Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech


Spring 2022 courses are both online and in-person. You must be a currently enrolled member to register for courses.

Week of January 17 - Mail date for summary flyer with the weekly course schedule and basic registration information. Keep this on hand so you can follow along during the Preview and circle the classes you may be interested in.

February 2 - Preview of Spring program is on Zoom
Webinar link:
Program: 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

February 21 - Classes begin.

painting class


1. Beyond the Basics: Next Steps in Genealogy Research

TIME: 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 14, 21, 28, Apr 4
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

This course will allow students to dig deeper into the fascinating hobby of genealogy. Topics include using probate and land records, researching immigrant ancestors, and using historic newspapers. Students will learn to access a variety of records both in-person and online with free and paid websites. Each class will feature a 45-60-minute presentation followed by time to practice on your own laptop or tablet. Come ready to learn more about your family history! Participants should have some basic knowledge of genealogy research whether they have taken an introductory class or are self-taught.


  • Land Records
  • Probate Records
  • Researching immigrant ancestors
  • Using historic newspapers

Rebecca Novy is a professional genealogist with over 25 years of genealogy experience. She has previously taught introductory genealogy classes through LLI and a number of other genealogy classes through the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library.

2. Exploring Oil Painting

TIME: 9:00 – 11:30 a.m.
FEES: Course fee: $35, Materials fee: $20
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 14, 21, 28
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Woodland Studio

With a no-fear approach, students will be encouraged to explore the many forgiving qualities of oil paints. Various materials and tools will be covered, including working with palette knives and incorporating cold wax for surprising effects. 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

Lois Stephens has a passion for painting in oils and enjoys helping others explore this rich medium. She currently maintains a studio in the Newport Community Center and her work can be viewed online at

3. Paint Your Own Barn Quilt

TIME: 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
FEES: Course fee: $35, Materials fee: $25
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 7, 14, 21, 28, Apr 4
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Center, Art Room

This hands-on class guides participants in the creation of a barn quilt suitable for display on a house, garage, or other exterior surface. Class members measure, draw, and paint a barn quilt on an aluminum board using semi-gloss enamel paint. Along the way, they are introduced to color theory and coached in techniques for painting and measuring. Class instruction is based on the Indian Star pattern, but variations in this basic design and individualized color choices make each barn quilt unique.


  • 1st session: Discuss barn quilts, color theory, learn measuring and plan a design. Prepare a board.
  • 2nd session: Draw design of quilt on board, discuss taping. Some will start painting.
  • 3rd session: Continue taping and painting.
  • 4th session: Continue taping and painting.
  • 5th session: Put finishing touches on quilt. Take photo of class and quilts, View other quilt possibilities.

Joe Ivers is a lifelong educator (40 plus years). After retirement he became an eight-year Montgomery County School Board member. After taking the Barn Quilt class, he continued to paint thirteen more quilts, several being his own patterns.

4. The Roots of Southern Appalachian Music

This course has been cancelled.

TIME: 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: March 7, 14, 21, 28, April 4
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

In this course we will explore the roots that gave rise to the music one can hear performed around the region today. We will study the Appalachian region, a mountain/valley landscape covering a significant part of 13 states ranging from southern New York to northern Alabama and Mississippi, and learn about the Early European settlers in the region, mainly Scots-Irish and German, who brought their instruments and musical traditions with them. We’ll see how music from various regions seeped into the Appalachians over the years and how new forms are still evolving. Participants will have the opportunity each class meeting to experience this music as well as to discover its historical contexts.

5. Armchair Journeys

TIME: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 14

Coordinator: Molly McClintock

Travel along (virtually) on fascinating trips across the country and around the globe. Speakers will share their adventures along with photos/videos enhancing their stories. Participants are invited to join along with questions and comments.

February 21. South Africa’s Many Faces: Two Tales of Different Adventures
George Tatum will share the story of his month in a village tucked away in the mountains of Kwa-Zulu Nata followed by Molly McClintock’s remembrance of her visit to Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former prison of Nelson Mandela.

February 28. Biking Around the North Sea
Carolyn McClintock and her partner bicycled the perimeter of the North Sea, traveling through the UK, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France over three months. She will share how they planned and executed this 3,500-mile trip and the amazing people and sights they encountered along the way.

March 7. Festivals, Food, and Fun in Spain: Exploring Valencia and its Environs
Jim Bohland will share his travels in Spain, particularly the city of Valencia and several of the small towns around it. Since Spain is known to be a nation of celebrations, the talk will feature several of the more prominent festivals in the region. What is Spain without food and wine? We will experience, visually, some of the culinary treats in the region, so that you will be prepared for your own journey there.

March 14. Antarctic Peninsula
Susan and Bill Baker, veterans of numerous Road Scholar trips, experienced nature in its purest form on a recent expedition to the beaches, glaciers, and islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. Come and be inspired by the power and beauty of this destination.

6. Taste of Technology

FEE: $35
DATES/TIMES: 3 weeks: FRIDAY, Mar 18 from 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
MONDAYS, Mar 21, 28 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

Coordinators: Diana George, Sandy Hagman, Carolyn Meier

Taste of Technology addresses technology issues, gadgets, and trends and their effective use by seniors. This semester’s speakers will offer their expertise on Password Managers and CyberSecurity, Solar Energy Basics, and Tech Tools for Avid Readers.

March 18: Password Managers and CyberSecurity – Heather Moorefield Lang and Jeff Lang will talk with us about using Password Managers and how to be safe online. Are we really as safe as we think?
Dr. Heather Morefield-Lang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Studies at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Dr. Moorefield-Lang has long been interested in how technologies can enhance instruction in libraries and classrooms; her current research focuses on makerspaces in libraries and educational settings of all types.

March 21: Solar Energy Basics - Are you curious about solar energy and wondering whether it would be a good fit for your home? What are the considerations, costs, and benefits of solar energy and the realities of battery backup? Bryan Walsh will share an overview of current technology and answer any questions you may have.
Bryan Walsh, owner of Solar Connexion, has been installing solar energy systems for nearly three decades.

March 28: Tech Tools for Avid Readers – Are you a voracious reader? Looking for an author’s backlist? Want to track what you read? Grab daily deals on eBooks or order a stash of discounted hardbacks or paperbacks? Join a group discussion of your favorite author or genre? Then join Sandy Hagman for a discussion of websites, newsletters, and more that allow you to immerse yourself in books.
Sandy Hagman is a retired Professional Writer and Technology Trainer. She enjoys reading all types of fiction and non-fiction. Because she is such an avid reader, she enjoys exploring the electronic book world as well as more traditional methods. One can never have too many books or too long a reading wish list.

7. Infections, Vaccination, and Immunity

TIME: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 28, Mar 7, 14, 21, 28
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Room and on Zoom

The course will explore how humans and other animals become resistant (immune) to infections by microbes and how we can induce and enhance this resistance to make it last a long time. Typical COVID-19 infection and vaccination situations will be used to illustrate the concepts. Although the immune response is designed to control and eliminate microbial invaders, it can sometimes lead to undesirable effects like autoimmunity and allergy. Some explanations and discussion on these negative conditions and their relationship to vaccination will be included. The course assumes little or no background in Microbiology or Immunology.


  • Overview of the immune system; the organs which make up the immune system and the cells which are essential for immunity to develop after infection or vaccination.
  • How long does it take to become “immune” to a disease, and how long does protection last? Does age affect these dynamics?
  • How can our immune response to microbes actually protect us from infection and/or disease? How can we protect ourselves from misinformation regarding vaccines?
  • An immune response going awry? Basic concepts of allergies and autoimmunity.

Gerhardt Schurig was a faculty member at Virginia Tech’s College of Veterinary Medicine for 40 years and served as its dean for 10 years. His research at VT was focused on immunology and the development of vaccines.

8. Appreciating Wines from Oregon and Washington

TIME: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
FEES: $35
Wine fee: $125. Pay the wine fee directly to Vintage Cellar by check or credit card. Look for instructions after enrollment.
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 21, 28, Mar 7, 14, 21, 28
LOCATION: Vintage Cellar, 1338 S. Main St., Blacksburg

Oregon is famous for its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines, and they will be featured from various regions of the state. Washington is home to wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah wines. A broad spectrum of wines from both states will be included in this term’s tasting experiences.

Randall Horst has served as wine buyer at the Vintage Cellar for 25+ years. He has taught an LLI wine appreciation course since 2016.


9. Sampler

TIME: 9:00 – 10:15 a.m.
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited enrollment
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 22, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Coordinator: Molly McClintock

This engaging sampler course treats participants to a wide range of speakers and topics—something different each week. Following the Zoom presentation, the speaker will respond to questions submitted by participants in the Q&A feature of Zoom.

February 22: Expedition to Patagonia, Chile: Glaciers and Climate Change
In 2019, students and faculty from Radford University trekked to the Northern Patagonian Ice Field in southern Chile. This presentation will follow the 10-day trip from beginning to end as students analyzed glacial ice loss due to warming climate, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and preservation of glacially fed rivers, and discovered the joys of the mate tea ritual around the campfire.
Beth McClellan is a professor in the geology department at Radford University.

March 1: Oral Traditions in Appalachian Folk Culture
This session will include lecture, examples, and discussion of our region’s oral folklore, including vocabulary, dialect, proverbs, riddles, jokes, folk tales, and folk legends. The program will conclude with a few traditional folk songs.
Ricky Cox retired from Radford University after 30 years of teaching English and Appalachian Studies. He is a co-editor of A Handbook to Appalachia: An Introduction to the Region (2006) and co-author, with the late Frank Webb, of The Water-Powered Mills of Floyd County, VA: Illustrated Histories, 1770–2010.

March 8: Chocolate Key Cryptography—A Delicious Way to Send Secret Messages
Cryptography requires a scrambled message and a key. Public key cryptographic systems are not secretive but are easy to learn, fun, interactive, and delicious.
Bud Brown joined the math faculty at Virginia Tech in 1969 and retired in 2017 as Alumni Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. His research has been in number theory (the study of numbers and number patterns) and its applications (including the creation of public key cryptography).

March 15: Bear Home Movies
As part of a larger project studying carnivores in the Appalachians of Virginia, Dr. Marcella Kelly placed GPS collars mounted with video cameras on black bears in our region. She will share what the team learned about bear diets, and predation and other bear behaviors. Travel along with a bear or two and see how they spend their days.
Marcella Kelly is a professor in the department of fish and wildlife conservation at VT. In addition to bears, her work focuses on coyotes in Virginia and jaguars in Belize.

March 22: Settling Refugees: The Blacksburg Experience
Beginning in 2016, a group of volunteers began inviting refugees to settle in Blacksburg. This involved coordinating volunteers and funding to provide housing, education, transportation, health care, and so much more. To date, ten families have re-settled into our community. Scott will share their stories and the story of the local refugee group.
Scott Bailey is a professor in the department of computer and electrical engineering at VT. He helped found the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership in 2016 and continues to lead its efforts.

March 29: Inside/Outside Art
Charlie Brouwer has been making and exhibiting art for over 50 years—indoor and outdoor sculptures, drawings, large scale installations, and projects. He’ll show and tell about his lifelong wandering search for beauty, truth, and goodness.

10. Foundations of Financial Literacy

TIME: 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Mar 1, 8, 15

This course seeks to help students gain a strong understanding of the basics of investing, develop a stronger understanding of their own financial situation, and enable them to communicate at a higher level with financial professionals on advanced topics that impact them. During the first week, we will go over basic concepts such as how to read an investment statement and recognize the fees you are paying. In the second and third classes, we discuss more advanced topics including asset allocation strategies, charitable giving, and transferring wealth to your children.


  • Understanding basic financial terminology
  • How to read your investment statement
  • How to recognize hidden fees you might be paying and the impact they have
  • What to look for and what to avoid when working with a financial professional

Paul French, CFS, is a co-founder of Plott & French Financial Advisors. He has broad international experience in senior company management.

Chris French, CFS, worked in banking investments in New York before joining Plott & French Financial Advisors in 2014.

11. Genetically Engineered Animals: Bringing Good Things to Life

TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 22, Mar 1, 15, 22, 29 (skip Mar 8)

This course will discuss the applications of genetically engineered (GE) and cloned animals to human medicine, agriculture and society. Examples include: GE livestock as bioreactors for human pharmaceuticals and as organ donors, GE mosquitoes for disease control, FDA approved food from GE animals, and cloning of livestock and pets.


  • Development of genetically engineered animals for use in human medicine, disease control, agriculture, and food.
  • The FDA approval process for GE animals developed for these purposes.
  • The cloning of animals. If livestock and pets have been cloned, could the woolly mammoth be next?

Eric Wong is the John W. Hancock Professor of Animal Science in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech. He has taught numerous courses in molecular biology, agricultural biotechnology, and animal biotechnology for 31 years at VT. His research area is animal biotechnology with a focus on the molecular and cellular events during hatching of chicks.

12. Modern Africa: Challenges of Nation Building

TIME: 1:00 — 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 22, Mar 1, 15, 22, 29, Apr 5 (skip Mar 8)
LOCATION: Hillel at VT, 710 Toms Creek Road, Blacksburg

This course explores the European colonization of Africa (1885–1975) and its 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. A general misconception about Africa is that this huge continent is one country. Yet the continent includes 54 countries, differing in language, history, and culture, in part reflecting the European countries that colonized them. Participants will learn about the unique cultures, histories, geography, and political development of African countries and Africa’s development agenda in education and economics.


  • Introduction; misconceptions about Africa; precolonial period.
  • Partitioning of Africa—the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885)
  • Colonial rule (1885 – 1975); quest for independence (1950s – 1960s)
  • The quest for nation building and African unity and Africa’s role in the United Nations
  • Challenges of achieving African unity through regional integration
  • Political agenda for development in education and economics to achieve unity

Josiah Tlou is Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, where he taught in International Education from 1978 to 2004.

Joseph Mukuni is an Associate Professor and Program Leader for Career and Technical Education in Virginia Tech’s School of Education.

13. Seeing the Story: Graphic Novels, Memoirs, and Journalism

TIME: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 22, 29, Apr 5, 12
LOCATION: CRC, Crescent Rm, 2000 Kraft Dr, Suite 2100

Humans have been telling stories in pictures since our earliest times. From the Caves of Lescaux to the temples in Angkor Wat, we are still able to “read” the stories of people who came long before us. In the 18th century, artists like William Hogarth in England and Jean-Baptiste Greuze in France popularized stories in serial paintings. In the 20th century in the US, artists like Jacob Lawrence took up that same challenge to tell the stories of Harriet Tubman, John Brown, and many others. And, of course, most of us grew up with the visual storytelling possibilities of children’s picture books. Graphic novelists simply pick up that tradition and move it into forms we more often associate with written rather than visual texts.

Today’s graphic novels, memoirs, and even journalism go far beyond the comic book many of us grew up with. In recent decades, artists like Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Roz Chast, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Joe Sacco have allowed us to experience serious storytelling, comic complexity, and “documentary” vision that pulls on a genre many have more often associated with superheroes or teen comics than with serious storytelling. This course aims to expand our knowledge of and enjoyment in visual storytelling of all kinds.


  1. William Hogarth, Marriage a la Mode, a series of 6 paintings and engravings from the 18th century.
  2. Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s graphic memoir about facing her parents’ last days.
  3. Emmanuel Guilbert, Didie Lefevre, and Frédéric Lemercier, The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, the moving story documenting a photojournalist’s tour into Afghanistan.
  4. Adrian Tomine, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. The story of growing up wanting to do nothing more or less than be a famous cartoonist.


  • William Hogarth, Marriage a la Mode. (instructor will provide a handout)
  • Roz Chast. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Available at the Blacksburg Public Library and widely online. Also available new ($12.95 on Amazon) and used (for much less).
  • Guibert, et al. The Photographer. Available on Amazon both new and used. The used copies are very inexpensive—currently, as low as $8.
  • Adrian Tomine. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. Available from Amazon in hardcover for $18.99 and used from about $13.

Please acquire the Chast, Gubert, and Tomine books before the first day of class. Of the four texts, The Photographer will take the most reading time, but it is quite easily finished in a week or less. We will do Hogarth in class. Tomine and Chast are fairly quick reads—a day or two for most people.

Emerita Professor Diana George designed and taught seminars and undergraduate courses in graphic novel, visual communication, and visual theory for over 30 years at Virginia Tech and Michigan Tech.


14. Great Decisions

TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
CLASS LIMIT: No class size limit
FEE: $35
DATES: 8 weeks: Feb 23, Mar 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Apr 6, 13

Coordinator: Victoria Cochran

Presented in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, VA

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 America 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 faculty resource person provides additional information and guides discussion via Zoom Webinar’s Q/A option.

Briefing books: available from E-book version available from online sellers.

Feb 23. Russia
Russia and the United States have many areas of conflict and some possible areas of mutual interest. Arms control, Russian interference in U.S. elections and support of cyberattacks, the status of Ukraine, the fate of opposition politicians in Russia, all continue to be concerning. How will the new administration in Washington approach these issues?
Aaron Brantly, resource person

Mar 2. The Quad Alliance
As part of the U.S. pivot to Asia, the United States has been in dialogue with Japan, Australia, and India in an effort to contain China. Recently, the Quad countries held joint naval exercises in the South Pacific. How effective will the actions of this alliance be?
Paul Avey, resource person

Mar 9. Myanmar and ASEAN
The situation in Myanmar, including the coup by the military in February 2021 and the ongoing human rights crises, coupled with civil resistance by those opposed to the regime, has led to chaos in the Southeast Asian country. How are neighboring countries reacting, and what role will ASEAN play?
Max Stephenson, resource person 

Mar 16. Climate Change The ideological divide in the United States on the subject of climate change has impeded progress in curbing greenhouse emissions. But extreme weather events at both ends of the thermometer have focused attention on the consequences of inaction. What role will the United States play in future negotiations on climate?
Todd Schenk, resource person

Mar 23. Outer Space
The launch of Sputnik I in October 1957 marked the beginning of the space era and of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the 21st century, there are many more participants in space, including countries such as India and China, and commercial companies such as SpaceX. How will the United States fare in a crowded outer space?
Jack Kennedy, resource person

Mar 30. Biden’s Agenda
The new administration in Washington promised to reverse many of the policies of the past administration, especially in foreign policy. How will issues such as climate, the pandemic, and alliances be treated under the Biden administration?
Karen Hult, resource person

Apr 6. Industrial Policy
The current discussion of industrial policy in the United States is not simply about whether or not to support specific companies or industries, but about trust or mistrust of the government and its ability to manage the economy and deal with a rising China. The upheaval in supply chains during the pandemic exposed weaknesses in the international economy. What policies can the United States implement to deal with trade and the economy?
David Bieri, resource person

Apr 13. Drug Policy in Latin America
The issue of migration to the United States from Latin America has overshadowed the war on drugs, which has been underway for decades with little signs of progress. What are the roots and the bureaucratic logic behind today´s dominant drug policies in Latin America? Is it time to reconsider punitive drug control policies that disrupt supply chains and punish drug possession?
Ilya Luciak, resource person

15. Intermediate Conversational Spanish
This course has been cancelled.
TIME: 11:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 16, 23, 30, Apr 6, 13
LOCATION: Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Westminster Rm

The course is designed to facilitate conversational speech in Spanish. Some classes will be organized around topics of conversation; others will build on short readings and video or music prompts. The introduction of native guest speakers with distinctive Spanish accents will provide a capstone to our efforts. Students should have a modest background in Spanish grammar, knowing, for example, (although perhaps not having perfected) the differences between infinitive [correr] and subjunctive verbs [tenga]. They should also be comfortable making mistakes in an informal and supportive setting. If these examples and descriptions are vaguely familiar and somewhat appealing, then this is the right course for you!

A non-native speaker of Spanish, Joe se ha metido la pata many times while speaking Spanish. He has spent more than 100 months of field work in Latin America. This includes living in Chile, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Uruguay, and directing study-abroad programs in Chile and Cuba. He was a full-time faculty member for two years at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico in Bayamón and since 1990 has visited Cuba 93 times.

16. You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Tradeoffs in Food Economics

TIME: 1:00 — 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

Coordinator: Richard Veilleux, Professor Emeritus of the former Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech.

When we shop at the supermarket, prepare dinner or dine out at our favorite restaurant, we don’t often think about the complexity of policies and production systems that were required to provide the abundance of food choices at affordable prices. This course will provide a brief history and overview of these programs, together with an examination of their effects on our daily lives. We’ll look at programs related to food production, food stamps, and food waste--and we’ll discuss broader issues like the relationship between agricultural policy and poverty/inequality in rural America. The course will conclude with a timely case study of how agricultural legislation in Virginia has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.


A History of U.S. Agricultural Policy
Since the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, the federal government has been extensively involved in management and control of agricultural markets. In this talk, we will review the history of agricultural policy in the United States. We will also examine the impacts of selected policies through the lens of economic theory.
Ford Ramsey, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Economics of the Food Stamp Program
Who qualifies for food stamps? Is the program waxing or waning? This lecture will provide the history of the food stamp program, its current extent, and a prediction of its future impact.
George Davis, Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Poverty and Inequality in Rural America
We hear so much about red states and blue states and how rural America is nearly always red. What about poverty – we know about the ghettos in the cities but poverty also inhabits some of our most idyllic settings. This lecture will discuss its prevalence and its impacts.
Jeffrey Alwang, Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Economics of Food Waste
Food waste has been recognized as an economic issue for at least a century and is gaining tremendous traction in academia as well as in discourse about public policy. This lecture will examine the evolution of food waste over the last several decades at the United States and global levels, and discuss implications of food waste for the environment, food prices, and food security.
John Bovay, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

COVID-19’s Impact on Agriculture Law in Virginia
A discussion of the challenges COVID-19 brought to agriculture and the response by Virginia’s legislature, state agencies, and local governments.
Jennifer S. Friedel, Assistant Professor of Practice, Agriculture and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech.

17. Mah Jongg: A Great Way to Exercise Your Brain

TIME: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 2, 9, 16, 23
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Ctr, Game Room

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 both of 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.

Janet Sawyers learned to play Mah Jongg in 2006. She finds teaching it to others is almost as much fun as teaching a child how to read.


18. Google Suite and All it Has to Offer

TIME: 1:15 – 2:45 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Mar 23, 30, Apr 6
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

Google has become a huge part of the Internet, and Google Suite is available to almost everyone. Google is more than just a search engine. This course will introduce the different parts of the Google Suite and how to use them.


  • Session 1 Communication – Gmail and hangouts
  • Session 2 Creation – Docs, Sheets and Slides
  • Session 3 Coordination – sites, groups and Forms; or, depending on the group’s preferences, Google Drive

Kayla McNabb is the head of Instructional Content and Design at Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. student in the Instructional Design and Technology program. She is focused on working with professors to utilize Web 2.0 technologies to teach “Literacy for Life.

19. Futurism: Considering the Next 100 Years

TIME: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 23, Mar 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
LOCATION: Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, Hatcher Conf Rm

The future will be shaped by tectonic forces which include birth rates, population demographics, international relations, innovation, and the competition for talent and natural resources. In this course, we will read and discuss The Next 100 Years, by George Friedman to envision the world in which your children and grandchildren will live.

Using Friedman’s book as a guide, we will move decade by decade through expectations for the 21st century.

George Friedman, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, 2010. Also available in print, e-book, and audiobook.

H. Pat Artis holds degrees in Engineering Mechanics, Computer Science, and Information. For three decades, he assisted major corporations and government agencies in the development of business resilience strategies.

20. The Delight of Chaos: Zen as Buddhism’s Class Clown

TIME: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 16, 23, 30, Apr 6
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

Buddhism, a pragmatic religion, points to mindful living. Each branch focuses on an aspect of the Buddha's life and teachings that brings that mindfulness to life. Zen, though firmly within Buddhism, introduces chaos and the seemingly absurd as its gateway to mindfulness and enlightenment. In the Buddhist circus, Zen says: “Send in the clowns!”


  • 1–3. Hinayana Buddhism (the small vessel—first manifestation), and Mayayana Buddhism (the large vessel—second manifestation with Humpty Dumpty effect)
  • 4. Zen: What is it?!

Russell Gregory taught for 25 years in the Philosophy/Religious Studies department at Radford University. His specialty was narrative analysis of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).


21. More Wrongful Convictions: What Seems to be the Problem?

TIME: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 24, Mar 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
LOCATION: CRC, Crescent Rm, 2000 Kraft Dr, Suite 2100

This course explores the issue of wrongful convictions through a series of case studies featured in Netflix documentaries. “The Way They See Us” is a docudrama about The Central Park Five (about 5 hours long). “The Innocent Man” is a documentary about the wrongful conviction of Ron Williamson, based on the John Grisham book of the same name (about 5 hours long). “The Innocence Files” is a documentary produced for Netflix by The Innocence Project in conjunction with John Grisham that covers several cases of wrongful convictions (9–10 hours long). Students must have access to Netflix and be willing to spend considerable time outside of class watching these programs. The course will conclude with a discussion of the apparent causes of wrongful convictions and possible remedies.


  • “The Way They See Us”—2 classes
  • “The Innocent Man”—1 class
  • “The Innocence Files”—3 classes

Jack Call is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at Radford University. He has taught multiple courses for LLI on the Supreme Court and criminal justice issues.

22. Examining the Influence of Machiavelli’s The Prince on 21st Century Politics

TIME: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 24, Mar 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
LOCATION: CRC, Crescent Rm, 2000 Kraft Dr, Suite 2100

Machiavelli's The Prince is perhaps the best-known treatise on politics in the western world. Machiavelli was well aware that his relatively short treatise on politics was playing with fire. When it was finally published, he was denounced at the time as a teacher of evil, but much, if not most, of the modern world regards him as a "realist." Is this judgment a defect in the political science of modernity, or did his contemporaries know something we either do not know or have forgotten? For the American founders, The Prince was continually in their broad conception of political science; both the structure of the Constitution in general and the office of the Presidency in particular reflect this awareness.

Is Machiavelli still relevant in the 21st century, or is he merely a name in some obscure history book? Why should we care? What does our response to The Prince tell us about ourselves? This course is designed to read Machiavelli as one of our preeminent teachers of politics and to explore the implications of that teaching. As such, Machiavelli is the true teacher for this course and we are all his students.


  • Why is The Prince so controversial?
  • What does Machiavelli teach about politics?
  • Is The Prince still relevant in the 21st century? How?
  • What has been the influence of Machiavelli in modern political science, most especially, on the American Constitution?

Please try to use the edition of The Prince, translated and edited by Angelo M. Codevilla, Yale University Press or by Harvey C. Mansfield, University of Chicago Press. (Both are available on Amazon)

Sidney (Al) Pearson is Professor Emeritus of political science at Radford University. Trained in both history and political science, Pearson’s research interests include: the history of political thought, Founding Principles, Progressivism and voting behavior.

23. Listening to Others: How the Mind Interprets Spoken Language

TIME: 3:00–4:30 p.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 24, 31, Apr 7, 14
LOCATION: CRC Crescent Room, 2000 Kraft Drive, Suite 2100

This class focuses on speech and speaker perception—how we understand what other people are saying, and how we draw conclusions about the sort of person they are based on their pronunciation. While the class obviously includes heavy discussion of speech sounds, we also discuss the role that visual, social, and other contextual information has on what we hear—we definitely listen with more than our ears! As we explore these topics, we will be looking at how listening differs across the lifespan, from birth to old age, and how our personal linguistic histories—the places we grew up, the people we talk to, the languages we speak—uniquely shape the way that each of us perceives language. We will also play with some of the methodologies commonly used in psycholinguistic experiments. There is no required reading for this course, though students may be given small hands-on (ears-on!) assignments to do between classes.


  • Infants’ acquisition of spoken language from a listening perspective
  • Different levels of speech perception, from hearing to recognizing to activating to remembering
  • The role of context in speech perception, including visual and social information
  • The impact of aging on speech perception
  • The role of a listener’s linguistic background on speech perception
  • Speaker perception, and the role of experience, stereotypes, and ideologies

Abby Walker is an associate professor of linguistics in the English department at Virginia Tech. She has a current NSF-funded project examining cross-dialectal listening in Southwest Virginia. Other projects study how speakers change their pronunciation in different settings and how language attitudes impact what we hear and say.


24. Demagoguery and Democracy

TIME: 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Mar 18, 25, Apr 1

This course examines demagoguery as one of the most urgent political problems of our time. We will read Patricia Roberts-Miller’s Demagoguery and Democracy, which offers a guide for understanding how demagoguery works and why demagoguery is so pernicious for democracy. Each class session will begin with a brief lecture, followed by seminar-style discussion.


  1. What is demagoguery? Defining demagoguery as a type of argument (“us versus them”) and political style of engagement
  2. Why is demagoguery dangerous for democracy? Historic case studies of how demagoguery has been used to influence public policy
  3. How can we help change a culture of demagoguery? Strategies for changing a culture of demagoguery: what can each of us do today to help change a culture of demagoguery?

Demagoguery and Democracy by Patricia Roberts-Miller. ISBN: 9781615194087. 144 pages. About $8. Participants are asked to acquire the book and read the first three brief chapters before the initial class meetings.

Carolyn Commer is a scholar of rhetoric and public argumentation. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Virginia Tech where she teaches courses on rhetorical theory and professional writing.

25. Cooking Chinese Dim Sum with Anne

TIME: Two Sessions
FEE: $35
DATES: Feb 25, 9:00 – 10:30, Zoom
Mar 4, 9:00 – 2:00, including lunch at instructor’s home

Dim Sun 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 Sun 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 selects. The course will begin with a Zoom class (1 ½ hours) to introduce general information about Chinese cooking, describe the nature of the dishes we will cook the second week (5 hours at Anne’s house; 3 hours for cooking, 2 hours for lunch). We will make a variety of Dim Sum dishes such as dumplings or pot stickers, steamed buns and deep-fried tidbits (e.g., won tons), a total of about 10 dishes. Recipes will be provided, and about half the recipes will be new ones not featured when this course has been offered before. We’ll end the event with a three-course Dim Sum lunch.

Anne McNabb has been cooking Chinese Banquets since graduate school. She has more than 90 Chinese cookbooks and has used them all to learn about making authentic foods from the many regions of Chinese cuisine

26. Figures in Watercolor

TIME: Fridays, 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEES: $35, Materials fee: $35
DATES: 6 weeks, February 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25, Apr 1
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Center, Community Room

The human figure is a source of endless inspiration—every pose, every gesture, every embrace or lone figure is different. Whether the figure is young or old, a loner, or among an infinite variety of groups, working, playing, active, resting, demonstrating an emotion or artistically ambiguous, the figure never ceases to intrigue. Because we are figures, we know what can and must be captured in a painting that includes people.

In this class we will begin at the beginning, exploring several methods of seeing and conveying proper proportion. Next, we will use gesture to convey action. And then we will explore how fluid brushstrokes and selectively chosen values work together to create a composition of life itself.

A list of supplies will be distributed in advance.

Jesi Pace-Berkeley is a Professional Fellow of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and Artist in Residence at the Don and Catherine Bryan Cultural Series, Outer Banks.


27. Welcome to Blacksburg's Workshop – All the Tools You Need for Your Wood, Metal, or 3-D Printing Project

DATE/TIME: Saturday, Mar 19, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
FEE: $25
LOCATION: Meet at Corporate Research Center (CRC), 1872 Pratt Drive, Suite 1620, Blacksburg

Have you always wanted to have access to new and special tools for creating 3-D, wood, or metal projects but have never had the right equipment? Blacksburg’s new non-profit makerspace, Hacksburg in the Corporate Research Center, may be a great way to pursue your creative ambitions. In this 3-hour Saturday orientation, class attendees will have the chance to explore the capabilities of Hacksburg with member volunteers who will demonstrate the use and capability of the equipment, show you examples of what can be created, and describe how you might become involved. The shop has three main sections: woodworking, metalworking, and laser cutting/3D printing. Available equipment includes table saw and woodshop tools, metal and wood lathes, laser cutter, and FDM and Resin 3D printers. Once you become a member, you can sign up for a variety of classes and join a group of people who love to create and tinker. Visit the Hacksburg website to learn more about this unique Blacksburg resource:

28. Field Trip to Brush Mountain Park

DATE/TIME: Monday, Apr 11, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. - FULL/CLOSED
New section 28b: Monday, April 11, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
FEE: $15
LOCATION: Meet at Heritage Trail Parking

Co-sponsored by the New River Land Trust

In 2018, the New River Land Trust (NRLT) received a $1.2 million grant to purchase two undeveloped properties comprising 552 acres on Brush Mountain. The New River Land Trust worked with local trail builder Eastern Trail Company and community volunteers coordinated by the Poverty Creek Trails Coalition to build the McDonald Hollow Trails.

Our guides for this nearby field trip will be John Eustis from the New River Land Trust and trail builder, John Carnrike. We’ll learn the history of this property, owned for many generations by the McDonald family, and hear about its mining heritage. The group can test parts of the newly created 6.7-mile McDonald Hollow Trail System, now open for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Development of two additional properties is underway.

This field trip includes walking uphill on uneven terrain and is not recommended for those with mobility issues. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for the weather and a short hike on forested trails.

Park at Heritage Trail Parking, 2300 Glade Rd, Blacksburg, to consolidate cars and then proceed to nearby Brush Mountain Park.

29. Field Trip to McDonalds Mill in Catawba Valley

DATE/TIME: Monday, Apr 18, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. FULL/CLOSED
New section 29b: Monday, Apr 18, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
FEE: $25
LOCATION: Meet at Mill site: Catawba, VA, State Route 785 about 10 miles east of Blacksburg

Join New River Valley historian, April Martin, on a visit to the scenic Catawba Valley and the privately owned Yost property. This 289-acre conserved farm contains the historic McDonalds Mill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks. We’ll step inside the restored mill to hear about its history and learn about conservation in the Catawba Valley. The fertile lands along the North Fork of the Roanoke River have for centuries supported human inhabitants. As early Americans settled farther west after the Revolutionary War, existing trails became heavily traveled roads where service industries such as mills helped small communities evolve. McDonalds Mill helps tell that interesting history.

This visit involves walking on uneven terrain, steps into and inside the old mill building, and standing for the presentation. It is not recommended for those with mobility or balance issues. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for the weather. The mill is not a heated structure.

Participants drive their own vehicle to the property and park on grass.

30. Walking Tour of Downtown Christiansburg

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, Apr 26, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. - FULL/CLOSED
New section 30b: Wednesday, Apr 20, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
FEE: $15
LOCATION: Meet at Great Road on Main, Christiansburg

Architectural styles, like fashion, are an indicator of culture, just as national business trends were important economic drivers throughout much of our local history. Join Sherry Joines Wyatt, curator at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History Center, on a walking tour through the heart of Downtown Christiansburg, which will serve as a learning lab for history. You'll see how the town participated in national trends of architecture and