Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech
  Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech

Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech

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Spring term begins the week of February 10, 2020.

Catalogs mail on January 6, 2020.

Registration opens on Thursday, January 16

  • Online registration opens at 7:00 a.m.
  • Walk-in registration opens at 9:00 a.m.

Most classes are 1 ½ hours, one day per week, for 3 to 6 weeks.

Preview Spring 2020 Offerings:

View Course Descriptions
- or -
Download an updated Catalog: LLIcatalogSpring2020.pdf

Also check our events page for information about scheduled upcoming events.

Asian couple looking at computer


Course Descriptions


February 17 - March 30, 2020

Personal Choices to Help Save the Planet

Time: Mondays, 9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 2, 16, 23, 30 (skip Mar. 9)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153.
Class Limit: 32.
Cost: $35
Course Coordinators: Janet Rankin and John Randolph

The goal of the series is to highlight and demonstrate the impact of personal choices that influence energy use, production of greenhouse gases, and climate change. Participants will understand multiple changes they can make that collectively, positively contribute to improving personal wellbeing and the health of the planet.

February 17. Clean Energy: Practical Means to Reduce Use and Generate Your Own Energy
John Randolph, Professor Emeritus, Urban Affairs and Planning, VT

February 24. Food: Choices That Promote Health for People and Planet
Vivica Kraak, Assistant Professor, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, VT

March 2. Sustainable Mobility: Moving to Active and Public Transportation
Janet Rankin, Professor Emerita, Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, VT

March 16. House Design: Lessons from FutureHAUS for Zero Net Energy Homes
Joe Wheeler, AIA, Professor of Architecture, Co-director, Center for Design Research, VT

March 23. Electric Vehicles: Economic and Environmental Benefits
David Roper, Professor Emeritus, Physics, VT

March 30. Community Choice: Translating Sustainability to Blacksburg
Carol Davis, Sustainability Manager, Town of Blacksburg

February 17 - March 23, 2020

Go with The Flow—Abstract Art

Time: Mondays, 10:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
Dates: 5 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 2, 16, 23 (skip Mar. 9)
Location: Blacksburg Community Center, Community Room
Class Limit: 15.
Cost: $35
Materials fee: $10
Instructor(s): Ruth Lefko

Learn how to create abstract art using a non-traditional, intuitive approach. Come prepared to make a mess, laugh with fellow classmates, and awaken your creative spirit. You will attempt several abstract approaches. No experience necessary.

Course motto: “Be brave enough to be bad at something new.” Jon Acuff


  • General use and set up of paint, brushes, and other supplies
  • Mark making tools and methods for creating textures
  • Analysis of works from various abstract artists


A list of supplies for participants to purchase will be distributed in advance or at the first class meeting; estimated cost: $60–75.

February 17 - March 30, 2020

TED Talks

Time: Mondays, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 2, 16, 23, 30 (skip Mar. 9)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 20
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Dean Spader

TED talks are short, well-prepared, understandable presentations by remarkable, innovative, articulate persons on over 2,500 topics in almost every area of life. We’ll watch and discuss three different talks in each class session, chosen initially by the instructor and then by volunteer class members who select a TED talk of interest to initiate discussion. TED talks broaden exposure to new ideas and initiatives, prompting lively conversation and debate.

Want to see what kinds of talks we might choose? Visit TED talks are designed to be "ideas worth spreading."

February 17 - March 30, 2020

Learn to be Happy - Practice the Science of Happiness

Time: Mondays, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 2, 16, 23, 30 (skip Mar. 9)
Location: Hillel at Virginia Tech
Class Limit: 16
Cost: $35
Materials fee: $10
Instructor(s): Vicky Dierckx

If you would ask people what they value the most in life, being happy would be on top of their list. The pursuit of happiness is not new, but only in the past two decades has the topic been studied scientifically. This course relies on the science of well-being and positive psychology and will provide you with the tools to lead a happier and more fulfilling life. Each session is a combination of theory, exercises, and discussion. Fun homework assignments will give you plenty of opportunities to further practice your new skills.

We’ll talk about what happiness is and why is it important; why family and friends are critical to happiness; how being kind helps both others and you; how simple gratitude can increase happiness; and how to be resilient when things go wrong.

February 17 - March 16, 2020

Beginning Appliqué for Quilting

Time: Mondays, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 9, 16 (skip Mar. 2)
Location: Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Hall.
Class Limit: 20
Cost: $35
Kit Fee: $20 payable to instructor
Instructor(s): Paula Golden

In this beginning appliqué for quilting class, you will learn to create a stylized image of the beautiful wildflower, Queen Anne’s Lace. Learn a variety of preparation steps as you appliqué 1/8” wide stems, “innie” and “outie” curves, as well as perfect circles. We’ll cover a variety of techniques such as using heat-proof template material and freezer paper, basting stitches, and blind appliqué stitch that will allow you to create beautiful appliquéd quilts. Kit Fee: $20.00 for fabric for 16" x 20" wall quilt and heatproof template material. Backing, binding, and batting are not included. The kit fee is payable to instructor at the first class.

Basic Sewing Kit (BSK): straight pins, sewing needles, 100% cotton thread to match appliqué motifs exactly (purchase after first class), seam ripper, band aides, pincushion, thimble, and scissors (fabric, paper, and snips).

February 24 - March 30, 2020

Haunted Hearts: Supernatural Fiction by American Women Writers

Time: Mondays, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Dates: 5 weeks: Feb. 24, Mar. 2, 16, 23, 30 (skip Mar. 9)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 25
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Ashley Reed

Americans have been telling each other ghost stories for as long as there has been an America, and women writers have emerged as masters of the genre. In this course we will read supernatural fiction by American women writers from the nineteenth century to the present. We will examine how women writers have marshaled their wit and ingenuity as well as their personal experiences to turn the home—woman’s traditional domain—into an uncanny and often terrifying place.

The first two sessions will be devoted to nineteenth century women writers like Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Edith Wharton, who wrote supernatural stories as a form of protest against women’s oppression. For our third session we will consider a single text, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a chilling haunted-house narrative by one of the twentieth century’s most gifted authors. The fourth and fifth sessions will examine how contemporary supernatural fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, Lisa Tuttle, and Tananarive Due responds to the unique terrors of modern life.

Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

February 17 - March 23, 2020

Appreciating Spanish Wine

Time: Mondays, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 17, 24, Mar. 2, 9, 16, 23
Location: Vintage Cellar, 1338 South Main St., Blacksburg
Class Limit: 25
Cost: $35
Wine fee: $100 payable to Vintage Cellar
Instructor(s): Randall Horst

Wines from major regions of Spain—Northwest Spain, the Mediterranean Coast, the Mountainous Pyrenees, the Ebro River Valley, and Duero River Valley—will be tasted. Both red and white wines from these regions will be featured including Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Cava, and Sherry. Grapes such as Albarino, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Mencia, and Verdejo will be included on the tasting menu.

Mail a separate check for the wine fee only ($100) to Vintage Cellar, 1338 South Main Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060. Note on your check that it is payment for the LLI Wine Appreciation course. Credit card payment also accepted in advance (call 540-953-2675) or at the first class session.

Register for Courses


February 18- March 31, 2020


Time: Tuesdays, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m.
Dates:6 weeks: Feb. 18, 25, Mar. 3, 10, 24, 31 (skip Mar. 17)
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: $35

Molly McClintock - See Instructors

This engaging sampler course treats participants to a wide range of speakers and topics—something different each week.

Feb. 18. The Life of Isaac Granger, A Slave of Thomas Jefferson
Larry Bechtel’s debut historical novel, A Partial Sun, the first book in a trilogy, grew out of a sculpture project on Thomas Jefferson. Isaac Granger was enslaved at Monticello and worked as a tinsmith, blacksmith, and nailer.
Larry Bechtel is an author and sculptor, happily retired from Virginia Tech, where he was first an instructor in the English Department and then Campus Recycling Coordinator.

Feb. 25. Exploring the Human/Animal Bond
Virginia Buechner-Maxwell will discuss her work with faculty across the Virginia Tech campus to explore the benefit of designing animal friendly spaces in the built environment, document the benefit of animal assisted therapies, and evaluate prison-based animal programs in the corrections system of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Virginia Buechner-Maxwell is Professor of Large Animal Internal Medicine, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and Director of the Center of Animals and Human Relationships

March 3. 40 Years on Photo-Journalism
Matt Gentry has worked in the newspaper industry in Virginia for 40 years. Gentry will share some of his photographs from over the last 40 years along with some news gathering backstories. He’ll also discuss his equipment and photographic strategies.
Matt Gentry is a Blacksburg native and staff photographer with the Roanoke Times.

March 10. The Evolution of Title IX in Intercollegiate Athletics
Bridgett Brugger-McSorley will discuss the history of Title IX and its initial impact within intercollegiate athletics. She will also talk about the evolution of sexual discrimination policy and gender equity compliance within modern day higher education.
Bridgett Brugger-McSorley is Associate Athletics Director, VT.

March 24. How Mung Beans Improve Lives of Women and Children in Senegal
Ozzie Abaye will discuss how the introduction of a new crop, mung beans, increased food security and decreased malnutrition in Senegal. Mung beans add to the dietary diversity of Senegal’s most vulnerable populations including women and children. Ozzie will share her many stories of work abroad.
Ozzie Abaye, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, VT, works to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in West Africa to combat hunger and poverty.

March 31. Frederick Douglass: An American Icon
Shortly after his escape from slavery, Frederick Douglass connected with the abolitionist movement, quickly becoming one of its most important leaders, writers, and orators. Until his death at age 77, this self-taught genius remained a tireless champion of human rights and of the most basic principle of our democracy, that we are all created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Jane Goette had known Frederick Douglass only as a famous black American until she found Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave on her daughter’s bookshelf. She couldn’t put it down. Later, her son gave her David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass. Her talk is an introduction to the founding father of post-slavery America.

February 11- March 3, 2020

Beginning Genealogy

Time: Tuesdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Feb. 11, 18, 25, Mar. 3
Location: Corporate Research Center, 1880 Pratt Dr., Suite 2018.
Class Limit: 20.
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Rebecca Novy

This course will introduce students to the fascinating hobby of genealogy. Topics include how to get started in genealogy, record types and how to use them, free and paid websites for online research, records available in local repositories, and problem-solving strategies. Each class will feature a 30 to 45-minute informational session followed by time to practice on your own laptop or tablet. Come ready to get started on your family history.

March 17-31, 2020

Who Gets Grandmother’s Yellow Pie Plate?

Time: Tuesdays, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Dates: 3 weeks: Mar. 17, 24, 31
Location: Hillel at Virginia Tech
Class Limit: 15
Cost: $35
Materials fee: $13 payable to VCE Floyd at first class session
Instructor(s): Dawn Barnes

This course addresses the decisions centered around transferring non-titled personal property. Whether planning ahead or making decisions when someone dies, this program will help you and your family members recognize the sensitivity of the issue, determine what you want to accomplish, decide what is fair for your family, understand that belongings have different meanings to individuals, and consider distribution options and consequences. We’ll use a workbook to guide our conversations.

February 18- March 31, 2020

Mindfulness Practice: Awareness and Compassion in Daily Life

Time: Tuesdays, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 18, 25, Mar. 3, 10, 24, 31 (skip Mar. 17)
Location: Corporate Research Center, 1880 Pratt Dr., Suite 2018.
Class Limit: 20
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Pat Shoemaker

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”

Mindfulness is an effective tool for being fully present in the moment, and thus present for our life. This class will explore how this simple (but not easy!) approach to daily life can help us better understand and care for ourselves, others, and the world. Research demonstrates mindfulness can promote inner ease and physical and mental wellbeing and healthy, authentic relationships. When we are well, our communities thrive.

The class is designed for those newly interested in mindfulness and for more experienced practitioners to deepen their practice. Each 90-minute class meeting will include alternating sessions of 5–20-minute introductory talks following by 5–15 minutes of practice, integrated with small group discussions.

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2012). ISBN 978-1604077742

February 18- March 10, 2020

Harry Potter Transitions to Young Adulthood

Time: Tuesdays, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Feb. 18, 25, Mar. 3, 10
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 25.
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Kaye Graham

Between 1997 and 2007, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series came out in print, breaking virtually all international records for press runs and sales. Now, when a certain amount of the magic dust has settled, seems a perfect time to assess the popularity of these novels. “Harry Potter’s Transition” will analyze the popularity of books four and five in the series. We cannot definitively call them children’s literature as the characters enter the throes of adolescence and deal with various personal crises as well as wider issues of political concern. What are the hallmarks of young adult literature and the coming-of-age story?

“Harry Potter’s Transition” will look at the middle two novels in the series. Session 1 will include an introduction, and we will begin looking at Goblet of Fire and the genre of the sports story. The following three sessions will conclude Goblet of Fire and discuss Order of the Phoenix as a coming-of-age novel. We will think about age appropriateness as the novels deal with death by violence, emerging sexuality and gender roles, anger and rebellion, and race and class.

J. K. Rowling,

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (please read half before the first class meeting)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Register for Courses


February 19 - April 1, 2020

Moby-Dick—An Unconventional Classic

Time: Wednesdays, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 19, 26, Mar. 4, 18, 25, Apr. 1 (skip Mar. 11)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 155
Class Limit: 15.
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Jeff Saperstein

A 600-page prose poem, Moby-Dick is an unconventional, multi-leveled work: part quest narrative, part philosophical inquiry, part documentary of 19th-century whaling, part Shakespearean drama, with a healthy dose of cultural commentary as well as an undercurrent of sly, often bawdy, humor.

The course will explore this rich novel in the context of Melville’s life and career as well as its relevance today. Class members will be expected to select specific passages from the weekly assignment for close reading and discussion.


  1. Loomings (ch. 1): The Moby-Dick marathon, Melville as sailor and author
  2. Initiation (ch. 2–23): whaling culture, Ishmael- Queequeg, Melville’s humor
  3. Enter Ahab (ch. 24–50): Ahab and Shakespeare, problematic structure
  4. From blubber to poetry (ch. 51–80): the art of juxtaposition, processing the whale
  5. Metaphors and Found Poems (ch. 81–110): Pip, gams, squeezing sperm
  6. Chasing the Whale, chasing Melville (ch. 111–end): overall experience and assessment, further readings

Moby-Dick, Penguin Classics edition (ISBN 978- 0142437247), introduction by Delbanco. Any unabridged edition is fine. Please read chapter 1 (“Loomings”) for the first class meeting and bring the text to class.

February 12 - April 1, 2020

Great Decisions

Time: Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 8 weeks: Feb. 12, 19, 26, Mar. 4, 11, 18, 25, Apr. 1
Location: German Club Manor
Class Limit: 200
Cost: $35
Course Coordinator: Tamara Hodsden

Great Decisions is a community discussion program on world affairs. The Foreign Policy Association develops background information and policy options for eight critical issues facing the United States and provides text and videos for discussion groups across the country. Participants prepare for class by reading a 10-page overview for each topic in a Briefing Book. Each meeting begins with a 30-minute video with information on the issues. A local resource person who is expert on the week’s topic provides additional information and guides discussion.


Feb. 12. Artificial Intelligence and Data
Sylvester Johnson, Director, VT Center for Humanities
The EU, Brazil, and other Western countries have adopted regulations that grant users greater control over their data and require that firms using AI be transparent about how they use it. Will the U.S. follow suit?

Feb. 19. Climate Change and the Global Order
Anamaria Bukvic, Assistant Professor of Geography, VT
While much of the world has banded together to come up with a plan to address climate change, the U.S. remains a holdout. What impact will the effects of climate change have on global geopolitics?

Feb. 26. India and Pakistan
Priya Dixit, Associate Professor of Political Science, VT
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status granted to the Kashmir region, inflaming the rivalry between India and Pakistan. How will the Kashmir situation affect the region, both economically and politically?

March 4. U.S. Relations with the Northern Triangle
Ilja Luciak, Professor of Political Science, VT
The Trump administration holds the Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) responsible for the flow of migrants from Latin America to the U.S. With funds from the U.S. cut, how can the Northern Triangle countries curtail migration?

March 11. Red Sea Security
Bill Ochsenwald, Professor Emeritus of History, VT
The Red Sea sees millions of barrels of oil a day transported across its waters, and major nations have built large ports and bases in the region. How important is Red Sea security for global security? Can the region be a place of global cooperation?

March 18. China’s Road into Latin America
Paige Tan, Professor of Political Science, Radford University
As the Trump administration withdraws from the world stage, China is looking to fill the void. How does Latin America fit into China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan? Should the U.S. be concerned about China’s growing “sphere of influence”?

March 25. Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
Iuliia Hoban, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, Radford University
What is the international community doing to combat slavery and trafficking? What are the experiences like for those being trafficked?

April 1. The Philippines
Tay Keong Tan, Director of International Studies, Radford University
Since the election of Rodrigo Duterte, The Philippines has pivoted toward China and away from the U.S. Duterte has also launched a largescale war on drugs that many criticize for its brutality. What does the future hold for U.S, relations with the Philippines?

Great Decisions Briefing Book, available for purchase at Volume II Bookstore or in the Blacksburg Public Library for in-library use.

February 19 - March 11, 2020

Mah Jongg, A Great Way to Exercise Your Brain

Time: Wednesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Feb. 19, 26, Mar. 4, 11
Location: Blacksburg Community Center, Game Room
Class Limit: 16
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Janet Sawyers

Mah Jongg is a rummy-like game played with tiles rather than cards. The excitement of Mah Jongg lies in the decisions that you will constantly have to make. It is a game of both skill and luck. Mah Jongg is declared by the first player to match 14 tiles to a hand on an official card of standard hands.

The four-week class will begin by introducing you to the tiles, the initial tile-passing sequence, and the rules for the play of the game. You will be playing hands in each class, and experienced players will be available to assist you. Strategies will be introduced as you become more familiar with the game. The class requires no previous knowledge of the game.

February 19 - April 1, 2020

Italian for Beginners/Travelers

Time: Wednesdays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 19, 26, Mar. 4, 18, 25, Apr. 1 (skip Mar. 11)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 155
Class Limit: 12
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): June Stubbs

This course is an introduction to speaking and understanding the Italian language with an emphasis on cultural and artistic traditions so important to the traveler to this magnificent country. Always wanted to learn Italian? Plan to travel to Italy? Come join us as we begin this memorable journey. Andiamo!

This class repeats the one offered in Fall 2019.

February 19 - April 1, 2020

“Seeing the Real You at Last”: The Many Faces of Bob Dylan

Time: Wednesdays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 19, 26, Mar. 4, 18, 25, Apr. 1 (skip Mar. 11)
Location: Hillel at Virginia Tech
Class Limit: 25
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Joe Scallorns

Since his debut in 1962, Bob Dylan has released 38 studio albums, published several books of drawings and paintings as well as an award-winning autobiography, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize in Literature—not bad for a small town Minnesotan who once proclaimed himself “more as a song and dance man.”

For all of his output, Dylan nevertheless is the most enigmatic of icons. So, in this course we will explore the many phases of Mr. Zimmerman’s long career. Along the way, we’ll analyze Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles: Volume 1, as well as several of his major recordings. We’ll also examine concert footage, interview excerpts, and critical essays.


  1. “Don’t Criticize What You Can’t Understand”: Dylan the Folk Artist
  2. “Play It F**kin’ Loud”: Dylan Goes Electric
  3. “Images and Distorted Facts”: Dylan in the Seventies
  4. “Have You Seen Dignity?” Dylan in the Eighties and Nineties
  5. “A Song Is Like a Dream”: Dylan the Biographer and His Never Ending Tour
  6. Screening of Todd Haynes’ 2007 film I’m Not There

February 12 - March 4, 2020

The Science of Sport

Time: Wednesdays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Feb. 12, 19, 26, Mar. 4
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 25
Cost: $35

Janet Rankin - See Instructors

The course features members of the Virginia Tech Athletic Department staff or academic faculty at Virginia Tech who work with athletes, from various perspectives, to maximize their health and performance. The series emphasizes the team approach to the science-based care of athletes.

February 12. Nutrition: Value for Performance and Health of Athletes
Jennie Zabinsky, Associate Athletic Director, Sports Nutrition, VT

February 19. Psychological Nurturing of Athletes and Impact on Performance
Paul Knackstedt, Staff Clinician, Sports Psychology, VT

February 26. Strength and Conditioning Training for Athletic Performance
Greg Werner, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Women’s Basketball, VT

March 4. Hastening Recovery from Injury in Athletes
Robin Queen, Director, Granata Biomechanics Lab, VT


February 20 - April 2, 2020

Case Studies in Criminal Justice

Time: Thursdays, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 20, 27, Mar. 5, 19, 26, Apr. 2 (skip Mar 12)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 155
Class Limit: 16
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Jack Call

Two HBO documentaries focus on cases that raise questions about the operation of the American criminal justice system. “Paradise Lost” follows the West Memphis 3 case at three different stages of the case’s progress. (Total run time is 6 hours, 40 minutes.) The West Memphis 3 were teenagers convicted of the brutal murder of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. “I Love You, Now Die” chronicles the prosecution and defense of Michele Carter, a teenager who was convicted of manslaughter in the suicide death of her boyfriend. (Total run time is 2 hours, 23 minutes.) Students will watch the episodes at home and discuss them in class.

Students must have access to HBO GO. Temporary, free trial subscriptions to HBO are frequently available.


  • The role of the police in investigating crimes
  • Prosecutorial ethics in the prosecution of crimes
  • The role of defense counsel in criminal cases
  • Criminal responsibility in suicide cases
  • The ability of the media to influence public perceptions of justice

February 20 - April 2, 2020

Exploring Oil Painting

Time: Thursdays, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 20, 27, Mar. 5, 19, 26, Apr. 2 (skip Mar 12)
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center, Woodland Studio
Class Limit: 12
Cost: $35
Materials fee: $10
Instructor(s): Lois Stephens

The first class will include discussions of materials and goals followed by a painting demonstration. Students will choose their subjects and spend the remaining sessions working on their paintings. The class is geared for beginning as well as intermediate painters. Curriculum may be adjusted based on goals and experience of students.


  • Tools and painting surfaces
  • Color—mixing/temperatures/relationships
  • Tonal value/contrast/edges
  • Design/composition/visual energy
  • Goals—imitative or creative

Students will provide their own oil paints, brushes, painting surfaces, and easels. A list of specific supplies will be provided; cost will depend on quality.

March 5- 26, 2020

Preparing Chinese and Japanese Dishes at Home

Time: Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Dates: 4 weeks: Mar. 5, 12, 19, 26
Location: Home of instructor, 1905 Forest Lane, Blacksburg.
Class Limit: 12
Cost: $35
Supplies fee: $35
Instructor(s): Joe Ivers

Over the four classes we will prepare foods of Japan and the various regions of China, including many of the meat, vegetable, and fish dishes of Peking, Sichuan, and Hunan. The class will learn the shallow fry, stir fry, curing, and stewing methods of cooking as well as other methods.

In each session we will prepare several dishes and end the morning with a 3- or 4-course lunch of the dishes the students prepared.

February 27 - March 26, 2020

Beginner Ukulele

Time: Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 5 weeks: Feb. 27, Mar. 5, 12, 19, 26
Location: Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Westminster Room
Class Limit: 15
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Derry Hutt

In this introductory course for beginner ukulele players, we will cover the basic parts of the instrument, tuning, holding hand positions, and strumming technique. Each session we will build on a repertoire of chords to begin playing familiar songs. The class will be exposed to the music notation in ukulele sheet music. We will learn several strum patterns for different styles of music. Of course, there will be things to practice (homework the dog will love but can’t eat).

Playable ukulele
Tuner (snark or other clip-on style)

February 13 - 27, 2020

How to Eat to Live to 100

Time: Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 3 weeks: Feb. 13, 20, 27
Location: Blacksburg Presbyterian Church
Class Limit: 15
Cost: $35
Food fee: $10
Instructor(s): Gordon Yee
Anna Hower

It can be difficult to know how to eat well given that a new diet craze seems to emerge each week. Scientists and doctors have advice that is increasingly consistent and is summarized quite nicely by Michael Pollan: “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” In this class, we will explain why this is good advice and demonstrate that adding vegan and vegetarian meals to your regular rotation is economical, healthy, convenient, better for the environment, and delicious. Each week, we will talk about nutrition, including why needing to eat meat for protein is a myth. Then we will move to the kitchen to learn how to prepare food using whole ingredients and to eat good food.

February 20 - April 2, 2020

Modern Africa: Challenges of Nation Building

Time: Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 20, 27, Mar. 5, 19, 26, Apr 2 (skip Mar 12)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 30
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Josiah Tlou
Joseph Mukuni

A general misconception of Africa is that this huge continent is one country. This course explores European imperialism and colonization 1885–1975 and division into European spheres of influence following the Berlin Conference (1884–1885). It also explores the African quest for independence and nation building in the 1950s and 1960s and the quest for African unity and regional integration. Participants will learn about the unique cultures, histories, geography, and political development of African countries and Africa’s development agenda in education and economics.


  1. Geography, history, political and cultural heritage, precolonial period
  2. Partitioning of Africa—the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885)
  3. Colonial rule 1885 – 1975; quest for independence 1950s – 1960s
  4. The quest for nation building and African unity and Africa’s role at the United Nations
  5. Challenges of achieving African unity through regional integration
  6. Political agenda for development in education and economics to achieve unity

February 13 - 27, 2020

Short Stories that Stick

Time: Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Dates: 5 weeks: Mar. 5, 12, 19, 26, Apr. 2
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 155
Class Limit: 15
Cost: $35
Instructor(s): Jane Goette
Molly McClintock

If a novel is a marriage, then a short story is a love affair. – Lorrie Moore

Instructors will share short stories selected for their artistry, ideas, and likelihood to spark discussion. Participants will be invited to select stories and lead discussions as well. Jane and Molly will use stories available online or make copies for participants in this interactive exploration of the power of short stories and the camaraderie created through conversation.

February 13 - March 26, 2020

Fear and Loathing in the Grocery Store

Time: Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 13, 20, 27, Mar. 5, 19, 26 (skip Mar. 12)
Location: VT Public Safety Building, Room 153
Class Limit: 20
Cost: $35

Elizabeth Grabau and Richard Veilleux

Have you ever wondered how new crop varieties are developed and appear on grocery shelves? Have you heard about “GMOs” (Genetically Modified Organisms) and asked what the controversy is all about? Are we eating gene-edited products? Is this of concern or is it a complex subject without a single answer to the question? This course will provide an overview of crop improvement by traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering technologies. Examples of agricultural and consumer traits will be discussed along with regulatory oversight, food safety, and consumer acceptance.


Feb. 13. Improving foods we eat: Traditional plant breeding. How do crop varieties come from wild, weedy species to juicy, succulent fruits and vegetables, amber waves of grain, or double-flowered ornamentals? What are the building blocks of modern plant breeding? Is there anything special about heirloom varieties? What are the advantages of hybrid varieties? Should we panic about GMOs?
Richard Veilleux, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture at Virginia Tech

Feb. 20. GMOs and plant genetic engineering: Fact and fiction. What are the basics of genetic engineering for crop improvement? How safe are GMO crops to eat? What are common fears and misconceptions about genetic engineering technologies? What are potential risks involved in the use of GMOs? Elizabeth Grabau, Professor Emerita of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science, VT

Feb. 27. Case studies: Resistance to disease, pests and herbicides. How is food production affected by microorganisms, insects, and other pests? Why are pathogens so good at defeating the strategies that we use to reduce disease losses? What are we learning about the molecular weapons that these organisms use to exploit plants as food and shelter, and how are the plants fighting back? Can we leverage this understanding to develop new approaches for disease control?
John McDowell, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, VT

March 5. New technologies in crop improvement: Gene editing. What are gene-edited crops and how are they different from traditional GMO crops? How was gene-editing technology developed? How does CRISPR work? How is gene editing used to improve crop traits?
Bas Bargmann, Assistant Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, VT

March 19. Genomics and applications to plant improvement. What is genomics? What ‘tools’ are used in genomic approaches? How can genomic findings be applied to plant improvement?
David Haak, Assistant Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, VT

March 26. Should I eat that? Food safety issues in the 21st century. E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria are becoming common terms in the national news. Why do foodborne outbreaks and recalls of foods seem to be more common? How worried should we be about the foods that we eat? This session will introduce some of the common foodborne pathogens, where they come from, how they contaminate our foods, and if there is anything that we can do about it.
Renee Boyer, Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Food Science & Technology, VT

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February 28 - March 27, 2020

Expressive Faces and Figures

Time: Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Dates: 5 weeks: Feb. 28, Mar. 6, 13, 20, 27
Location: Blacksburg Community Center, Community Room
Class Limit: 15
Cost: $35
Materials fee: $35
Instructor(s): Jesi Pace-Berkeley

Our focus will be to creatively explore a few of my personal guidelines regarding capturing the human form in a watercolor painting. My goal centers around helping artists perfect their own personal style to develop a mood or concept when the painting subject revolves around figure. We will consider:

  • Gesture: capturing your subject’s personality
  • Lighting, props, cast shadow: simplifying and design your composition
  • Eyes, nose, ears, and mouth: positioning and sizing, facial features
  • Portraiture: it is all about shape, value, color and edge— and drawing
  • Techniques: wet on wet, lifting, blotting, dry brush, paper doll/ silhouette, underpainting, glazing
  • Color: painting accurate skin tones with a limited palette

A list of supplies will be distributed in advance or at the first class meeting.

February 21 - March 27, 2020

The American Civil War: Causes, Course, and Consequences

Time: Fridays, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Dates: 6 weeks: Feb. 21, 28, Mar. 6, 13, 20, 27
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: $35
See Instructors:

Paul Quigley

The Civil War fundamentally transformed the United States, ending slavery and consolidating the power of the U.S. government at home and abroad. Its legacies continue to shape the country we live in today. This course will provide you with new insights into the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War, addressing questions such as why the basic difference over slavery led to conflict; what motivated different individuals to take part; how military tactics evolved; how the Lincoln administration shifted from a war to preserve the Union to a war that would also end slavery; and how the longterm consequences of Union victory and emancipation have shaped the United States over the last 150 years. The course is organized by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, and will be delivered by a team of local historians and Virginia Tech faculty.


Feb. 21 – Causes
Jack Davis, Prolific author and retired professor, VT

Feb. 28 – Military Affairs
Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, VT

March 6 – The Homefront
Taulby Edmondson, History instructor, VT

March 13 - The War in Southwest Virginia
April Martin, Education Director at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum

March 20 - African American Experiences
Dan Thorp, Associate Professor of History, VT

March 27 – Consequences
Melinda Miller, Assistant Professor of Economics, VT

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