort of minimal criteria for inclusion on the site? How do you track down the details? Who’ll keep it going after she graduates?

But she’s got some big ideas, too. She would like to include video and audio whenever possible, along with written summaries. She sees a timeline, and online forums to carry on the discussion of the ideas presented. She’d like to highlight upcoming speakers.

“I’m sort of dreaming big,” she said, a little sheepishly. Still, one can imagine an army of volunteer note-takers, contributing to the site. Maybe like Wikipedia.

Already, she’s finding support. To carry the project forward, she applied for a Jefferson Trust grant. When the list of awardees came out, most were faculty-backed projects – $50,000 here, $100,000 there. But at the very end of the list was one of only two student-led projects awarded:

“U.Va. Speaks (Adair Zeigler, student), $2,500”

It’s a big task. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

One Comment on “Student Leads Effort to Chronicle U.Va.’s Speakers

  1. Pingback: Student Leads Effort to Chronicle U.Va.’s Speakers | Virginia News Fan Site

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