Message from the Dean: The Batten School as a “Learning Community”

Over the last three evenings, I had the enormous pleasure of hosting, in Pavilion III, three back-to-back flash seminars on health policy.  The whole idea of the “flash seminar” was an undergraduate student initiative last year, and this particular series was organized by one of our own:  Melissa Rickman, a first-year student in our accelerated MPP program.   The series featured excellent opening presentations by three faculty members:  David Klein (Politics), on the constitutionality of “Obamacare”; Ray Scheppach, on the challenges states face in funding Medicaid; and Eric Patashnik, on the need for basing health care expenditures on rigorous research on the cost-effectiveness of various medications and medical treatments.

A lot of events take place in my pavilion, from formal dinners to faculty receptions to handing out candy to armies of Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween. I enjoy them all, but I find none more rewarding than these flash seminars.  They are easy to arrange (especially with the help from Kerra Thurston, that I’ve had this week), and they perfectly embody the Jeffersonian ideal of informal face-to-face interaction among students and faculty on important issues of common interest.  It was particularly appropriate that this series was held in Pavilion III, since it housed three professors of medicine in U.Va’s early years – so, yes, my living room was once the medical school– and it was also the home of a short-lived Institute of Public Affairs, a predecessor of the Miller Center, that offered public programs on issues of public policy for members of the Central Virginia Community.  (And, it was therefore fitting that participants in this series of flash seminars included members of the Charlottesville community as well as both undergraduate and graduate students from across Grounds.

I hope that more Batten School students will organize more of these flash seminars on important policy problems, that more Batten School faculty will lead them, and that I’ll be able to host at least some of them in Pavilion III.  In that way, we can enhance our role as a “learning community” both inside and outside the classroom.

Message courtesy of Harry Harding, Dean of the Batten School

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