Rappahannock University, though it isn’t exactly a university and doesn’t quite exist yet, is in the process of identifying and signing up resources that do exist in abundance in Rappahannock County: subject-matter experts.
Doug Schiffman, the financial consultant and longtime Sperryville resident who’s the chief organizer of the continuing-ed emporium he now calls Rapp U, says he’s been encouraged by the initial interest of volunteers and, especially, potential teachers of adult-education-type courses in the county.
Thus the organization’s website, rappU.org, is up and running and offers a simple way for potential class leaders and volunteers to officially express their interest or potential subject.
Schiffman hopes to have an initial “semester” put together — a pilot program, he says — by next spring. Five weeks of classes, including one-hour weekly sessions, likely on a weekday evening; at least one longer, special-interest session on a weekend.
Though a hoped-for association with George Mason University’s extensive Osher Lifelong Learning Institute didn’t happen this year, Schiffman says, he’s still hoping GMU might participate in a component of Rapp U’s future programming he calls One-Day University — at which five or so of the institution’s most popular and well-known professors and lecturers would come out to Rappahannock for a weekend of lectures and presentations.
Other subjects that prospective class leaders have told him they’d like to do, Schiffman says, include: public speaking; the wisdom of Ancient Greece; Galileo, science and the church; “I Can’t Get Over It” (understanding trauma and PTSD); sign language; fiction-writing; community theater; business negotiations; the Civil War in Rappahannock; the hippies of Rappahannock; moonlight hikes and Rappahannock outdoors; the history of Shenandoah National Park, and how to invest like a pro.
Schiffman hopes to also bring together some of Rappahannock’s extraordinary talents, and even some of its unusual abundance of well-known experts and weekending politicos and media VIPs, for multi-session special-interest programs. He would add to Rapp U’s mix several series of team-taught classes by “celebrity chefs, celebrity journalists or, say, celebrity pols.”
“Patrick O’Connell might not be available to lead a three-hour class on cuisine,” Schiffman says. “But he might be able to do an hour, and then Dayn Smith [at Huntly’s Glen Gordon Manor restaurant and B&B] might do an hour, and John MacPherson [the chef and co-owner at Washington’s Foster Harris House] could do an hour, over a period of some weeks.”
While Schiffman continues to seek funding from compatible foundations in the region, he hopes the members of Rappahannock’s extensive “brain trust” will visit rappU.org and make their interest known. Or email him directly at email@example.com.