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

Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech

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Be sure to register early for any of these fun learning opportunities that come as a benefit of LLI membership. Many events are free, but space is limited. Please register for special events using the form in the back of the catalog; or download a PDF (coming soon!). If you are confirmed for an event that requires a fee, you will be notified where to send your check. If you later discover that you cannot attend an event for which you have registered, please contact the LLI Office ( or 540-231-4364) so that someone else can use your place. There will be no refunds for fee-based events; however, you may find a substitute if you are unable to attend.

How to Register for Special Events
Register for special events using the form provided in the catalog (Check back.) or download a PDF (Check back.). There is no online registration for special events. LLI volunteers will handle special event registration. You must first register as a member (either online or by paper) to participate in Special Events. Follow the mailing instructions on the form. Many special events are free. If you are confirmed for any of the fee-based events, you will be notified where to send your check. Please do not send or deliver cash to Continuing and Professional Education. Special event payment instructions will follow confirmation of your reservation.

For questions concerning special event registration, please contact the LLI Registrar at 540-231-4364 or email

Sneak Peek!

Special Events registration form: lifelonglearningSpecialEvents.pdf

Special Events and Tours

8 Mondays, January 15 - March 5

Reel Talk: Mondays at the Lyric

Time: 12:15 - 1:00 p.m.
Location: The Lyric Theatre, 135 College Avenue, Blacksburg
Class Limit: None
Cost: Free for discussion; fee for movie admission

Presented in Partnership with the Lyric Theatre

Do you love going to the historic Lyric to see movies? Then this after-the-movie discussion group is just for you. Each Monday for eight weeks, anyone can gather after the 10:00 a.m. matinee for informal conversation about the week's movie. Attend any of the scheduled viewings and come to discuss any movie that interests you. This is Oscar season, so some contenders will be on the schedule. Register with LLI to receive email notifications (weekly start time may vary depending on movie length). Film conversations are open to anyone who wishes to participate, so bring a friend. Brown bag if you wish, or go out to eat afterwards with new friends.

Friday, February 2

Beth Macy Author Talk: Get Out of Your Zip Code

Time: 3:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

This special event is open to the public. LLI members are encouraged to register to assist us in planning, but guests are welcome and they need not register in advance.

Beth Macy is a Roanoke-based journalist and the author of two New York Times-bestselling books, Factory Man and Truevine. Her newspaper work, mostly over 25 years at The Roanoke Times, featured outsiders and underdogs and won more than a dozen awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard. Her forthcoming book, Dopesick, is a look at the opioid epidemic as it unfolded in three Virginia communities and will be published by Little, Brown & Company on Aug. 7, 2018.

In this talk, journalist Beth Macy will discuss the importance of storytelling (and readers! and librarians!) in building community across racial and socioeconomic lines. Copies of her books will be for sale, and the author will be available for signing.

Friday, February 9

Preparing Chinese Dim Sum

Time: 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Home of Instructor, 1002 Eheart Street, Blacksburg
Class Limit: 10
Cost: $20 includes lunch, payable by check to the instructor

DIm Sum is the food of Chinese Tea House lunches. The literal translation of Dim Sum is "dot heart" but the poetic meaning is "heart's delight." Dim Sum dishes are small items, mostly deep-fried, baked or steamed (but not restricted to these techniques); they are often served with sauces. In a restaurant setting, servers circulate with carts of small plates of single types of items of many sorts. Your bill depends on the number and size of the plates that your table takes. We will make a variety of dim sum dishes such as dumplings or pot stickers, steamed buns and deepfried tidbits (e.g. won tons), a total of about 10 dishes. Some can be made ahead. Recipes will be provided. We'll end the event with a delicious dim sum lunch.


Anne McNabb has been cooking Chinese Banquets since graduate school. She has 80 some Chinese cookbooks and has used them all to learn about making authentic foods from the many regions of Chinese cuisine.

Tuesday, February 13

Relationship Skills That Don't Get Old

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

What skills nurture a good relationship? The instructor, a family therapy educator for the past 42 years, will discuss what experts and research suggest. There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and active learning.


Fred Piercy is Professor Emeritus of Marriage and Family Therapy, Virginia Tech. Dr. Piercy's scholarship has involved family therapy education, family therapy of substance abuse, HIV social science research and prevention, qualitative research and evaluation, infidelity treatment, and couples enrichment. He is currently the editor of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the largest family therapy journal in the world.

Friday, February 23

Thinking Inside the Box: Using Modern Tools to Understand Jamestown's Past

Time: 10:00 - 11:15 a.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

In anticipation of the 400th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown, the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia launched an extensive archaeological assessment and research project to address the under-explored 17th century. Preservation Virginia initiated its Jamestown Rediscovery® project to search for the original 1607 fort, long thought lost to the James River.

Since 2010, the Jamestown Rediscovery team has discovered three of the top ten archaeology finds in the world as defined by Archaeology Magazine. These finds - evidence of cannibalism, the first protestant church, and four burials of the "founding fathers" of the colony - were all located within fifty feet of each other in the center of the 1607 James Fort.

This talk will highlight the advanced techniques, including digital modeling, radiographic, and isotopic information that aided in the identification and understanding of James Fort's colonists and their tumultuous early years.


David Givens is Senior Archaeologist with Jamestown Rediscovery. He has been a key member of the team, involved with the project since it launched in 2001. He had the distinct honor to find and excavate Rev. Robert Hunt and to travel around the country to research an object of national importance found in one of the chancel graves.

Tuesday, February 27

Hard-hitting Research That Has Revolutionized the Sports Helmet Industry

Time: 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

It kicked off with little more than two self-described sports nuts who had an idea, $50,000 in good-faith cash, and a cooperative future hall-of-fame college football coach. Fourteen years later, Virginia Tech research has revolutionized the sports helmet industry and is fostering safer athletic practice and coaching techniques to reduce head-related injuries, especially concussions.

Concussions and helmet safety weren't even on the research radar when Stefan Duma and Virginia Tech football team physician Gunnar Brolinson first hatched a plan to attach sensors to the heads of Virginia Tech football players to monitor the hits they took during practice and games.

Even as recently as the early 2000s, many considered concussion a "junk diagnosis." Today, however, multiple partners from Blacksburg to Roanoke and across the nation are focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries in youth and adults in sports ranging from football to men's and women's soccer. Continued Virginia Tech helmet testing is expected to result in the first-ever safety ratings for headgear in every helmeted sport around the globe. (This description is adapted from an article by Richard Lovegrove, Virginia Tech Magazine, Winter 2016-17; see the full article at


Stefan Duma is the Harry C. Wyatt Professor of Engineering and Interim Executive Director, Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. Duma's internationally renowned research on impact biomechanics has opened new frontiers in the understanding and prevention of head and eye injuries and driven the development of safer equipment for sports, defense, the automotive industry, and consumer products.

Friday, March 2

Genetic Testing: Benefits and Burdens

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Location: Corporate Research Center, 1880 Pratt Drive, Suite 2018
Class Limit: 36
Cost: Free

We are entering the new world of 21st century medicine - a world in which genetic testing will be a major tool at every stage in the life cycle. But genetic testing also presents us - as individuals and citizens - with some new and troubling issues. Through smallgroup discussion of real-life case studies, this session will explore the issues posed by genetic testing and seek ways to address them. Case studies will include prenatal testing, childhood testing, family and privacy concerns, and testing of currently healthy individuals to estimate their genetic risk for developing late-onset disorders such as breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


Doris Zallen is Professor Emerita in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. She is the author of two books on genetic testing: Does It Run in the Family? A Consumer's Guide to DNA Testing for Genetic Disorders and To Test or Not to Test: A Guide to Genetic Screening and Risk. She has served on federal panels charged with guiding the use of human genetic testing and genetherapy. Photo credit, John McCormick

Friday, March 2

Enjoy Free Movies, Music, eBooks, Audiobooks and More on Your Devices

Time: Two sessions:
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Apple Devices
2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Android Devices
Location: Blacksburg Library Community Room 200 Miller Street, Blacksburg
Class Limit: 10
Cost: Free

Enjoy Movies, Music, eBooks, Audiobooks and More on your Apple Devices (10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.) Bring your Apple device (such as an iPad, iPhone, iPod) and library experts will teach you how to watch movies, read eBooks, listen to audiobooks and music, and more, all for free from Hoopla and your Library. Your device will need to have at least iOS 9.3.5 to use the Hoopla app. Be sure you know the log-in details for the Apple iTunes store, or better yet, download the app in advance.

Enjoy Movies, Music, eBooks, Audiobooks and More on your Android Devices (2:00 - 4:00 p.m.) Bring your Android phone (such as a Samsung Galaxy, LG, Nexus) or tablet, and library experts will teach you how to watch movies, read eBooks, listen to audiobooks and music, and more, all for free from Hoopla and your Library. Your device will need to have at least Android 4.0 (Fire OS 5.0 for Kindle Fires) to use the Hoopla app. Be sure you know the log-in details for the Google Play store, or better yet, download the app in advance.

For both sessions: The library offers 'book-a-librarian' appointments for one-on-one learning if you need assistance in advance of the class with downloading Hoopla onto your device.

Tuesday, March 13

Opioid Epidemic? What Are the Facts?

Time: 3:15 - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

If America is facing an "opioid epidemic," why isn't evidence-based emergency, urgent, and routine medical care for opioid use disorder available in our town? Ask that question of lawmakers, judges, policymakers, public officials, journalists, treatment professionals, and society at large, and watch the spluttering begin. For no other health care condition is belief, opinion, and myth accepted as the standard of care. This presentation focuses on the latest addiction research, with a focus on opioid use disorder, challenging what society has to say about addicts with the available science.


Anne Giles, M.A., M.S., is an activist for evidence-informed addiction law and policy, and an advocate for, and practitioner of, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. She is a counselor, writer, business owner, and former teacher.

Monday, March 26

Aging in Place: Update and Workshop (repeat)

Time: 1:00 - 3:30 p.m.
Location: Corporate Research Center, 1880 Pratt Drive, Suite 2018
Class Limit: 25
Cost: $10 payable by check to AARP, instructions will be provided

This event will introduce participants to the Aging in Place initiative and to the issues and questions that all NRV residents should consider as they plan for aging in their homes and communities. After an overview, participants will complete a short workbook to help them think about future care and service needs as well as needed home modifications for ease of mobility. Participants will have the chance to share their own questions, comments, and challenges with their peers and Aging in Place team members, and to learn about resources in the area to effectively plan for the future.


The Aging in Place team, with representatives from ten area organizations, has taken the lead in implementing the vision for regional housing and services for seniors that emerged from the NRV Livability Initiative. The update and workshop will be presented by Jessica Wirgau and Kim Thurlow of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV) and other team members.

Thursday, March 29

St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall (repeat)

Time: 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Location: St. Luke & Odd Fellows Hall
Class Limit: 25
Cost: Free

Presented In partnership with the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation Once the center of a vibrant African-American community, the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall is the last remaining structure of what was called New Town. Built in 1905, the St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall served as a community center during segregation. Today, the Hall serves as a museum and regularly hosts events to preserve its important history. Meet and talk with former residents who share their personal and family stories of growing up in New Town during the era of segregation in Blacksburg.

Friday, March 30

Preview of Cosi Fan Tutte

Time: 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Location: P. Buckley Moss Gallery
223 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg
Parking available in the adjacent North End Center Garage
Class Limit: 35
Cost: Free

Join other opera aficionados and newcomers in a preview discussion of the Metropolitan Opera's HD live performance of Cosi Fan Tutte, which will be shown at the Regal Cinema on Saturday, March 31.


Christine Kiebuzinska is Professor Emerita of English at Virginia Tech. She taught modern drama for 30 years, but her passion for opera preceded her interest in theater. She saw La Traviata at age ten. Since then she has traveled to see operas at the Met, the Kennedy Center, and in Vienna, Berlin, Stuttgart, Zurich, Barcelona, and Covent Garden.

Saturday, April 7

Ballads and Ballad Books A Word and Music Performance by Sharyn McCrumb and Jack Hinshelwood

Time: 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Location: The Lyric Theatre, 135 College Avenue, Blacksburg
Class Limit: None
Cost: $5 payable at the door

Presented in Partnership with the Lyric Theatre

Take the writing of Sharyn McCrumb and the music of Jack Hinshelwood and combine them for an entertaining program highlighting the Ballad Novels of Appalachian novelist Sharyn McCrumb. This internationally acclaimed program brings together the ballads that are woven throughout Sharyn's novels with Jack performing the ballads as Sharyn reads and discusses her work. This program has been presented at various venues in the United States, Canada, and across Europe. Novels that are featured include If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, She Walks These Hills, The Rosewood Casket, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, The Songcatcher, Ghost Riders, and St. Dale. Sharyn will also discuss and do a book-signing for her new novel, The Unquiet Grave.


Prolific novelist Sharyn McCrumb is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She lives and works in the Virginia Blue Ridge. Her novels have been translated into eleven languages; she has lectured at Oxford University, the University of Bonn, and the Smithsonian Institution, and taught a writers workshop in Paris. Sharyn is the recipient of more than a dozen state, regional, and national awards.

Jack Hinshelwood is Executive Director of the Crooked Road, Virginia's Music Heritage Trail, based in Abingdon, Virginia. Under Jack's leadership, the Crooked Road generates over $9 million annually for Virginia's economy. Jack is an accomplished musician who began playing Appalachian and Bluegrass music in 1972. In 1982, he won the guitar championship at the World's Fair in Knoxville. Since 1994, Jack has been playing guitar and fiddle with the Celtibillies, a four-member group that has released three recordings. The group performed at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington.

Friday, April 6

Tour of Volvo Plant

Time: Plant tour 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Volvo Trucks North America
4881 Cougar Trail Rd, Dublin
Class Limit: 25
Cost: Free

Drive on own or car pool from Blacksburg Come enjoy a journey to Volvo Trucks' New River Valley Plant, located on 293 acres bordering Interstate 81 in Dublin, VA. There is a magic in seeing 2,600 workers assembling customized premier highway tractors. The plant is the exclusive producer of every Volvo truck sold in the North America market. The sprawling plant operates in 1.6 million square feet of manufacturing space. It produces and paints cabs, related fairings and accessories for the new Volvo VNL and VNR Series highway tractors and Volvo VHD™ trucks. Over 130 robots are used in the cab and paint facilities. Each unit is individually assembled based on that customer's specifications. The plant culture is one of applying lifelong learning through use of Volvo Production System practices and in a spirit of continuous improvements.

Participants must be able to walk and stand for up to two hours for this tour.

Friday, April 13

Tea Tasting for Beginners

Time: 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Historic Smithfield Plantation
Class Limit: 10
Cost: $10 payable to Smithfield Plantation

Learn to identify and describe tea aromas and flavors. Four very fine oolong teas will be sampled. These single-estate teas owe their unique qualities not only to the skills of the estate tea master but also to the surrounding terroir. Oolongs range from green to black depending on their oxidation level, and are known for their complexity.

Brewing techniques will be demonstrated and a chart of tea descriptors will be provided. Please remember to avoid wearing fragrances to better be able to experience the delicate aromas and flavors.

Register with LLI using the Special Event registration form in the catalog. Then mail your check to: Smithfield Plantation, 1000 Smithfield Plantation Road, Blacksburg, VA 24060. Include a notation on your check that it is for the LLI Tea Tasting on April 13. Questions about payment should be addressed to April Danner,, or 231-3947.


Filiz Buckley-Wheeler attended the UK Tea Academy in London last summer and is currently working towards tea certification at the sommelier level.

Craig County Barn Quilts for Books

Since 2014 Martha Dillard, a regional artist from Craig County, has painted over 110 richly patterned quilt squares, many with their own story of history surrounding the design choice. Approximately 40 are installed on buildings around Craig County. Other commissioned quilt squares are installed in Montgomery County and seven other states. Each square raised money for the volunteer-supported Craig County Public Library. LLI is hosting two separate special events to highlight this unique project 1) to introduce the artist and her work, and 2) to tour Craig County to see examples of barn quilts installed on buildings and barns and to have lunch at the historic Old Brick Hotel. Register for one or both events. Space on the bus tour is limited to 23 and requires payment to Blacksburg Parks and Recreation Department.

Watch for a new class to try painting your own barn quilt in Fall 2018!

Tuesday, April 17

Meet the Artist behind Barn Quilts for Books

Time: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Location: Warm Hearth Village Center
Class Limit: 75
Cost: Free

Artist Martha Dillard will provide some history on the Barn Quilts for Books project in Craig County that was featured in The Roanoke Times. She'll show images of some of the colorful barn quilts she has painted, and share stories of their design.

Tuesday, April 24

Bus Tour of Craig County Barn Quilts and Lunch at the Old Brick Hotel

Time: Depart 9:30 a.m. from the Blacksburg Community Center on Patrick Henry Drive.
Please arrive by 9:20 a.m.
We will return by 3:30 p.m.
Class Limit: 23
Cost: $30 includes transportation, tours and lunch, payable to Blacksburg Parks and Recreation

provided by Blacksburg Parks and Recreation and visit several examples of barn quilt art installed on barns and buildings. We will tour the three-story Old Brick Hotel in New Castle that was built in the 1840s and have a family-style luncheon presented by the Craig County Historical Society. The library and Emporium, a delightful shop in an historic building, are also worth a visit.

This is a rain or shine event. In addition to registering with LLI on the special event form in the catalog, you will need to pay by credit card for the bus tour through the Blacksburg Parks and Recreation Department; please call Joy Herbert at 540-443-1142.

Wednesday, April 18

Red Sun Farms and Pulaski Grow Field Trip

Time: Meet at 10:00 a.m., Inn at Virginia Tech parking lot Return approximately 3:00 p.m.
Location: Class Limit: 18
Cost: $15 payable by check to AARP, instructions will be provided

Van transportation provided

Calling all locavores! In this age of knowing where and how your food is produced, the New River Valley has many regional resources. Red Sun Farms in Dublin is the largest fully integrated high-tech greenhouse in North America to own and operate farms in all three NAFTA countries: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The operating philosophy of "From Our Seeds to Your Plate" closes the gap between grower, retailer, and consumer. Incorporating non-GMO seeds, yearround growing, and multiple distribution centers, Red Sun is able to minimize distance and time to deliver fresh, healthful produce. The acres under roof and the technical equipment for this huge operation will interest LLI members from both business and gardening points of view.

Lunch will be served at the Blue Door Restaurant at the Draper Mercantile. As a historic site and longstanding local tradition, the Draper Mercantile has been a gathering place for the community for over 125 years.

After lunch, we'll get a different take on fresh food at the smaller aquaponic operation, Pulaski Grow, in Draper. This business provides locally grown food to the community while preparing youth for the business world through intensive, hands-on job training. Aquaponics is a dual system that uses the water from raising fish to fertilize vegetables grown in a hydroponics structure. Outdoor operations are also available in the summer. All food produced is organic. Pulaski Grow operates as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Members buy a share or half-share at the beginning of the quarter and then pick up their produce once a week.

Van transportation will be provided. Wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes. You'll be provided with protective clothing at Red Sun Farms - to protect the plants and the greenhouse environment, not your clothes!

Monday, April 30

Beyond Conservation: A Trip to the Hahn Farm

Time: Meet at Blacksburg Community Center 1:00 p.m. Return approximately 3:30 p.m. Program at farm approximately 1:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Location: Hahn Farm, 2068 Lusters Gate Road, Blacksburg
Class Limit: 36
Cost: Free

Car pool or drive on your own

Presented in partnership with the New River Land Trust We'll travel to the Catawba Valley to visit this 600-acre farm protected with a conservation easement where efforts are underway to restore and enhance the habitat and conduct research. We'll learn about the working farm and its history, and discuss the research being done by Virginia Tech students and faculty and the habitat/wildlife restoration projects. Discover the variety of animals and plants found on the property, including rare and endangered species like the Roanoke logperch. Finally, tour the forest garden that owner Betty Hahn has planted on the property and enjoy the beautiful views of the farm.

Bring your camera if you like and sturdy shoes for standing and walking on uneven ground.

Car pool or drive on your own to the property.

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