You may have heard of a “flash mob”—a sudden assembly of people brought together by social media. A flash mob broke out at Clemons Library before winter exams a few years ago when hundreds of people suddenly appeared, danced enthusiastically for 15 minutes and then disappeared.

Now UVA students, faculty and community members are gathering for “flash seminars”—one-time, informal mini-classes organized via e-mail. Flash seminars tend to be on “exciting topics that react and respond to the world around us,” according to the student group that plans them.

Flash seminars provide faculty members with an opportunity to teach about topics of personal interest and to engage with students who want to listen and learn, rather than get a grade. Students get to learn from top faculty members outside their course of study.

“We want to keep it very impromptu,” said Laura Nelson (Col ’11), one of the originators of the idea. “We realized that there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on at UVA—and really every university—that a lot of students don’t have a chance to experience.”

A few flash seminars from the past semester:

“More Than Just a Pretty Face: The Business of Beauty” led by Greg Fairchild

“Immigration and Assimilation in the United States” led by Milton Vickerman

“The Death Penalty and Victor Hugo” led by Marva Barnett

“The Lost Art of Listening” led by Edith Lawrence

“Soldiers and the American Imagination: Reflections on Veterans Day” led by William Hitchcock

“Slavery at the University” led by Frank Dukes

“Can Buildings be Carbon Neutral, and Should They Be?” led by John Quale