Friday, January 30, 2015

Experimental College comes back strong

By Crystal Atamian

With the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, the Experimental College at UC Davis has successfully overcome its recent troubles. The Associated Students of UCD has approved its budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

After slowly building budget problems, and a brief closure during the winter to support its reorganization, the EC began offering classes again this past spring. A dozen classes were offered for the spring session as a trial to determine the viability of the unit and the prospects for its continued existence.

With the benefit of its new operations model, which centers on its new online presence, the Experimental College was revenue-positive for the spring. Demand for EC courses drove revenues and enrollments to 168 percent of ASUCD’s projections.

Rising out of its own ashes, the EC is now flying. It is currently building its way back up from the few courses in the spring to its normal range and extent of course offerings, which historically range from 50 to 100 classes.

The Experimental College is now wrapping up its first summer session, and enrollment for the second summer session will begin Sunday, July 20. The session will run from Aug. 11 to Sept 7. Summer course offerings concentrate on martial arts — tai chi, tae kwon do, aikido and hapkido — as well as social dance.

Rick Schubert, chairman of the EC’s Instructor Advisory Board, says, “Prior to spring 2014, the EC was still operating under essentially the same model it had been operating under since 1967. Although its motto and its approach to course content is the same, the EC now offers a modern approach to marketing and enrollment.”

From 2008 through 2013, the EC faced mounting losses as its outdated operations model became progressively less viable. That model is changing, according to Experimental College director Rhoda Coscetti.

Coscetti says the college’s new focus on social media-based advertising will be better able to reach a large number of students.

“We’re working to turn the EC from Davis’ best-kept secret to a widely recognized resource,” she explains.

As the new director, Coscetti sees a strong comeback for the EC.

“I feel that the Experimental College has a bright future ahead of it. What the EC offers — great classes, taught by great people — is just as valuable as it was when the EC opened in 1966. And the EC’s holistic approach to education, after the motto ‘Education in its Most Profound Sense is Personal Growth,’ makes the EC unique.”

ASUCD Senator Shehzad Lokhandwalla is a proud supporter of the Experimental College.

“What makes EC different is the aspect of creativity and empowerment,” Lokhandwalla says. “And of course, as a senator, I’m proud that it’s student-run and nonprofit. With the right leadership, EC can be as successful as it was decades ago when there were thousands of enrolled students.”

In addition to its new online marketing approach, the student-based leadership of the unit is now guided by an Instructor Advisory Board that provides an institutional memory and general guidance. Coscetti credits the board with providing the EC with much-needed support.

Lokhandwalla commends Schubert’s contributions, referring to him as “the backbone behind EC’s recent stabilization.” The ASUCD Business Office also provides guidance and controls aspects of the website.

Coscetti says she wants to increase the EC’s popularity and make it accessible to more students, while still maintaining the core values at the heart of the unit’s operation.

“(Our) immediate goals for the EC are to add additional classes to our already diverse classes that would appeal to students, and to hire professional and dedicated instructors that will make EC students’ experiences memorable while also adding a positive reinforcement to their education at UC Davis,” she says.

“We are also working on making sure to advertise to people that the EC is currently offering classes. One of our largest struggles is making sure that people are aware that this resource is available to them.”

Course offerings for the second summer session are listed online at The EC’s fall session begins Oct. 12, with registration available two weeks before.

People interested in teaching for the Experimental College should contact Schubert at [email protected]



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