Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech


Courses and Field Trips

36 courses are both online and in-person this spring. Seven field trips are also available. You must enroll as a member to register for courses.

January 5 - Mail date for Spring 2024 catalog

January 23 - Preview of Spring program on Zoom. This is a free online webinar, open to anyone interested: Click here to join the webinar on January 23 from 10:00 - 11:30.

January 30 - Registration begins at 10:00am

February 19 - Classes begin

italian class



1. Paint with Knives!
TIME: Mondays, 9:00 - 11:30
FEE: $35, plus $20 materials fee for start-up supplies. Students will be responsible for purchasing their own supplies after the first class. A list will be provided.
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 26, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Woodland Studio

Come explore the fun and freedom of painting with palette (aka painting) knives. Learning the skills and techniques for applying and blending paint with knives results in a looser, more spontaneous style. While the class is geared for beginning as well as intermediate painters, it may be most beneficial to experienced painters who wish to simplify their art. The instructor will be teaching and demonstrating with oil paints, but acrylic painters are welcome as well.

Lois Stephens has a passion for painting in oils and especially enjoys the texture and visual energy that can be achieved with palette knives. She currently maintains a studio in the Newport Community Center; her work can be viewed online at

2. Law and Order and the US Criminal Justice System
TIME: Mondays, 10:00 - 12:00
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Mar 18, 25, Apr 1, 8, 15, 22
LOCATION: CRC, Curiosity Room, 1900 Kraft Dr, Suite 1000

This class, based on the popular NBC police procedural and legal drama Law and Order, returns in Spring 2024 to discuss six new episodes of the series. The episodes will be viewed in class and then analyzed. We'll ask ourselves what each one reveals about the functioning of our criminal process and judicial system and about the wisdom of decisions made by police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and juries. Those who participated in the first Law and Order class last spring are invited back to engage with a different set of legal issues. Newcomers are welcome as well.

Jack Call, a professor emeritus of criminal justice at Radford University, used his J.D. and Ph.D. degree in political science as the basis for teaching law-related courses at RU. He has taught numerous courses for LLI over the last several years.

3. Armchair Journeys
TIME: Mondays, 1:00 - 2:30
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 26, Mar 4, 11, 18
LOCATION: Zoom webinar

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. There will be plenty of time for participants to ask questions and share comments.


February 26: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
In summer 2023, Emily Reisinger backpacked for two months along the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California and along the Oregon Coast Trail, covering nearly 1,000 miles through snowy mountains, hot desert valleys, and rocky coastline.

March 4: Cruising the Norwegian Fjords and Scottish Isles
Jeff Legge and Nancy Bodenhorn will share their photos and stories of their 14-day cruise that included fjords in Norway and Scotland's Orkney and Shetland Islands. They started in Aberdeen, Scotland and ended in Tromso, Norway above the Arctic Circle.

March 11: A Taste of Alaska's National Parks
Between them Anne Campbell and Linda McClintock and their partners have visited all eight of Alaska's National Parks, some of the most remote in the system. Come hear their adventures getting to and photographing wildlife on their quest to visit all 63 National Parks.

March 18: Strolling the Scottish Downs and Edinburgh
Come explore historic Edinburgh and the surrounding rolling downs with Lyndsay LaLonde. From the broom shop that inspired the Harry Potter series to a castle steeped in history and the surrounding ancient hillsides, Edinburgh has a little bit of something for everyone.

4. A Brief Look at Early Aviation History
TIME: Monday, 1:00 - 2:00
FEE: $25
DATE: 2 weeks: Mar 18, 25
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Tall Oaks

In two illustrated lectures, this course explores the colorful and sometimes surprising history of early aviation technology. Participants will go beneath the surface of the Wright brothers' story – what they accomplished and how they ended up setting back the US aircraft industry for at least 15 years. The brothers' historic achievements will then be placed within a broader context that includes other notable flight attempts and the "wild and wonderful flying machines" designed – sometimes strangely – for this purpose.

Jim Marchman is a retired professor of aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech. He is the author of books on aerodynamics, aircraft performance, and aircraft design.

5. Buddhism by Means of Cartoons
TIME: Mondays, 1:00 - 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Mar 18, 25, Apr 1, 8
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

Cartoons, with their swift visual impact, strategic deployment of satire, and witty turns, offer a useful point of entry into serious and complex subjects like politics and religion. In this class, we'll focus on a selection of cartoons about Buddhism, considering what they suggest about our culture's understanding of this ancient religion – its practices and paradoxes. As we examine these cartoons, we'll ask ourselves: Where does the humor come? What is its rhetorical intent? How do these cartoons call on us (as does Buddhism itself) to "wake up!"

Russell Gregory is an emeritus professor of religious studies at Radford University, where he recently taught in the Governor's School for Visual & Performing Arts and Humanities.

6. EU/US-Russia Relations Since the End of the Cold War
TIME: Mondays, 3:00 - 4:30
FEE: $35
DATES:6 weeks: Feb 19, 26, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

This course examines the evolution of EU/US relations with Russia since the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, leading to competing visions of world order. We’ll first consider frameworks for analyzing these relations, then trace their development chronologically to the present time. We’ll cover management of international crises, especially “frozen conflicts,” those officially unresolved; arms control; the fight against terrorism; and the post-Cold War European security architecture, among other topics.

Yannis Stivachtis is a professor of political science and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair at Virginia Tech. He is the Director of VT’s Jean Monnet Center of Excellence.

7. Appreciating Southern Italian Wines
TIME: Mondays, 3:00 – 5:00
CLASS LIMIT: 30 per section (class repeats on Wednesdays, #22)
FEE: $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 19, 26, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25
LOCATION: Vintage Cellar, 1338 S. Main St, Blacksburg

Southern Italian wines, including those produced in Tuscany, will be featured in this class. Italian wine heritage began in the South and included many excellent wines, some of them unknown to most Americans. Varieties featured in this class include Aglianico, Sangiovese, and Montipulciano.

Randall Horst is a wine connoisseur and buyer for Vintage Cellar. He has 25+ years of experience in these roles and has taught wine appreciation courses for LLI every term since 2016.


8. Sampler
TIME: Tuesdays, 9:00 – 10:15
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $35
DATE: 6 weeks: Feb 20, 27, Mar 5, 12, 19, 26
LOCATION: Zoom Webinar
Coordinator: Molly McClintock

February 20. Separation of Church and State: Vital in 1787, Critical Now
American presidents like Washington, Jefferson, and Kennedy believed the wall of separation between church and state must be absolute. This concept is enshrined in our Constitution’s First Amendment. Let’s review the origins and history of this foundational principle and why it is critically important to protecting Americans’ freedom today.

Jay Avner is a retired health care executive with extensive experience in provider contracting and reimbursement. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA.

February 27. Medical Cannabis for Quality-of-Life Improvements as we Age
Cannabis is claimed to be a cure all for everything, but is it? We will discuss the laws and the attributes regarding medical cannabis use in Virginia and the process and products to incorporate cannabis in your daily life.

Deb Custer has been working in the cannabis field for over 10 years, studying at various universities all over the world.
Jane Weisman is a trauma doctor who is a licensed cannabis practitioner.

March 5. RESCUED! Tales of a Wildlife Biologist and His Sons tells the story of how one man shared his love of animals and passion for wildlife research with his two sons and later inspired them in choosing their career paths. In this memoir, Linzey recounts how his boyhood interest in animals developed into a passionate and successful career as a wildlife biologist, a job that for him often included bringing his work home in the form of orphaned gopher tortoises, hog-nosed snakes, flying squirrels, raccoons, and more.

Donald W. Linzey is a wildlife biologist and ecologist who has taught science, ecology, and other related courses at Cornell University, the University of South Alabama, Wytheville Community College, and Virginia Tech for over 57 years.

March 12. Emergency Preparedness for Seniors
Learn how to prepare for a personal or family emergency. What plans should you have in place? What items do you need on hand? Are you ready if you had to shelter in place or even evacuate your home? Plus, learn how volunteers can and do help our community in times of emergency.

Beverly Hill is the Public Health Emergency Coordinator and Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator for the New River Health District. She coordinates with state, regional and local emergency response partners working together to enhance readiness to respond to all hazards, including bioterrorism, infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.

March 19. Taking the Waters: Restoration of the Warm Springs Pools
The Warm Springs Pools re-opened in December 2022 through a concerted and collaborative effort. Originally built in 1761 and 1836, the pools are listed on the National Register of historic places.

Julie Langan is the director/state historic preservation officer at the VA Department of Historic Resources.

March 26 White Awakenings to Racism
Two teachers and writers discuss their growing awareness of white privilege from childhood, through the Civil Rights era, to today's setbacks and regression. After sharing the impact of racial awareness on their teaching, writing, and personal lives, they will open discussion to the audience.

Jane Goette, author of A River Road Memoir and Judith Bice, author of Hey, White Girl, were raised during segregation in rural Louisiana and in Richmond, Virginia.

9. Learn to Juggle
TIME: Tuesdays, 9:00 – 10:00
FEE: $35
DATE: 3 weeks: Apr 16, 23, 30
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Ctr, Multipurpose Rm

Can you catch a ball? If so, you can learn to juggle. The course is an introduction to juggling basics, with later emphasis on tricks and toys (balls, rings, clubs). Juggling is a great pastime, available to anyone, great for flexibility, hand/eye coordination, and impressing your friends.

Students should acquire and bring to class three juggling or lacrosse balls.

Michael Abraham is a Blacksburg-based businessman and author with eight books in print. He taught himself how to juggle while taking a break from his studies in mechanical engineering 50 years ago at Virginia Tech.

10. Multicultural Murders
TIME: Tuesdays, 11:00 – 12:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 27, Mar 5, 12, 19, 26, Apr 2
LOCATION: Zoom Meeting

You don’t have to buy an airline ticket to see the world from a different perspective – even if your intentions are murderous. Join us as we unravel mysteries set in different cultures: Chinese American, East Indian, Thai. We’ll be visiting contemporary Chinatown in San Francisco, 1920s India, and contemporary northern Thailand.


  • Sutanto, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers (2023)
  • Nagendra, The Bangalore Detective’s Club (2022)
  • Casarett, Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness (2016)

Britton Gildersleeve, retired faculty member and administrator from Oklahoma State University, has been a mystery reader since age nine. She spent much of her childhood in Asia. So, a class in mysteries with roots there seems perfect!

11. Baseball and American Culture
TIME: Tuesdays, 11:00 - 12:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Mar 5, 12, 19, 26, Apr 2, 9
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

This course emphasizes the social meaning of baseball and American culture as opposed to the history of baseball as a sport. It begins with the false mythology of baseball’s creation by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown and then considers key thematic moments in the intersection of baseball and culture:

  • Mother Hubbard Baseball, Social Inversion and the Carnivalesque in Fin de Siècle America
  • The Wealth of Baseball and the Invisible Hand of Promise
  • Charles Weeghman, William Wrigley, Jr., and the Ku Klux Klan in Jazz-Age Chicago
  • The National Anthem, the Stars and Stripes, and Baseball

Johnny Moore is a professor emeritus of history at Radford University, where he taught many courses in American social history. He has frequently presented papers at the Baseball and American Culture Symposium, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

12. Writing Correctly: Which Rules Still Matter? And When?
TIME: Tuesdays, 11:00 – 12:30
FEE: $25
DATES: 2 weeks: Apr 9, 16
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Woodland Studio

People write all the time: emails, texts, grocery lists, etc. However, because most of the writing we do now is short and informal, a lot of the “rules” we learned in the past about grammatical correctness have seemingly disappeared. Is there still a place for grammar in our fast-paced, online world?

In this no-stress class, we’ll take a situational approach to grammar and punctuation, examining how specific audiences and circumstances, together with larger generational changes in language, influence the choices writers make today. We’ll also discuss key style issues, such as writing concisely and writing in active or passive voice.

Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003)

Julie Mengert has her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Writing and has been teaching at Virginia Tech since 2001. Currently, she directs the University Writing Program.

13. Modern Experiences of Jews in the US
TIME: One session: Tuesday, Mar 5, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $15
DATES: One session: Tuesday, Mar 5, 1:00 – 2:30
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Tall Oaks Room

Jews have been part of the American experience from the beginning, though most trace their history to waves of migration from 1880-1920 and following World War II. Acceptance of Jews into mainstream American society has been uneven; while enjoying religious freedom, Jews also have been subject to exclusion and outright anti-Semitism that continues to this day. After a brief overview of Jewish history in America, the panel will share their experiences as Jews in modern America, and discussion will follow.

Eric Hallerman, Linda Deemer, Al Kornhauser, and Rebecca Scheckler are long-term residents of the New River Valley and leading members of the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center. Each will bring their own, unique outlook on the lived experience of being a Jew in America.

14. 25 Great American Nature Poems
TIME: Tuesdays, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Mar 5, 12, 19, 26, Apr 2, 9
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

We’ll read four or five lyrical pieces weekly by some of our greatest American writers—poets mostly. Reading a poem well involves slowing down, recreating an inner drama of thinking and feeling. Drawing on the varied experiences and perceptions represented in the class, we’ll practice that skill. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll feel comfortable doing so.

We’ll discuss skies, seas, mountains, birds, and storms, but also memory and perception, brokenness and wonder, transcendence, and God. Featured writers include Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, and Elizabeth Bishop. Poems will be provided as email attachments or online links.

Tom Gardner is an emeritus professor of English at Virginia Tech. He writes about American poets and publishes his own creative work, most of it focused on the woods and trails of the New River Valley.

15. What You Should Know About AI
TIME: One session: Tuesday, Feb 27, 3:00 – 4:30
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $15
DATES: One session: Tuesday, Feb 27, 3:00 – 4:30

What is a Large Language Model (LLM) Artificial Intelligence? How does it work, and what can it do for us? This standalone Zoom course will introduce you to AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard, offer a general overview of how they simulate human communication, and demonstrate some of their basic capabilities — from writing complaint letters to planning meals. We will also consider the cultural implications of these technologies, asking how they might displace workers, disrupt schooling, and challenge ethical norms. This session will focus on the technologies at a broad level – offering only a basic introduction – but you will leave with the confidence to experiment with AI in your own writing and daily tasks.

Tim Lockridge is an associate professor of English at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of Writing Workflows, a book about writing technologies, published in 2020 by the University of Michigan Press.

16. Grow Your Own Personal Cannabis
TIME: Tuesdays, 3:00 – 4:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Mar 12, 19, 26
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

Growing cannabis in 2023 is not like growing marijuana in 1968. Learn how cannabis laws have changed in Virginia to allow adults over 21 to grow four plants for their personal use.

If you have ever grown tomato plants from seed, you can do this; if you haven’t, pay close attention in class! We will discuss what type of cannabis to grow — Sativa vs Indica — and most importantly — inside or outside. We’ll explore how to manage the stages of growth, fertilize, troubleshoot, and eliminate pests, and finally, how to harvest the crop.

Margaret Marsille is a lifelong gardener, former Master Gardener, and Master Naturalist. She has successfully grown her crop the past three years, both in greenhouse with supplemental heat and light, and outdoors. Margaret was voted “least likely to grow marijuana” at Elizabeth Seton high school in 1970.


17-18 Italian Cooking Experiences
TIME: Wednesday, 9:30 - 12:00
CLASS LIMIT: 8 for each session
FEE: $15
DATES: Choose one: 17: Feb 28 or 18: Apr 10
LOCATION: Instructor's home

Enjoy hands-on cooking at the instructor’s home, where you will learn to prepare simple and classic Italian recipes and enjoy the food and the company at the end of the class.

On the menu:

  • linguine al pesto (basil, garlic, EVOO, parmigiano, pine nuts)
  • pennette alla boscaiola (tomatoes, carrots, peas, mushrooms, prosciutto cotto)
  • Fennel and oranges salad or other seasonal salad
  • Affogato al caffe

Delicious and nutritious food does not have to be complicated to make or expensive to buy!

Claudia Levi, who was born and raised in Torino, Italy, loves cooking and cooks every day from scratch for her family and friends. She is excited to share her passion for cooking transmitted by her mother and grandmothers.

19. Great Decisions
TIME: Wednesdays, 11:00 – 12:30
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $35
DATES: 7 weeks: Feb 21, 28, Mar 13, 20, 27, Apr 3, 10, (skip Mar 6)
Coordinator: Victoria Cochran

Great Decisions is a community discussion program on world affairs. The Foreign Policy Association develops background information and policy options for selected 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 the Briefing Book. Each meeting begins with a 30-minute presentation summarizing information on the issues, followed by commentary from a local expert who facilitates discussion.

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

Mideast Realignment
The United States and the Middle East are at a crossroads. Despite a reduced presence in the Middle East, the US still has significant national interests there, and the area is a key arena for global power politics. Can the US continue to defend its interests in the Middle East and globally with a lower level of military and political involvement, or should it recommit to a leading role in the region?
Resource person: William Ochsenwald, emeritus professor of history, Virginia Tech

Climate Technology and Competition
Will the United States and China, with other powerful countries following suit, approach current and future climate initiatives with an increased commitment to trade protectionism and nationalism, by various measures including trade restrictions? Or could a growing spirit of international accord develop to confront the “common enemy” of climate change?
Resource person: Carol Franco, senior research associate, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech

Science Across Borders
Scientific advances benefit from collaboration between researchers, but what happens when material, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is controversial and important to a nation’s national security? Is there a middle ground between sharing information and denying access? How can we regulate cooperation?
Resource person: Jimmy Ivory, professor of English, Virginia Tech

US-China Trade Rivalry
China’s economic rise and its current policies of increasing the role of the state in the economy have led some US policymakers to seek to deny China access to US technology and investment. This is seen as a necessary corrective to decades of predatory Chinese economic policies. Is this a wise strategy, and how effective can it be?
Resource person: TBD

NATO’s future
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has come under increased scrutiny, not because NATO troops are involved in the conflict, but because of its role in relations between Russia and its neighbors. Will expanding membership in NATO protect countries, or will it further provoke Russia?
Resource person: Ken Yalowitz, retired diplomat and ambassador

Understanding Indonesia
Despite its large size, Indonesia remains virtually invisible to most Americans. But as one of the world’s largest democracies, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and as an economic driver of ASEAN, why does it fly below the radar? What are current issues in US-Indonesian relations, and what role can the country play in Asia?
Resource person: Paige Tan, professor of political science, Radford University

Pandemic preparedness
In terms of domestic and international policies, there are many lessons to take away from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this pandemic seems to have waned, how can we apply these lessons to future pandemics? Will countries cooperate, and will a consensus emerge on how to manage global health challenges?
Resource person: Julia Gerdes, Assistant Professor, English Department, Virginia Tech

20. Ukulele Chord Melody for the Beginner
TIME: Wednesdays, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 21, 28, Mar 6, 13, 20
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Center, Community Room – Change of venue!

Have you been strumming chords for some time now? Are you ready to play a song that can be identified without a vocalist? Chord melody combines single notes with chords to give that solo instrumentalist sound. In this beginner level class you will learn this technique and perhaps a little more.

A working ukulele with (GCEA) tuning, a clip-on tuner, a pencil and a smile are required. Familiarity with chords C, F, G7, Dm, and Em will be very helpful.

So dust off that case, Uke can do this.

Derry Hutt has sung and played instruments since her feet hit the ground. The ukulele has become a favorite for its accessibility, versatility and fun name.

21. The Appalachian Trail: A Local Gem
TIME: Wednesdays, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 7 weeks: Mar 6, 13, 20, 27, Apr 3, 10, 17
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Room, 1880 Pratt Drive, Suite 2018

We are fortunate to live near a recreational, environmental treasure, the Appalachian Trail. In this course, participants will learn about its history, geology, animal and plant life, and management. They will explore how users engage with the trail and how visitors can participate in its conservation. Special emphasis will be placed on the hiking and backpacking opportunities found in the Virginia portion of this scenic footpath. The series will be of interest to seasoned hikers, but also to those who have never visited the trail.


March 6. 100 Years of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia
Diana Christopulos is the archivist of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, an association of volunteers who preserve and improve the AT. She has special knowledge of current issues affecting our local portion of the AT.

March 13. The Appalachian Trail Underfoot: Geology and Geography of the Trail in Virginia
Stewart Scales is an advanced instructor in Virginia Tech’s department of geography. He teaches classes on Virginia’s geology and biogeography for the New River and Roanoke Valley chapters of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program.

March 20. Animal Diversity of the Virginia Appalachian Trail
M. Kevin Hamed is a collegiate associate professor in the department of Wildlife Conservation and Collection Curation. He is also a Certified Wildlife Biologist® in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech.

March 27. Reflections from Section-Hiking: The Science of Sustainable Visitor Use Management
Jeff Marion is an adjunct professor in Virginia Tech’s Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation department. He is a recreational ecologist who uses technology to assess trail use and impact of visitors.

April 3. Appalachian Forest Ecology: Why the Heck Do Those Trees Always Grow There?
John Seiler is an Alumni Distinguished Professor and tree physiology specialist in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech. He has led a team in the development of tools to assist students around the world with tree identification.

April 10. Practical Tips on Using the Appalachian Trail by Experienced Hikers/Backpackers
Peter Schmitthenner, an associate professor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech, is an experienced hiker and backpacker on the trail. He can provide tips and practical advice for those who want to explore it, especially in local areas.
Roger Harris, former department head of horticulture at Virginia Tech, often hikes with his dog (and often Pete Schmitthenner). He will share his experience with the community of through hikers and discuss personal benefits derived from hiking the Appalachian Trail.

April 17. Call to Action: Become Engaged in Maintaining or Protecting the Appalachian Trail
Christina McIntyre, director of professional development at the Honors College at Virginia Tech, serves as the faculty advisor of the Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech, an AT trail maintaining club.
Kathryn Hearndon-Powell, central Virginia regional manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, helps coordinate volunteer engagement opportunities for citizens to maintain and conserve the trail.

22. Appreciating Southern Italian Wines
Second section. Class also offered on Mondays (#7)
TIME: Wednesdays, 3:00 – 4:30
FEE: $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 6, 13, 20, 27
LOCATION: Vintage Cellar, 1338 S. Main St, Blacksburg

Southern Italian wines, including those produced in Tuscany, will be featured in this class. Italian wine heritage began in the South and included many excellent wines, some of them unknown to most Americans. Varieties featured in this class include Aglianico, Sangiovese, and Montipulciano.

Randall Horst is a wine connoisseur and buyer for Vintage Cellar. He has 25+ years of experience in these roles and has taught wine appreciation courses for LLI every term since 2016.

23. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro: Musical History and Performance
DATE/TIME: 2 weeks: Wednesdays, Feb 28, 3:00 – 4:00 Warm Hearth Village Ctr, Tall Oaks Room
Mar 6, 5:00 – 6:00, Cube, Moss Arts Ctr, 190 Alumni Mall
FEE: $25

Get ready for Opera Roanoke’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Moss Center on Friday, March 8. This two-part series explores the opera’s musical highlights and the staging of the upcoming production. The final panel discussion, led by Opera Roanoke’s Artistic Director Steven White, will be held just before the final dress rehearsal: participants will be invited to observe all or part of this rehearsal. The class will help you understand why Figaro is considered “one of the greatest of all operatic treasures” and why this performance has been described as a “gorgeous and witty fully-staged production.”

February 28: The Marriage of Figaro: History and Highlights
Presenter: Christopher Campo-Bowen, assistant professor of musicology, Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts.

March 6: Inside Opera Roanoke’s Moss Center Production of The Marriage of Figaro.
Panelists: Steven White, Artistic Director of Opera Roanoke; Dean Anthony, Stage Director for the production;Tlaloc Lopez-Watermann, Lighting Designer.

Course finale: Optional attendance at the Moss production of the opera, Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Participants should purchase their own tickets.

24. Read Local: Matthew Vollmer’s All of Us Together in the End
TIME: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 4:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Apr 3, 17, 24 (skip Apr 10)
LOCATION: CRC, Curiosity Rm, 1900 Kraft Dr, Suite 1000
FACILITATOR: Ellen Woodall, Blacksburg Books

Read Local is an author-engaged book discussion group. Participants meet the author on the first day and learn about the book’s origins. Afterwards, they meet to discuss it independently, developing questions and ideas. The author attends the third class, where these notes become prompts for a final conversation. Matthew Vollmer’s memoir All of Us Together in the End is our first Read Local selection. With its recognizable Blacksburg settings, its COVID-era timeline, and its memories of the 2007 shootings, it is in many ways our own story—a story about loss, grief, and transformation. Plus mysterious lights . . .

Matthew Vollmer directs the Creative Writing Programs at Virginia Tech. He has published two short-story collections and three collections of essays. His work has appeared in such venues as Paris Review, Oxford American, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and Best American Essays.

Vollmer, All of Us Together in the End (2023). The book may be ordered in advance or purchased in class on the first day.


25. Global Change IX: Invasive Species: Consequences and Possible Remediation
TIME: Thursdays, 9:00 – 10:30
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 22, 29, Mar 7, 14, 21, 28
Coordinators: Don Mullins, Anne McNabb

Climate changes caused by global warming are currently enhancing the movements of many invasive species into new environments. There they often outcompete native species because they may not be subject to predators or other natural controls in this new ecosystem. The course will describe some examples of the interactions of these invasive species with the native species and environments they are invading.


February 22. Invasive Plants are Taking Over the World: Wildfires, Lyme Disease, and Sick Birds
Jacob Barney, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech

February 29. The Alarm is Sounding, But Are We Listening to the Bullfrogs? Acoustic Data and the Detection of Invasive Species
Grace O’Malley, Joe Drake, and Meryl Mims, Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech

March 7. Invasive Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes: Is Their Sweet Tooth a Key to Their Control?
Chloe Lahondere, Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Tech

March 14. Managing Big Bad Invasive Forest Pests is Complicated: What Does Success Look Like?
Scott Salom, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

March 21. The Cascading Ecological Impacts and Management of an Invasive Snake on a Tropical Island
Haldre Rogers, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech

March 28. Encouraging the Stewardship of Healthy Landscapes
Michael Sorice, Department of Forest Resources Environmental Conservation

26. Effective Giving to Do the Most Good
TIME: Thursdays, 9:00 – 10:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Feb 22, 29, Mar 7
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

While humanity has experienced staggering improvements in life expectancy, life satisfaction, safety, and happiness during the last two centuries, extreme poverty and preventable infant mortality still cause global suffering. The effective altruism movement recognizes that individuals in affluent societies have a moral obligation to help the destitute and aims to identify the best strategies to ameliorate suffering.

This course will challenge participants to expand their circle of concern beyond families, friends, and neighbors to include those who live in less affluent societies. Participants will also help the instructor choose an effective organization for a cash donation of his own money.

Diego Troya, a faculty member in the Virginia Tech chemistry department, has been interested in helping others since settling in the New River Valley almost 20 years ago. In recent years, he has been committed to the effective altruism movement to have the most impact on human lives with his contributions.

27. LLI Film Forum: 21st-Century Science Fiction Movies
TIME: Thursdays, 11:00 – 12:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Feb 29, Mar 7, 14, 21, 28
LOCATION: CRC, Curiosity Rm, 1900 Kraft Dr, Suite 1000

Science-fiction movies began in the silent film era with the thirteen-minute, A Trip to the Moon (1902, Georges Méliès). Over the decades, the popularity of these movies has increased dramatically until today they constitute one of the largest segments of video entertainment in the world. This course will review the history of science-fiction films during the first class and discuss one of the 21st-century examples in each of the next four weeks:

  • The Martian (2015, Ridley Scott)
  • WALL-E (2008, Andrew Stanton)
  • Interstellar (2014, Christopher Nolan)
  • Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve)

Streaming information on request:

Phil Harris has been an avid fan of science fiction movies his entire life. He appreciates science fiction both as entertainment and as a genre that influences society and science. He is a retired attorney who practiced in Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

28. Threats to Democracy: Right-Wing Populism and Authoritarianism
TIME: Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 29, Mar 7, 14, 21
LOCATION: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1301 Gladewood Dr, Blacksburg – Change of venue!

We will examine the rise of right-wing populism and authoritarianism in the world and explore the attributes and causes of this trend globally. We will delve into the question of whether current trends represent a threat to liberal democracies here and abroad.

Jim Bohland is an emeritus professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech. He has offered short courses on populism and authoritarianism as well as authored several publications on the topic.

29. Remarkable Women You Should Know
TIME: Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30
FEE: $35
DATES: 3 weeks: Mar 28, Apr 4, 11
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018
COORDINATOR: Molly McClintock

Each of nine local women will introduce you to one remarkable woman from history. Come meet women you'll enjoy knowing as you learn about their exceptional lives. Subjects include an early geologist, “America’s most-read woman,” an herbalist, and the first female fighter pilot. You’ll also meet an inventor, a suffragist, a chemist, and a sci-fi novelist writing in the early days of the genre.

Sherry Perdue, Anne McClung, Gunin Kiran, Beth McClellan, Victoria Taylor, Carolyn Rude, Jean Elliott, Karen Jones, and Molly McClintock

30. Circumnavigating Africa
TIME: Thursdays, 3:00 – 4:00
CLASS LIMIT: Unlimited
FEE: $35
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 21, 28, Apr 4, 11, 18

Travel vicariously with Rocky Roland on a 71-day cruise around Africa. He’ll discuss long-duration cruising, crossing the Atlantic, and the many ports of call along the coast of Africa. Learn about the diverse historical development of the regions of Africa; the cultural heritages evidenced in art, clothing, and food; and especially the impact of imperialism and the slave trade on nearly every country visited.

Rocky Roland and his wife Ginny are avid cruisers, having taken more than ten, including three long-duration cruises. Their passion for travel was fueled by their experiences living overseas while Rocky was a pilot in the USAF. They have lived and worked in Germany, Thailand, Korea, and China. Rocky has now traveled to 112 countries and counting.

31. Financial Strategies for Retirees
TIME: Thursday, 6:30 – 8:00
FEE: $35
DATES: 4 weeks: Feb 29, Mar 7, 14, 21

Investing seems to conjure images of fast, algorithm-driven trading – a world where individual investors are hopelessly out of depth. We focus on explaining the principles of long-term financial planning, wealth accumulation, management, and preservation and estate planning principles. Individuals can take control of their financial futures, and we introduce the concepts and tools to enable them.


  • Advanced Planning: How much is enough? financial projections; selecting financial professionals.
  • Risk and Return: Asset classes, Equities, Fixed-Income, Alternates.
  • Investment models: the hidden costs of investing; account selection.
  • Estate Planning (with Bettye Ackerman): How to protect and transfer your wealth.

Chris French, CFA, worked in banking investments in New York before joining Plott & French Financial Advisors in 2014.
Michael Canestrari is a financial advisor with Plott & French.
Bettye Ackerman is an attorney representing clients primarily in estate planning and family law.


32. Cooking Fusion Foods Inspired by the Silk Road
TIME: Fridays, 2 weeks: Mar 15, 9:00 –10:30, Zoom
Mar 22, 9:00 – 1:30, Instructor's home
FEE: $35

The Silk Road, stretching from the far east to eastern Europe and the Middle East, facilitated the distribution of new products and the incorporation of new ingredients into some traditional dishes across national borders. In an introductory Zoom class, we will discuss notable examples of this historical process and introduce the recipes we’ll cook the following week. Then we will meet at the instructor's home for a morning of cooking followed by a multi-course lunch. The menu will include examples of Silk Road-influenced fusion foods of countries such as China, India, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.

Anne McNabb is professor emerita of biological sciences and associate dean of the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. She also is an avid cook who has taught Chinese and Moroccan cooking classes for LLI; she is particularly interested in international cuisines.

33. Watercolor Open Studio
TIME: Fridays, 10:00 – 12:00
FEE: $35 + 35 Materials Fee
The materials fee is used for specialized supplies needed for the class. Participants will purchase their own basic supplies; a list will be distributed in advance.
DATES: 5 weeks: Mar 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
LOCATION: Blacksburg Community Ctr, Community Rm

LLI’s Open Studio Watercolor Class is a place for everyone and every skill level, where you learn to let the water do the work for you.

Students will work at various skill levels with a weekly design and art element focus. Class will likely include figures, still life, outdoor scenes, and photos. More advanced students will be partnered with beginning students in class activities that involve networking, peer tutoring, and critique. Individual and beginning level pull-out sessions will address specific instructions, as needed.

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.

34. Memoir and Essay Writing
TIME: Fridays, 11:00 – 12:30
FEE: $35
DATE(S): 5 weeks: Feb 16, 23, Mar 1, 8, 22 (skip Mar 15)
LOCATION: CRC, Concept Rm, 1880 Pratt Dr, Suite 2018

Memoirs, essays, and nonfiction narratives fill journals, get featured in the New York Times, and become bestsellers. Countless people share life stories with their families.

Personal nonfiction aims to be honest about events, circumstances, and the self. The creativity and delight come in words spoken from the heart, in dramatized scenes, in pleasing structure. In this class, students read classic and innovative works, draft their own, and share in small groups. The instructor provides writing prompts and more feedback.

Based on the collaborative peer workshop model, the class brings maximum support and brainpower to the writer. A desire to read, write, and discuss are the only prerequisites!


  • How to engage readers
  • Self-editing and revising
  • Reading insightfully

Richard Gilbert is a freelance editor of personal and narrative nonfiction. He’s author of Shepherd: A Memoir, a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award, about his family’s decade-long farming adventure in Appalachian Ohio. His essay “Animals Saved Me” won Hunger Mountain’s Creative Nonfiction Prize.

35. The American Civil War: Causes, Course, and Consequences
TIME: Fridays, 11:00 – 12:00
FEE: Fee: $35
DATES: 6 weeks: Feb 23, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
LOCATION: Warm Hearth Village Center, Tall Oaks Rm

This course will explore the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War, addressing such questions as why disputes over slavery led to conflict; what motivated individuals to take part; how military tactics evolved; how Lincoln’s administration shifted from a war to preserve the Union to a war that would also end slavery; and how the long-term consequences of Union victory and emancipation have shaped the US over the last 150 years. The course is organized by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech and presented by a team of local historians and Virginia Tech faculty.


  • February 23. Causes (Paul Quigley)
  • March 1. Military Affairs (Paul Quigley)
  • March 8. The Homefront (Taulby Edmondson)
  • March 15. The War in Southwest Virginia (April Martin)
  • March 22. African American Experiences (Dan Thorp)
  • March 29. Consequences (Melinda Miller)

Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Virginia Tech
Taulby Edmondson, instructor, Department of Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech
Dan Thorp, associate professor of history, Virginia Tech
April Martin, director of Wilderness Road Regional Museum
Melinda Miller, assistant professor of economics, core faculty, Kellogg Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Virginia Tech

36. Knit Along with LLI: Isabell Kraemer's "Cloudesley" Pullover
TIME: Fridays, 1:00 – 2:30
DATE(S): 7 weeks: Feb 23, Mar 1, 8, 22, 29, Apr 5, 12, (skip Mar 15)
FEE: $35
LOCATION: Instructor's home, Blacksburg

Enjoy informal gatherings in a Blacksburg home with time to knit and get acquainted. Intermediate knitters will make a woman’s modified V-neck pullover, in stages and with mutual support. The sweater is a top-down seamless knit with a textured pattern at the front hem and center back. The pattern received a 4.8 (out of 5) rating on Ravelry where, in posted photos from over a thousand projects, it looked good on all body types.

Please acquire pattern and materials as soon as your registration is confirmed:

Knit a gauge swatch and adjust needles, if necessary, before the first class.


Diana George learned to knit after she retired from Virginia Tech. The generous staff of New River Art and Fiber, led by owner Jessica Jones and her colleague Stella Boyer, had her tackling projects she would never have imagined before their patient instruction.
Kaye Graham wanted to learn to knit when she found out her first grandchild was on the way. She joined Diana with classes at our local yarn shop so she could keep babies warm in sweaters and hats.
Nancy Metz learned to knit from a neighbor at the age of eight. Since then, she has made most of the mistakes it is possible to make but still delights in the pleasures of this ancient and beautiful craft.


37. On-Farm Conservation Sheep Management: Raising Rare Breed Sheep
DATE/TIME: Thursday, April 4, 10:00 – 12:00
FEE: $15
LOCATION: Sunrise Valley Farm, Montgomery County

During this farm visit, you will learn the importance of raising conservation breeds and how to keep a 100-year-old breed relevant in 2023. Our hosts will discuss the Romeldale CVM breed's history, raising sheep and lambs, and using their products from wool to milk. You will be hands-on with the new lambs, try working with the fiber (carding and spinning), and learn more about this friendly, productive, and rare sheep.

Gail and Harry Groot have 40+ years of experience in small ruminant and poultry management on their Montgomery County farm, which is dedicated to long-term sustainable stewardship of all its facets. They have been vendors at the Blacksburg Farmers Market for 9 years selling "All Things Sheep."

38. A Walk With Wildflowers
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 16, 1:00 – 3:00
FEE: $15
LOCATION: Falls Ridge Preserve

We’ll walk at Falls Ridge Preserve in the Ellett Valley, to an area of travertine cliffs with a waterfall. At the base of the cliffs, large swaths of trillium grandiflorum and other spring wildflowers grow. Those who wish can take short, steep trails to see additional flowers. A few spring migrant birds may be heard.

John Ogburn has studied and photographed wildflowers all his life. He and Amy Ogburn have traveled widely to observe the native flora.

39. Poplar Forest
DATE/TIME: Thursday, April 18
FEE: $40 includes transportation and guided tour. Lunch at Liberty Station is extra.
LOCATION: Depart Blacksburg Community Center at 10:00 a.m.
Estimated return at 5:30 p.m.

Travel to Poplar Forest for a unique and inspiring experience. Explore Jefferson’s retreat house, his private sanctuary, considered by some as his most perfectly executed architectural work. Learn about the lives and experiences of those who lived in the plantation’s enslaved community.

Lunch will be at Olde Liberty Station in Bedford, a former railroad station and historic landmark.

Bus transportation and trip coordination is provided by Blacksburg Parks and Recreation. If your registration is confirmed with LLI, you will be sent payment instructions. Your seat is not guaranteed unless and until you make payment to the trip coordinator. Tour minimum is 15.

40. Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry Tour
DATE/TIME: Friday, April 19, 9:00 - 10:30
FEE: $15
LOCATION: 706 Harding Ave., Blacksburg

Join Sandy Hagman on a tour of the pantry to see how they process donations and distribute food to nearly 300 families monthly. The pantry, under the umbrella of New River Community Action, has relied on the faith community and other volunteers for 35 years.

Sandy Hagman serves on the pantry's advisory board. She is responsible for its social media outreach and monthly newsletter and serves as a volunteer on her church team.

41. Behind the Scenes Tour of Robotic-Assisted Surgery
Healthy Dialogues with LewisGale Hospital Montgomery
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, April 23, 3:00-4:30
FEE: $15
LOCATION: LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, 3700 S. Main St, Blacksburg

Robotic-assisted surgeries have become increasingly popular in the field of medicine. They allow surgeons to perform complex and delicate procedures with greater control, precision, and accuracy, leading to more successful surgeries and potentially better outcomes. Patients undergoing robotic-assisted surgeries typically experience shorter hospital stays, faster recovery times, and less postoperative pain.

Robotic-assisted surgery is now available in the New River Valley at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery. Meet surgeons Bruce Byrd and Jason Fowlkes who regularly perform robotic-assisted surgeries for a variety of conditions and see how they use this amazing new tool for patient care.

42. New River Raft Trip and Palisades Dinner
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, May 1, noon - 7:30 (rain date May 8)
FEE: $30 for rafting and dinner on your own
LOCATION: Eggleston; transportation provided. Meet at Blacksburg Community Center

Trip coordination is provided by Blacksburg Parks and Recreation. If your registration is confirmed with LLI, you will be sent payment instructions. Your participation is not guaranteed unless and until you make payment to the trip coordinator and complete a waiver form.

Join friends for a 2-3 hour gentle raft float along the beautiful New River in Giles County. Afterward, the group will travel to the Palisades Restaurant for "Southern hospitality and sophisticated cuisine." This trip is not recommended for those with mobility issues.

Connor Russell is the outdoor event supervisor for Blacksburg Parks and Recreation. Connor is a graduate of Radford University with six years’ experience leading outdoor programs.

43. Hahn Horticulture Garden: History, Future Vision, and Walking Tour
DATE/TIME: Monday, May 6, 1:00 – 2:30 (rain date May 13)
FEE: $15
LOCATION: Hahn Horticulture Garden, Virginia Tech campus

Director Scott Douglas will discuss the garden’s development over its 39-year history and the long-range vision for its future. After the lecture, Scott will lead a walking tour through the garden highlighting the different garden spaces and interesting plants along the way.

A landscape architect by trade, Scott became the director of the Hahn Horticulture Garden in August of 2017 and has led the design of a long-range vision for the Garden.

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Group photo on field trip

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