By Elaine Omann
Valerie Murphy started with University of North Florida Continuing Education part-time in 2005. Now, as the LEARN Jacksonville original program director at UNF since 2008, she has built the course registration to more than 2,000 a year with 200 classes of various content.
- How do you manage all the scheduling and planning that goes with developing the courses? What are the challenges?
I have a great group of instructors who love teaching for LEARN Jacksonville and sharing their knowledge and expertise in their field. Probably the biggest challenges that I face are logistics related, like reserving rooms, trying to make sure that everyone teaches when they are available, etc. With the hurricane, UNF was closed for several days and all the planned scheduled classes had to be rescheduled. Many instructors teach repeatedly for this program and like to keep a schedule that they build into their life events. Most continue to instruct because they are every passionate about what they teach.
- At this time, what seems to be the most desired types of courses? What ages are likely to be attending?
Photography classes are my most popular. John Reed has been teaching for LEARN Jacksonville for more than nine years. He has developed a following and is very passionate about teaching photography. He now teaches more than 10 classes each term. We will be adding on location classes and also offer a photography course at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Another popular category is language classes. The most popular ones are Spanish, Italian, and sign language.
- What courses would you feel are needed to be added to the choices?
I’m always open to suggestions! Writing classes are still very popular. I hope to add more classes in technology that include how to use a Smartphone to take better pictures and videos and Android phone classes. We do have Mac-related course currently. Also, the blogging course has always been well attended and most take away ample information and handouts to become active bloggers. The website provides a link to make suggestions or ideas of potential instructors.
- How do you build community within your program?
We began a partnership with First Coast YMCA more than a year ago to offer some of our classes at their locations. We are currently in six of their locations. YMCA members get a 20 percent discount on courses offered at the area’s YMCAs. The UNF Division of Continuing Education also just began a partnership with PAL (Police Athletic League). We have invited some of our instructors to attend monthly meetings and showcase their expertise to these young adults. Our first kick-off meeting was held Monday, Oct. 9 with Dr. Elaine Omann leading a painting demonstration to approximately 20 students.
- What is the fun part of your work? How do you spend your down time away from work?
In my free time I enjoy reading, walking, playing tennis, and spending time with my one-year-old Golden Retriever. I love the job and will continue until retirement.
The UNF Continuing Education Department operates out of Adam W. Herbert University Center, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224. For more information about any of the programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (904) 620-4200.
Photo courtesy Elaine Omann