Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech


Spring 2021 courses are online! You must be a currently enrolled member to register for courses.

January 4 - Mail date for 4-page 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.

January 21 - Zoom Preview of Spring Program, 2:00-3:15 p.m. A reminder with the Zoom link will be emailed to those on the LLI list.

February 8 - Classes begin.

painting class


TED Talks

TIME: Mondays 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 15, 22, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22

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 “ideas worth spreading.”

Dean Spader is an Emeritus Professor at the University of South Dakota where he taught ethics of criminal justice and administrative law. Dean has facilitated numerous discussion classes for LLI.

Financial Strategies for Retirees

TIME: Mondays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 22, Mar 1, 8, 15

The noise around finances, investments, and the stock market seems to grow louder every day. In this class, we will cut through the clutter of the 24/7 news cycle and present participants with straightforward and actionable strategies, helping them to manage their wealth, reduce the stress of their investing, and take care of those they care about.

The course assumes a basic understanding of investing and financial planning, but everyone is welcome. Question and answer periods at the end of each session will allow the instructors to go in greater depth, if requested, and, also to add further topics to the next session.


  1. Advanced planning: How much is enough? Life mapping; building a financial projection; choosing and working with financial professionals
  2. Types, risks and uses of common investment asset classes: Stocks and bonds; mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs); alternative investments; fixed investments, savings accounts, CDs; annuities
  3. Investing: Investment decision models and concepts for financial success; the hidden costs of investing and ways to minimize; common types of accounts (401(k)s and 403(b)s; IRAs, traditional and Roth; Required Minimum Distributions and Qualified Charitable Distributions; college savings plans
  4. Estate planning (with Bettye Ackerman): Estate planning tools; wills and trusts; using beneficiary designations; special needs trusts; elder care strategies


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

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

Bettye Ackerman is an attorney representing clients primarily in estate planning and family law.

From the Heart: Appliqué Quilting

TIME: Mondays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 8, 15, Mar 8, 15, 22 (skip Feb 22, Mar 1)

Create this heart warming and charming wall quilt for a favorite loved one. In this hand appliqué class you will learn seven methods of preparing your fabric hearts for hand stitching. Basic quilt construction knowledge is required as this class will focus on the appliqué process only. The size of the wall quilt will be determined by the number of hearts appliquéd and the setting style. Invisible hand appliqué stitch will be demonstrated.


  1. Basic Sewing Kit
  2. Thread to match fabrics selected for hearts
  3. 5” x 5” 100 % cotton quilting quality fabric scraps (a charm pack from your local quilt shop works perfectly)
  4. ½ yard 100% quilting quality fabric for background of appliquéd hearts.
  5. Glue stick
  6. Iron
  7. Spray starch / fabric sizing
  8. Sewing machine for one time use

The instructor will provide additional materials.

Paula Golden has had a passion for all aspects of quilting for 40 years. She teaches nationally and internationally, has published patterns widely, and has displayed her quilts in private and public collections.

Taste of Technology

TIME: Mondays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 3 weeks: Feb 15, 22, Mar 1
COURSE COORDINATORS: Diana George, Sandy Hagman, and Carolyn Meier

This course introduces LLI members to technology options and helps them understand and manage a rapidly changing digital environment.


  • Fitness apps
    This session covers exercise applications for tracking steps and other exercise, how to log calories and track weight changes, how to sign up for online classes using the MindBody app, and tips for finding exercise ideas online.

    Jennifer McDonald is an ACE certified personal trainer with specialized training in senior fitness.
    Nicole LaFon is owner of In Balance Yoga and Kunga Faculty for Yoga Teacher Training.
    Keala Mason is Studio Manager of In Balance Yoga and teacher.

  • Tchaikovsky and the Temptations with a side of technology
    Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, iTunes, YouTube Music, Amazon music. I just want to listen to my music! Do you find all the different music vendors confusing? Bonnie Adams, a technology instructor from Howard University will discuss the different music apps and how to use them.

    Bonnie Adams, Technology Instructor Howard University, former Technology Curriculum Integration Specialist, Newport News Public Schools

  • Can you send me money?
    This presentation covers trends in scams and frauds circulating in our area that target senior citizens or those not familiar with current technology.

    Doug Adkins is a general investigator with the Montgomery Department Sheriff’s office who specializes in fraud and scam case investigations.

Exploring the Power of Short Stories

TIME: Mondays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 22, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

In this course, we’ll share some of our favorite short stories and ask participants to do the same. Jane, Molly, and Paul will use stories available online or make copies so no purchase is required.

Join us for an interactive exploration of the power of short stories and the camaraderie created by lively conversation.

Jane Goette, Molly McClintock, and Paul Metz are avid readers who love to discover new stories and authors. We believe discussing stories enhances the experience and understanding of reading.

Appreciating South American Wines (an onsite class)

TIME: Two sessions (choose one)
Mondays, 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. OR 3:00 – 5:00 p.m
CLASS LIMIT: 12 per session
COURSE FEE: $30, Wine fee: $125 (payable to Vintage Cellar)
LOCATION: Course meets at the Vintage Cellar
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 15, 22, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22

Wines from Argentina and Chile will be featured in this on-site tasting class at Vintage Cellar. Argentinian Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Chardonnay, and Torrontes will be on the menu. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc will be included. Some Uruguayan wines will be tasted such as Tannat and Albarino.

Class size is limited to ensure appropriate social distancing in the space. Masks will be worn until seated; staff will carefully clean between sessions. Have concerns? Feel free to visit Vintage Cellar to see the new tasting section arrangements they have created.

Mail a separate check for the wine fee only ($125) 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.

Randall Horst has served as wine buyer at the Vintage Cellar for 25 years. He has visited many wineries in the major wine producing regions and shares his experiences while teaching in a highly personalized manner. He has taught an LLI wine appreciation course since 2016.

Policing and Criminal Justice Reform

TIME: Mondays, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

This course will provide background on the history, strategies, and changing responsibilities for American law enforcement to allow exploration of the political, practical, and social implications in current legislative criminal justice reform efforts. Recommended readings will help students understand the changing role of police in society. Classes will combine lecture, interactive group exercises, group discussion, and presentations by a panel of experts.


  • British antecedents and American development of policing practices
  • Daily operations and priorities of law enforcement
  • Police responses to calls involving mental health and substance abuse disorder
  • Impact of trauma and mental health issues in the law enforcement ranks
  • An expert panel’s perspectives on criminal justice and police reform

Stephen Owen is Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University
Tod Burke is a former law enforcement officer and a retired Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University.



TIME: Tuesdays, 9:00 – 10:15 a.m.
CLASS LIMIT: No class size limit
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 16, 23, Mar 2, 9, 16, 23

This Sampler lineup includes highly rated speakers from other lifelong learning programs in Virginia. We appreciate the sharing of talent and welcome these speakers to the LLI at Virginia Tech via the magic of Zoom.


Feb 16. America’s first leadership crisis and the story of George Wythe
After America’s divorce from England in 1776, the young nation’s greatest problem was a severe “deficit of adequate statesmen,” James Madison warned. This talk is about the Power of One—the ability of one person, Founding Father George Wythe, to change history. The nation’s first law professor, Wythe turned his law school at William & Mary into a leadership training school for future statesmen. At his death in 1806, his former pupils were virtually running the country.

Suzanne Munson wrote the George Wythe biography, Jefferson’s Godfather: The Man Behind the Man. She has taught on the Wythe-Jefferson legacy at Virginia universities, Chautauqua, and other venues.

Feb 23. The internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII
Approximately 112,000 Japanese-Americans (70% were U.S. citizens) living on the west coast were interned during World War II. This lecture traces the history of Japanese immigration and discrimination in the United States, events of World War II, legal issues and Supreme Court cases, and politics during the war. The lecture also reviews the efforts to compensate those interned and the legal cases to reverse the convictions.

Robert Finkelstein has extensively researched and studied the Internment.

Mar 2. Hamilton: Man and musical (9:00 – 11:00 a.m.)
Alexander Hamilton was a central player in America’s early history, but the smash Broadway musical Hamilton has focused new attention on his life and career. This multimedia class will draw on both Hamilton’s biography and his depiction on stage to examine his accomplishments, his relationship with Aaron Burr, and the accuracy of the musical. Participants may wish to read Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton and listen to the show’s soundtrack before attending.

Dan Sherman has given adult education courses and talks on theatre and opera to social and university groups throughout the Washington, DC area and Williamsburg.

Mar 9. Soundtrack of a revolution: Pop music and the protest tradition
Through an examination of such pioneering artists as Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and Curtis Mayfield, among others, this lecture highlights how popular African American music reflected the political impulses of both the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Claudrena Harold is Chair, Department of History, and Professor of African-American History and Studies at the University of Virginia.

Mar 16. Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and unbossed
When Shirley Chisholm, the first Black female member of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced her candidacy for the 1972 Democratic nomination for President, she advanced the hope that one day a multi-racial, multi-ethnic political coalition capable of cutting across class and geography could be formed. This talk presents an overview of Ms. Chisolm’s life, her achievements, and the provocative challenge she issued to the nation to live up to its ideals.

Betty Jean Wolfe is an independent management consultant and freelance writer living in the Roanoke Valley.

Mar 23. Operation Glowing Symphony: America’s only acknowledged cyber attack
To destroy ISIS, the Islamic State, the U.S. forces had first to destroy their logistics and communications. Using the combined cyber assets of the U.S. government, CYBERCOM hacked and phished, and social media scammed ISIS out of their bank accounts and password protected communications. Unable to move or communicate within their former domain, both land and internet, ISIS was destroyed. This presentation covers the successful operation of CYBER-COM to eliminate the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Michael Richardson graduated from the United States Military Academy. After military service as an engineer, he transitioned to Diplomatic Security.

Photographic Creations: Creating Cards from your Digital Photos

TIME: Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 9, 16, 23, Apr 6 (skip Mar 30)

In this offering within the series “Photographic Creations,” we will focus on creating beautiful personalized cards from your digital photos. Over four sessions, we’ll cover how to choose your photos and select the right application and materials for creating cards. Then we’ll work through your project in a virtual session and share the results with each other.


  • Making choices/finding your audience/sharing your treasures
  • Choosing the right app for you
  • Virtual hands-on workshop
  • Share your project

Diana George is a retired professor of rhetoric and writing.
Sandy Hagman is a retired technical writer and software trainer.
Carolyn Meier is retired from Virginia Tech University Libraries.

The Man Who Planted Trees: A Conversation with New York Times Science and Environmental Reporter, Jim Robbins

TIME: Tuesday, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $10
DATES: April 6 (one session)

Discussion with acclaimed science and environmental author, Jim Robbins, about his 2015 book, The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story of Lost Groves, The Science of Trees, and A Plan to Save the Planet. Participants are expected to read the book in advance, offer questions, and join the moderated discussion with the author.

The author of six books, Jim discussed his 2017 book, The Wonder of Birds, with LLI participants in November 2020.

Jim Robbins has written for the New York Times, Audubon, Smithsonian, and many other magazines for 35 years. His other books include The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, The World, and A Better Future, and A Plan to Save the Planet. He recently appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss the links among humanity, nature, and pandemics.

Katherine Allen is Professor Emerita of Human Development and Family Science at Virginia Tech.

Modern Africa: Challenges of Nation Building

TIME: Tuesdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Mar 2, 9 16, 23, 30, Apr 6

A general misconception of 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. 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.


  • Geography, history, political and cultural heritage, pre-colonial 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 at 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 teaches career and technical education at Virginia Tech, including courses in communication skills and methods of teaching in Zambian colleges.


Lessons for the Economy from the Pandemic

TIME: Tuesdays, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
FEE: $20
DATES: 2 weeks: Feb 16, 23

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for our economy, challenging long and tightly-held beliefs about how U.S. capitalism functions, who it serves, and how it might function to better serve a larger share of the population. Our economic model was built on the concept of the “rational economic man,” stemming from Adam Smith’s writings. That theory of market behavior posits that human beings are independent, autonomous, rational economic individuals acting to maximize their satisfaction with a minimum of costs.

Yet this one-dimensional view of human beings does not take into account that people have emotions, moral conscience, and live in social contexts, not as isolated individuals. The economic fall-out of the pandemic has laid bare the disproportionate impact of the unpaid or poorly paid “caring economy” on women, people of color, and self-employed and freelance workers. The current crisis opens up alternative approaches and new business models, and demands a more responsive and sustainable economy. We’ll talk about the emergence of the “caring economy” that places the care of human beings and the environment at the center and what that might mean for important shifts in policy and behavior.

Mike Ellerbrock is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech.

Living Well to the End of Life: Creating a Better End-of-Life Path

TIME: Wednesdays, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 17, 24, Mar 13, 10, 17, 24

Each of us would like our life story to end on our own terms. Modern technological advances and hyper-medicalization of the end-of-life choices have made reaching that goal more complicated and, in some cases, elusive. Informed behavior and active conversation can provide an essential tool for us to increase the probability that we will live on our own terms to the end. This course seeks to encourage and empower participants by learning EOL facts and discussing how those facts and options will impact our preparation for the EOL.


  • Critically analyze end-of-life care in the US.
  • Understand what matters most to individuals in their EOL planning as it is related to documents, selection of a healthcare agent, and conversations with one’s healthcare team, family and friends.
  • Learn what a “typical” death looks like including how our bodies convey information when words leave us.
  • Discuss how the losses through our lives help prepare us for the EOL.
  • Share our stories as a way to teach one another about life and the EOL.

Marian Silverman, a nurse and industrial psychologist, was clinical director of Hospice of Northwest Ohio for 12 years.

Jerry Niles is a Professor Emeritus of Education at Virginia Tech where he sent 33 years on the faculty preparing teachers.

Richard Shepherd was an emergency room physician for 20 years and then a family physician with Carilion Family Practice in Blacksburg for 15 years.

Anne J. Campbell spent 25 years as a women’s health nurse practitioner in Blacksburg. She is active with the Sojourn Center for Hospice Care project to establish a hospice facility in the New River Valley.

Great Decisions
TIME: Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
CLASS LIMIT: No class size limit
FEE: $30
DATES: 8 weeks: Feb 10, 17, 24, Mar 3, 10, 17, 24, 31

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 local 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.

Kathie Sewall, Joan Hirt

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

Feb 10. Roles of International Organizations in a Global Pandemic
The early response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) left many experts wanting more from the WHO. What can be done to improve the WHO’s response to future global health crises?

Andy Muelenaer and Penny Muelenaer, resource persons

Feb 17. China’s Role in Africa
The COVID-19 crisis has strained the economic and political relationship between China and Africa. As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road initiative” continues to expand Chinese power, the spread of COVID-19, as well as the African government’s growing debt to China, has seen pushback. What are some of the economic and political issues between China and Africa?

Paige Tan, resource person

Feb 24. Brexit and the European Union
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union at the start of 2021. With negotiations between the two entities continuing to stall, what does the future of Europe and the UK look like? Will the UK survive a possible Scottish vote to leave? Who will take command of Europe now that Angela Merkel is out of the spotlight?

David Bieri, resource person

Mar 3. Global Supply Chains and National Security
Broken global supply chains due to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed global economic interdependence: what happens when one country is the main source for, say, face masks, but can no longer supply the item? Countries unable to meet the demand for supplies are faced with calls for economic nationalism. What lasting effects could the pandemic have on global supply chains and trade? How would this affect national security?

Barbara Fraticelli, resource person

Mar 10. Persian Gulf Security
The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran continues. Tensions escalated in early 2020 as the U.S. began to intervene in the Gulf, launching an airstrike that killed two Iranian military commanders. What historical influences have led to these tensions? What role, if any, should the United States play? Is using military force a viable foreign policy option for 2021 and beyond?

Bill Ochsenwald, resource person

Mar 17. The Korean Peninsula
Attempts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump to repair the rift between North and South have lost momentum as Pyongyang continues to test long-range missiles. As the rift between the U.S. and China grows, South Korea may end up in the middle of the two superpowers. What does the future hold for the U.S. relationship with the ROK?

Paul Avey, resource person

Mar 24. Struggles over the Melting Arctic
Donald Trump’s attempt to purchase Greenland from Denmark shows the changing opinion of the U.S. government toward the Arctic region. Because of climate change, large sheets of arctic ice are melting, exposing vast stores of natural gas and oil. With Russia and China already miles ahead with their Arctic strategies, can the U.S. catch up?

Andrew Scerri, resource person

Mar 31. The End of Globalization
With the passing of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s America First doctrine, protectionist policies have become more prevalent, challenging globalization. What is globalization and how will it be affected by protectionist trade policies? How will the United States and the world be affected by such policies? Is globalization really at an end, or in need of a refresh?

Joyce Barr, resource person

Opening Pandemic’s Box: All about COVID-19

TIME: Wednesdays, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 17, 24, Mar 3, 10, 17, 24

Have you wondered whether the vaccine against COVID-19 is safe and effective? How did companies develop it so rapidly and how does it work? The course will engage local and outside speakers to provide information on up-to-the-minute issues about the pandemic. It will cover basics of disease and immune responses, the latest developments in therapeutics and vaccines, and the potential for future outbreaks. Each 90-minute session will feature a 45–60 minute presentation followed by discussion and question and answer period.


  • Coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 basics
  • COVID-19 disease and therapeutics
  • Immune response to viral infection
  • Role of CDC in combating viral pandemics, respiratory lab research
  • Vaccine development and manufacture
  • Spillover from animals and potential for future pandemics

Beth Grabau

Lights! Camera! Action! Movie Musicals Over the Years

TIME: Wednesdays, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited class size
FEE: $20
DATES: 2 weeks: Mar 17, 24

In 1927, the film musical came to Hollywood with the Jazz Singer. Although the technology was initially crude, films quickly evolved through the 1930s to feature the great silver screen films of Fred and Ginger and Technicolor of the Wizard of Oz. Unlike later times, movies of this time primarily included songs written for films rather than the stage. During the first session, we’ll sample great performances—both well-known and not—from film musicals of the 1930s that contributed to the Great American Songbook.

Some of the very best movie musicals came in the 1950s and after. In session 2, we’ll explore films from Singin’ in the Rain through La La Land. The class will highlight how some films (though not all) successfully use the medium of film to present an experience very different from stage.

The class will be two 2-hour sessions with a break. The format is lecture and Q&A. You’ll have an opportunity to see clips from many favorite movies along our journey through the history of movie musicals.

Dan Sherman was an economist at the American Institutes for Research, now retired. He divides his time between Alexandria and Williamsburg. He found his passion in teaching adult education courses on theatre and opera to a wide variety of groups throughout the Washington, D.C. area and Williamsburg.


Issues in Criminal Law

TIME: Thursdays, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 11, 18, 25, Mar 4, 11, 18

This course introduces the basic issues of criminal law—sources of criminal law and the impact of the Constitution, elements of crimes and the requirement for concurrence and causation, law related to homicide and sexual assault, and general criminal defenses. Over six sessions, we’ll explore these criminal law issues and more in lecture and discussion. No prior background is required.


  1. Sources of criminal law
  2. The impact of the Constitution on criminal law
  3. Basic elements of crimes and the requirements of concurrence and causation
  4. The law of homicide
  5. The law of sexual assault
  6. General defenses to crimes

Jack Call was on the faculty at Radford University for 34 years, retiring in 2020. He taught courses on Courts and the Criminal Process, Constitutional Rights of the Accused, and Criminal Law. He regularly writes on recent Supreme Court cases for the Virginia Criminal Justice Bulletin.

Learn to be Happier: Practice the New Science of Happiness

TIME: Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 18, 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25

Happiness generally is considered one of the top values in life. Yet, only within the last two decades has the topic been the subject of careful scientific study. This course relies on the science of well-being and positive psychology to provide tools that lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. Special emphasis will be given to applying these tools for older adults who are engaged in efforts to age successfully. Each class session will employ theory, exercises, and discussion and will be reinforced by homework assignments that provide opportunities for using skills learned. The class will have a digital workbook that the participants can print at home.

Vicky Dierckx has a Ph.D. in Psychological Science (Ghent University, Belgium) and a Teaching degree (KU Leuven, Belgium). She teaches the class “Personal Well-being and Professional Success” for the Marketing Department and facilitates happiness groups in collaboration with Recreational Sports, both at Virginia Tech.

Prophetic Vision: James Baldwin in Contemporary Times

TIME: Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25, Apr 1
Waitlist Only

August 2, 2020 would have been the 96th birthday of the writer James Baldwin. Now, more than ever, the words and ideas of James Baldwin have resonance and shape the discourse on race and identity in the American nation. From Black Lives Matter, American democracy, to discussions on sexuality—James Baldwin is oft-quoted and consulted for his prophetic insight into the racial, cultural, and moral struggles of the American nation today. This course will examine the resurgence of interest in the work of James Baldwin through select critical and imaginative works: two collections of essays: Notes of a Native Son (1955) and The Fire Next Time (1963); his 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room (202 pp.); and his controversial short story “Going to Meet the Man” (1965). The class will also be in conversation with contemporary critical discussions and discourses around Baldwin, including Raoul Peck’s 2014 documentary I Am Not Your Negro.


  1. James Baldwin on
    • The idea of the American nation
    • Race and democracy
    • Identity, with specific focus on American identity and sexuality
  2. James Baldwin’s resurgence in contemporary times


The Baldwin texts listed above are widely available as pdfs on the internet or in used copies available online. Any edition will do. Please acquire all texts before the class begins. Prior to the first class meeting, read the essays: “Autobiographical Notes,” “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” “Notes of a Native Son,” and “Stranger in the Village” from the anthology Notes of a Native Son.

We will view clips from the documentary I Am Not Your Negro in class; the whole film is streamable from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Gena Chandler-Smith is an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech where she teaches African-American literature, among other things. She has won numerous teaching awards and is author of The Wanderer in African American Literature.

Federalist and Progressive Perspectives on the U.S. Constitution, Part 2
Enrollment in Part 1 is not a prerequisite.

TIME: Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25, Apr 1

The focus of this course is the science of politics that is the basis for constitutional interpretation. The organizing thesis is, that broadly speaking, there are two opposing traditions of constitutional interpretation; (1) the political science of The Federalist, sometimes referred to as “originalism,” and (2) the science of politics found in Woodrow Wilson’s Constitutional Government in the United States, sometimes referred to as the “living constitution” school of interpretation. This course will examine the institutions of the U.S. Government, legislative, executive and judicial from the Federalist and Progressive approaches.

Federalist (Papers) 51–85 and Wilson’s Constitutional Government will provide the basis for the comparison and contrast. Court cases will also be noted that reflect the political sciences that form the bases for the different approaches. We will continue to explore these “two constitutions” as part of an effort to untangle the principles and arguments that drive contemporary “Liberals” and “Conservatives.”


The Federalist Papers 51–85; Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States (available from Amazon)

Sydney (Al) Pearson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Radford University


Create Your Plan for Aging in Place

TIME: Fridays, 9:00 – 10:15 a.m.
FEE: $30
Materials fee: $12 (AiP workbook)
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 19, 26, Mar 5, 12

Like the majority of older Americans, you may intend to live in your current home for as long as possible. Your decision to age in place may seem like an obvious and logical choice. Yet, aging in place (AiP) is more than just planning to stay in your home. Your decision to age in place should be part of a process that includes personal reflection, conversations with people important to you, intentional planning, and action.

This class will explore the five essential aspects of an effective plan to age in place: housing, health and wellness, finances, transportation, and social relationships. As you work through the AiP workbook and talk with classmates in small groups, you will identify the areas where you need to seek more information; determine which legal, financial, or health issues you need to address; and outline conversations you need to initiate with family members or your support team/friends. The AiP Workbook will be available for pick up in advance or mailed if needed.

Carol Davis is Sustainability Manager for the Town of Blacksburg.
Pamela Ray is Population Health Community Coordinator for the Montgomery County Health Department.

Both are members of the NRV Aging in Place Leadership Team.

Intermediate Watercolor—Special Considerations (an onsite class)

TIME: Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
FEE: $30
Materials fee: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 19, 26, Mar 5, 12, 19, 26
LOCATION: Course meets at the Blacksburg Community Center, Community Room

Once you have mastered the basic techniques of watercolor and painted awhile, various and specific challenges often arise.

In this class we will address how to handle these special considerations as we explore a variety of subjects, including refraction, reflection, blending and edges, glazing and layering, mixing colors on the paper, real time value control, cropping, working loose, the need for sketching, and texturing.

Participants must follow prescribed COVID safety protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distance.


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

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.

Memoir Writing

TIME: Fridays, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 26, Mar 5, 12, 19, Apr 2 (skip Mar 26 )
Waitlist Only

Revision is the basis of literary art—it’s where what people call “writing” (quality prose) happens. In this class, students will read innovative and award-winning essays, revise their own and compose new work, and share their writing with classmates. The instructor will provide exercises to stretch your range and offer ideas for developing your own self-editing process. Based on the richly collaborative workshop model—receiving peers’ insights and commenting helpfully in turn—the class makes learning less narrowly instructor-based and brings more brainpower to each essay.

This class is suitable for both beginning and intermediate writers. Beginners may have written in the past, or yearn to write and want to tell a story. Intermediate writers have taken a previous class, compiled some fiction or nonfiction, or have begun a series of essays, a memoir, or a family history. Enthusiasm and a desire to read are the core prerequisites!


  • Reviewing how to use diverse rhetorical moves to please sophisticated readers
  • Strategies for developing an enhanced self-editing process
  • Reading others’ work with insight and giving helpful notes


Hope Jahren, Lab Girl
John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs

Richard Gilbert is the author of Shepherd: A Memoir, a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award, which concerns the decade he and his family lived on a farm in Appalachian Ohio. His recent essay “Animals Saved Me” won Hunger Mountain’s 2017 Creative Nonfiction Prize; “That Day at Joe’s” was first runner-up for the Proximity Narrative Journalism Award. He lives in Riner.

Organize and Maintain Your Photo Collection

TIME: Fridays, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
FEE: $30
DATES: 3 weeks: Feb 19, Mar 5, 19
Waitlist Only

What do you do with all those old photos lying around in boxes and on your phone and desktop? We will talk about sorting and organizing photos, both digital and physical. After that, what do you do with these organized photos? We will talk about digitizing photos and file management. Finally, what do you do with these digitized files? We will give you some creative options for displaying and sharing these photos.


Merrie Winfrey is an instructional designer at Radford University. She draws on her expertise in knowledge management as a communications specialist and her experience of sorting, organizing, and digitizing photos from her mother’s side of the family. Photos from her father’s side of the family sit waiting their turn in her garage.

Carolyn Meier has been an avid photographer for 55 years and has the boxes of photos to show for it! Having inherited her grandmother’s and mother’s albums, along with her large stash of albums, forced her into learning about organizing, digitizing, labeling, and preserving photos.

Cutting the Cable: Streaming Television

TIME: Friday, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
FEE: $10
DATES: February 12 (one session)

Are you confused by the different options for watching your favorite shows on television? What is the difference between cable and streaming? Why do I need a Roku box or Smart TV? These and other questions will be answered in this talk by Tim Lockridge.

This talk is a repeat of Tim’s well-received presentation in Fall 2020.

Tim Lockridge Associate Professor of English and Director of the Professional Writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He teaches courses about writing with technology and about visual design. His co-authored book, Writing Workflows, examines how writers use technology and will be published in December 2020 by the University of Michigan Press.

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