20 Minutes with Kristen Frarey, Options coordinator
Ghosthunting 101. Ballroom Dancing. Twitter Essentials. As diverse as they sound, they all have something in common.
They are among the classes the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning offers this semester through its Options program.
UofL Today talked with Options coordinator Kristen Frarey about the program and how they come up with such wide-ranging courses.
What is the Options program?
They are personal enrichment classes — otherwise known as continuing education — and they’re usually the ‘hobby’ kinds of classes. They can range from ghosthunting to French. They’re fun classes that are not tied to a curriculum. They’re just fun for people to take after work or with a friend.
How long has UofL offered this kind of class and why?
Thirty years. I believe four classes were offered the first year.
You know, I think you have to look forward to something a little more casual when you learn something for yourself. In our busy lives, we’re tied to deadlines, and you learn what you have to learn. Usually you don’t have time for what you want to learn. It should be fun! With this kind of learning, you get to pick what you’re interested in and you get to pick the terms.
We’ve got classes from a two-hour class like ‘Edible Garden’ once a semester to something that meets eight or 10 classes for three months. So you are in more control of what you want to learn instead of what somebody else is telling you have to learn. I think it’s healthy for us all to be in power as to what we would like to do.
What do you do with Options?
I coordinate the program and work with marketing. I’m the person that gets the requests for proposals, along with Anita Block. We review them and decide what new classes we’re going to offer in the new semester, and we review what’s gone well, what classes have really taken off and decide what’s going to offer again the next semester.
You offer them just during the semesters, not during the summer?
Right. We sometimes have special programs during the summer, like the possibility of short ‘food and wine for summer’ classes. But usually summer is such a fun time for families that it’s hard to offer this kind of program.
How many classes do you offer a semester?
Around 60 to 70. We’re up to about 141 classes for last fall and this semester.
How many people typically take Options?We’ve had 1250 so far for last semester and this semester. We’re still in the middle of our spring semester, so I’d anticipate another 100 or so to register.
Do you have a lot of participants from faculty and staff? Do UofL employees still get a discount?
About 10 to 15 percent are faculty and staff registrations. I wish it were more! Employees get a 25 percent discount. We can set up a payroll deduction, too. We also offer a 25 percent discount for UofL alumni.
You have some really unusual titles: ‘Discovering Croatia’ jumped out at me. Writing vampire stories. Ghosthunting I’ve seen before, but how do you come up with a class idea? You mentioned an RFP or a proposal.
Yes, we have a request for proposal link on our website. We get a lot of requests that way. We usually reach out to our instructors before our planning period and say, ‘Do you want to stick with your class? Would you like to shake it up a little bit? Would you like to offer something else?’ Our instructors are tried and true — some have been here for 20 years — and we like to give them the opportunity to offer new ideas.
Friends or UofL employees give us ideas: ‘I have a friend who teaches woodworking or modern dance or something like that.’ We get a lot of suggestions from our attendees.
Sometimes an idea comes from a casual conversation. One day we were asking our co-worker, Julijana Courcic, questions about her life in Croatia — it was a fascinating conversation that spun into a class. There are 10 people enrolled so far!
Vampire stories has not been as popular. I was surprised. This is the problem with thinking that something is going to take off. Usually it doesn’t. Sometimes the class you don’t think is going to take off, ends up being one of the most popular. It’s just trial and error. We always tell our instructors, we can try something. We think it’s a good idea, so let’s put it out there and see if people have an interest.
Do you see class suggestions change depending on what current fads are?
We do. Years ago, we had a short program called, ‘Cash for Trash.’ This program showed you how to recycle and get money from your trash. It was hugely successful.
In this day and age of becoming a more green society, we have introduced several ‘re-skilling’ courses which I am particularly excited about — I’d love to see that category grow.
Is there a minimum enrollment for your classes?
Yes. We need a very minimum. We’re a self-supporting unit so we need to cover our expenses before we let a class continue. We like to see them go. We do not like canceling them at all.
What’s your most popular class?
Oh goodness. Jewelry metalsmithing. We had to add an extra class of that this semester. We also added another class of advanced photography. We have three or four photography classes and there was a high demand for an additional advanced photography. Those are always successful in this day and age of digital photography. Spanish is also a very popular and consistent class.
How long have you been at UofL?
I have been at UofL for nine years. I started out as temp in the Kentucky Autism Training Center in the College of Ed, and then went to fulltime and was there for 8.5 years. We held conferences here at Shelby Campus. I knew I loved working with the staff and lifelong learning and conferences — I think that’s where my passion is — so it was just perfectly timed that this opportunity opened up this year.
So you’ve been with the Delphi Center six months or so?
Since last August. I had my first child and switched careers in the same year — it was a busy year!
You say it’s your passion …I think my passion for lifelong learning started when I moved away from Kentucky when I first got married. My husband traveled a lot and I took two floral design continuing ed classes at a local community college. I loved it. I didn’t have clue about floral design. I knew I liked flowers. Since that class in 1997, I’ve had a career as a designer at Nanz and Kraft and continue to do weddings on the side for my close friends and family.
By doing what you do here, you’re helping other people…
Right. You just never know what’s inside yourself — one little class could spark a career or hobby that lasts a lifetime.
What else do you do at UofL?
I coordinate our conference and meeting space. We primarily have business meetings here at Shelby Campus. Most recently we’ve opened up our ballroom upstairs to social events. We have a contract with Lady Fingers catering, and they hold our alcohol license. We have had several social events here like wedding receptions and holiday parties.
It’s nice that we’re branching out, because I think we’re the best-kept secret in the east end — especially when it comes to a social venue and a large kind of meeting space.
I noticed coming into Founders Union Building that there is renovation taking place. Tell me about that.
Yes, it is a very exciting time in the Founders Union Building. There are two phases of renovation. The first phase is nearing end now. It was the renovation of office space for half of our staff. We are on top of each other in our current space. We are also adding two new restrooms on the second floor, along with renovating a meeting room.
Phase two consists of new tile throughout the building, a new 84-seat classroom on the second floor, and the restrooms on the first floor will be completely renovated. We have waited so long; this building will be amazing upon completion. Phase two should be finished in August. We’re planning a UofL open house in the fall.