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Courses & Events

The Arkansas River pierces the heart of America, stretching 1,469 miles from the Tennessee Pass in Colorado to the Mississippi River at the eastern edge of Arkansas. Using the backdrop of the instructor's two solo kayak trips down the entire length of the Ark in 1976 and again in 2018, we will explore this heavily regulated river from beginning to end. The nation's sixth-longest river (45th longest in the world) is both the economic engine and burden to millions of people and scores of cities bordering its banks. From raging rapids to diversion dams for irrigation ditches, to dry streambeds, and finally barge traffic, we will examine the impact this wild, elusive and embattled river has had on cities, towns and adjacent farmland, starting with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 through to the present day. 

Instructor Bio: Hannes Zacharias is a Professor of Practice at KU's School of Public Affairs and Administration. His 35-year career in local government concluded as Johnson County Manager, Hannes has spent 45 years paddling rivers, including the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, 1,000 miles on the Missouri, and down the Arkansas River.

April 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Behind every successful man, there is a woman, and throughout history, America's First Families have embodied this saying. The role of America's First Lady is ever changing with each new occupant of the White House. They are embedded in our memory as activists and leaders of the causes they championed. Women such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, Abigail Adams, and Hillary Clinton have advanced discussions on once-taboo subjects and have led as fascinating lives as their husbands. This course will examine the often-secluded lives of these women, their actions behind the scenes and their impact on our nation. 

Instructor Bio: Tyler Habiger holds a bachelor's degree in American politics and theatre and a master's in human services from Drury University. He has served as a college

July 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
After the United States entered World War II in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the continued operation of both Major League and Negro League baseball. The president believed the "National Pastime" would help boost homefront morale during the difficult war years lying ahead. This course examines the results of President Roosevelt's decision. We will explore the war's effect on professional baseball, the fans, teams and individual players. Class participants will also learn how the "National Pastime" operated during the war and the post-war changes that occurred in baseball. 

Instructor Bio: Kevin L. Mitchell is the baseball history blogger of The Baseball Scroll ( and author of Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Era. The Kansas City, Kan. native earned bachelors and master's degrees from the University of Kansas.

July 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Join us as we explore the causes and history of climate change and discuss how the planet has been uninhabitable five times in the ancient past due to climate change. Learn about the evidence available to indicate that climate change is occurring as we look at the various floods, droughts, fires and storms in 2021and compare them historically. In addition, we will spend time considering the current programs and long-term solutions to stop climate change. The class will conclude with a discussion on "With great change comes great opportunity"; in short, new industries will blossom and some companies and industries will disappear.

Instructor Bio: Charles "Chick" Keller is a retired senior executive and retired professor. He worked 15 years at each Sprint, and Black and Veatch in strategic planning and strategic marketing raising to the VP level both times. In 2000 Chick began a career as a professor at the University of Kansas, Master of Engineering Management program where he taught Finance and Strategic Planning.

June 4-18, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The security of the U.S. homeland is not a recent concern. Ever since American independence, the U.S. government has dealt with numerous threats to domestic tranquility. George Washington's use of federal troops to enforce federal law during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the federal government's response to domestic terrorism associated with Bleeding Kansas and Reconstruction, and the government's actions dealing with the San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 provide insight into historical and legal perspectives of the governmental responsibilities during domestic crises. 

Instructor Bio: Tony R. "Randy" Mullis, Ph.D., is Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Professor Mullis holds a PhD in History from the University of Kansas. His major fields include the history of the United States and military history. His secondary field is indigenous nations studies. He is the author of Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas.

March 29, 2021 to April 12, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991 was a decisive military victory to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The United States led a global coalition of35 nations to expel the Iraqi army, at the time the world's fourth largest, from the occupation of Kuwait in August 1990 to liberation in February 1991.The United States deployed almost 700,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, including Europe based 1st Armored Division. To commemorate Desert Storm's 30thanniversary, this course looks at the campaign through the personal experiences of an Abrams tank company in 1st Armored Division. It offers a unique perspective of the experiences of American soldiers in combat while also examining the ramifications of the end of the Cold War era.

Instructor Bio: Mark Gerges is an Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Department of Military History at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Before becoming a civilian faculty member, he served twenty years as an armor officer in the United States, Germany, and the Balkans. He commanded an M1A1 Abrams tank company during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

June 3-17, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course examines the changes in White House speechwriting, from the earliest ghostwriters in George Washington's administration to contemporary presidential speechwriters. We will examine speechwriting drafts from Truman, Kennedy, Carter, and George H. W. Bush as well as speech files from Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush. Video and audio clips from former White House speechwriters describing the process will be included. We'll view speechwriters' drafts and the final products in both written and video formats. This course is only available to Brandon Woods residents. 

INSTRUCTOR BIO: Diana Carlin, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Communication at Saint Louis University and a retired professor of Communication Studies at KU. She has co-authored a book on gender and politics and taught courses on women as political leaders, the rhetoric of women's rights and communication and gender.

June 3-17, 2021, Brandon Woods Smith Center (Lawrence, KS)
In Great Opera Scenes, Part I, Osher instructor Don Dagenais brought us video excerpts from great operas, consisting of iconic love scenes, choruses and comic scenes. In this sequel, he will feature three more classes of great opera scenes: tenor arias, opera ensembles and soprano arias. Among the tenor arias, we will enjoy excerpts from such classics as Verdi's Rigoletto, Puccini's Tosca, Gounod's Faust and Bizet's Carmen. For the ensembles (trios, quartets, quintets, etc.), we will feature excerpts from Puccini's La boheme, Verdi's Rigoletto and A Masked Ball, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Wagner's Die Meistersinger, among others. Among the great soprano arias, we will hear excerpts from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Puccini's Tosca, Gounod's Romeo and Juliet, Wagner's Tannhauser, Rossini's The Barber of Seville and others. It is not necessary for you to have attended Part I in order to enjoy this class. 

Instructor Bio: Don Dagenais has been a preview speaker for the Lyric Opera for more than 20 years and he teaches classical music and opera courses for local organizations. Among other pursuits, he enjoys studying American political history and has compiled an extensive collection of memorabilia from presidential political campaigns fro

July 13-27, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
In this course we will explore the major themes, events and historical figures of Latin America's recent past. A specific focus will be placed on the late 19th century, the Cold War and the recent rise of populist governments. The class will examine the impact of United States imperialism and will discuss the rise of right-wing nationalist governments, as well as the role of historical memory in regional identity. Finally we will explore what history might tell about the future direction of this important part of the world. 

Instructor Bio: Aaron Margolis received his doctorate in history from the University of Texas at El Paso where he concentrated on Latin American and Borderlands History. He is currently an associate professor of history at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

July 16-30, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course will take you on a journey of learning about travel. You will learn how to choose what trips are right for you and how to prepare for those trips. We explore the different ways to travel and if you should travel alone or with a group. Should you go on a river boat or a freighter or a cruise ship. You will hear about travel insurance, money and how to pack light. Even if you aren't planning to travel right now, join a world traveler who will tell you stories about places that have fascinated tourist for years. Discover unique possibilities for your own travel adventures.

Instructor Bio: Georgia Klein is a retired secondary educator from the Shawnee Mission School District. She has been to Europe 26 times and has presented workshops on travel to other continents. She has also been a guide for Road Scholars on a walking tour of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO.

April 26, 2021 to May 10, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course commences by explaining how the institution of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade connected Africa to the United States. It also offers glimpses into how the breakout of the Second World War, the Cold War, the African people's push for self-governance and independence, and the process of globalization and democratization that have shaped and defined United States and Africa political relations. These developments cultivate an appreciation and understanding of the role of the United States in the African world. Join us as we delve into this topic.

Instructor Bio: Hannington Ochwada, Ph.D. has researched and taught world history, African studies, and African history. He speaks and instructs Kiswahili. He is a regular contributor in East African media on topical issues about Africa.

June 25, 2021 to July 9, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
117 writers have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but only 16 have been women. Setting aside this lack of inclusion, these female writers stand out for their artistry, their contribution to their country's cultures and the universality of the themes they convey with their work. This course will offer a look at the lives and accomplishments of all these women-from Sweden's Selma Lagerlöf in 1909 to the most recent recipient, U.S. poet Louise Gluck in 2020-and most closely at the laureates who wrote in English-Pearl S. Buck, Toni Morrison, Louise Gluck, Nadine Gordimer, Alice Munro and Doris Lessing. Some short out-of-class reading assignments will enhance the study of some of these masters' art if participants decide to delve into the reading. 

Instructor Bio: Robert Weibezahl is a writer, editor, cultural critic and publishing industry veteran who has worked with Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and countless bestselling authors. He has published a number of works of fiction and nonfiction, is an award-winning, internationally produced playwright and writes a monthly literary column for BookPage. Weibezahl has a master's in humanities, a bachelor's in English, and an associate degree in music. He has taught at Osher programs in California, Utah and Hawaii.

July 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This past year has brought out various types of behavior in everyone, and lawyers are no different. It has been a challenging time for our society, but even during troubled times, lawyers are subject to a detailed code of professional conduct enforced by the courts. These rules cover both behavior in court and out of court. In this course, we will explore the Rules of Professional Conduct that regulate lawyer behavior and discuss how these rules work in practice and what impact they have on clients.

Instructor Bio: Mike Hoeflich, PhD, a professor at the KU School of Law, holds a doctorate from Cambridge University and a law degree from Yale Law School.

June 22, 2021 to July 6, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
What are some of the historic landmarks of Kansas and why are they important to us today? In this course, we will begin by learning about the federal and state historic preservation laws, discover historic structures both before and after statehood in 1861, and survey some of those buildings and structures that are now historic landmarks. The goal of the class is to learn what stories our ancestors tell us through the built environment and how we pass that knowledge on to future generations of Kansans. 

Instructor: Paul Post is a native Kansan, currently residing in Topeka. He received a bachelor's in history from Kansas State University in 1971 and a law degree from the University of Kansas Law School in 1974. Now retired from the practice of law, he has been a member of the Topeka Landmarks Commission since 2014 and was commission vice chair in 2018.

July 15-29, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The largest military operation of the war, Overlord was the high point of the Greatest Generation's campaign to rid the world of Nazi tyranny. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower led thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen in an operation that witnessed extraordinary acts of courage, heroism and determination. We will discuss the planning, preparation and personalities of Overlord, highlighting the airborne and amphibious forces whose extraordinary accomplishments made legendary Pointe du Hoc, Ste.- Mère-Église, and Utah and Omaha beaches. 

Instructor Bio: Harry S. Laver, Ph.D., is a professor of military history at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth. In addition to Operation Overlord, he specializes in the American Civil War, and has led tours to Normandy for more than ten years.

June 4-18, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
With the help of an inexpensive app, we can shoot and edit film-quality videos with our smartphones, easily up to the standards of social media, commercial and brand video work, and documentary and narrative film work. Gain the control and capabilities of professional cinematographers and design the look, color, lighting and framing of every single shot in a smartphone film. This course is suitable for aspiring filmmakers, entrepreneurs, video storytellers, social media content creators and content producers. Note: Students will be required to purchase and install the Filmic Pro app on their phones. You can purchase it directly through your mobile device or on your home computer, through either the Google Play Store (Android) or through the App Store (iPhone). 

Instructor: Stephen Knifton is an Emmy-award winning TV news producer, credited for creating and producing engaging and highly rated news programming. Steve moved onto the digital content world and created work for museums, engineers, architects, designers, hospitality + tourism and business development clients. For the past few years, Steve has (remotely) taught video storytelling and smartphone filmmaking at a number of colleges. Steve lived and worked in both New York and Toronto and teaches in both Canada and the U.S.

June 24, 2021 to July 8, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Tales of the Chessboard As portrayed in the recent Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit," the drama of the game of chess is not necessarily confined to the sixty-four squares. Join us for stories of famous and not-so-famous players and matches that have helped make chess the most iconic of all board games. There is no need to be a chess player to appreciate these tales of conquest, salvation and madness that are intertwined with the "game of kings." Come join the fun as we explore this exciting game. 

Instructor Bio: David Mannering earned a doctorate in higher education administration from KU. He recently retired from a 40-year career in information technology, including 15 years as a chief information officer. He has taught management information systems courses and computer programming.

June 25, 2021 to July 9, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
We all have stories to tell, from tiny anecdotes to major turning points in our lives. Professional storyteller Priscilla Howe guides participants in mining life experiences for the tellable tale, shaping and crafting reminiscences, listening for underlying themes, and telling the stories face-to-face and heart-to-heart. While the emphasis is on oral storytelling, this class will also be helpful for writers. 

Instructor Bio: Since 1993, storyteller Priscilla Howe has traveled the world telling family stories, folktales and literary stories to listeners of all ages. She performs on Zoom and, when it isn't a pandemic, in schools, libraries, festivals, house concerts and literally her own backyard.

June 22, 2021 to July 6, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Most of us grew up believing that when Europeans landed on the east coast of the United States, they were met by "savages," people who lived in the forest and were therefore less developed. In reality, the native cultures were more highly sophisticated than many even realize today. This class will review our shared history from the native point of view. We will consider the diverse reasons Europeans first came to America, how vastly different the Native American and European cultures were and why and how relationships that began peacefully evolved into violence in Jamestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Northwest Territory.

Instructor Bio: Gil Nichols is a lifelong student of history and North American Indian cultures. He has participated in Dakota and Lakota ceremonies for more than 35 years. He taught high school social sciences for 30 years, and American Indian studies at William Jewell and UMKC for 14 years. He has also taught for the UMKC SPARK program, and has served as a Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art tour guide for nine years. Gil is also Chair of the Thidaware Native American Garden Project at Line Creek Park in Kansas City.

July 16-30, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Join the makerspace movement with an orientation and overview on maker mindset and tools. These workspaces are where people with common interests can connect and learn together with computers, machining, technology, electronic art, shop tools, sewing machines, crafting spaces and more. Makerspaces help people meet, socialize and collaborate. Take a chance on learning new skills & tools with sound entrepreneurial aspects of makerspaces. Together, we will uncover the joy and pride from envisioning and making an item in its full process and the scope of makerspace opportunities for adults. We will look at how the maker movement compares to the Industrial Revolution and democratizes access to tools and information to help people pursue and achieve their creativity in new ways with 3-D printers, coding and more. This class can help inspire you to think, work, create and make in new ways. We will not be creating items in class, however, the information presented will awaken your creative ability and potentially motivate you to make something of your own.

Instructor Bio: Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 director of elementary education, Dr. Lucas Shivers channels his life-long passion for positive student and staff development to build the core values of student-centered learning, responsible character development and adaptive leadership to facilitate growth for every student as a champion and advocate for innovative instruction.

June 3-17, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course discusses how three generations of Spencers led Kansas to the forefront of coal mining and chemical manufacturing. John, the patriarch, his son, Charles, and the grandson, Kenneth, developed a coal/chemical empire from 1867 to Kenneth's death in 1960. During that century their companies became the world's leaders in mechanized mining processes and manufacturers of agricultural fertilizer. We'll also examine the Spencer Foundation's contributions to the arts and culture of the Midwest and nation such as the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. 

Instructor Bio: Ken Crockett was born in Pittsburg, Kansas in a second-generation family of coal miners. He was educated at Central Missouri State University (BA degree) and Washburn University of Law (Juris Doctor). He is the author of two books relative to Kansas mining (Missouri Coal Miners Strike and Kenneth and Helen Spencer, Champions of Culture & Commerce In The Sunflower State).

June 3-17, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Before the increasing news coverage, any mention of Uyghurs was mostly met with a puzzled look. Who are they...and how is that pronounced? As news venues have highlighted the plight of this Turkic ethnic group in far western China, awareness is growing, but still many questions remain. In this course, we will explore the history and culture of Uyghurs living in a region that has a contested past. The goal of this course is to promote understanding of the complex historical, cultural, political and economic reasons behind the current human rights atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic populations in Xinjiang. 

Instructor Bio: Amanda Snider has a master's in anthropology from KU. She began studying Uyghur language and culture in 2005, and spent several years teaching English in western China, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Currently, she works at the KU Center for East Asian Studies.

June 4-18, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The U.S. inaugurated its first woman vice president but still has not joined 70 other countries that have had women presidents or prime ministers. Since the 19th amendment in 1920, women have made progress on the political stage, but they often experience subtle or overt sexism. Going back to 1872, this course looks at women who ran for office and the challenges they faced from opponents and the media. Videos, political cartoons and newspaper headlines show that much has changed but many things have stayed the same over 100 years. 

Instructor Bio: Diana Carlin, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Communication at Saint Louis University and a retired professor of Communication Studies at KU. She has co-authored a book on gender and politics and taught courses on women as political leaders, the rhetoric of women's rights and communication and gender.

June 7-21, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Many individuals contribute to history but never get their due. Women and other marginalized groups traditionally received less ink in history books than the "great men" of history who were mainly white males. This course looks at nine women, three each session, whose achievements are not commonly known. Among the nine women are a scientist, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a pioneering woman pilot, a suffragist, a candidate for the U.S. presidency, an activist for women's and African American's rights, a British anthropologist and a pioneering woman politician from the western U.S. 

Instructor Bio: Diana Carlin, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Communication at Saint Louis University and a retired professor of Communication Studies at KU. She has co-authored a book on gender and politics and taught courses on women as political leaders, the rhetoric of women's rights and communication and gender

July 13-27, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Imagine a day without space-based capabilities. What would happen to your television? How do you forecast the weather? Global finance grinds to a halt. The stock markets crash. Your credit card becomes useless. Air travel stops. The trucking industry falters. Space-based capabilities touch your everyday life in so many ways that are normally unperceived. This course will examine the American and global dependency realized through space-based capabilities and how your daily life depends on those systems. We will look at the answers to several questions to include: Where are satellites? How do they orbit? How are they impacted by solar weather? Do solar flares really cause problems on earth? How does GPS really work? How critical are satellites to national security and commerce? And in all of those movies, what is reality and what is director's license?

Instructor Bio: As one of the Army's first 9 Space Operations Officers, Thomas A. Gray, MSA, is an education and training specialist working for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command teaching at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth as well as other institutions across the country.

April 15-29, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)