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)
Arlington National Cemetery is America's most hallowed shrine. We'll review its colorful history from its pre-Civil War days as Robert E. Lee's home through current U.S. conflicts. We'll recount lives of the famous and not-so-famous buried there, from presidents to privates, officers to enlisted men, Supreme Court justices to unknown slaves. We'll visit its major monuments and memorials, including Tomb of the Unknowns and the September 11th Memorial. We'll look at eligibility for burial, types of military honors, and how this modern cemetery administers 37 burials every weekday.

Instructor Bio: Jim Peters, J.D., is director emeritus of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at KU and author of "Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. He also teaches a course on the Underground Railroad in Northeast Kansas.

June 2-16, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The beauty and serenity of Japanese Gardens never cease to amaze and delight! What draws us to these wonders? Are they representations of nature recreated or are they intended to manipulate our view of nature in natural and unnatural or altered ways? In this course, we'll look beyond the exquisite beauty of Japanese gardens and learn to identify and more deeply appreciate the common elements that comprise a Japanese garden while exploring their various styles. Dianne will once again wow you with visuals, videos, culture, history, and insights through this tour of prominent and lesser-known Japanese gardens in Japan as well as in our own backyard. 

Instructor Bio: Dianne Daugherty holds master's degrees in education and contemporary East Asian studies. She lived and worked in Japan for three years, and taught Japanese to high school and college students.

July 14-28, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Botanical gardens were first developed in the 16th century as medicinal gardens, but today they are destination sites for plant lovers around the world. From the oldest botanical garden in England, the Chelsea Physic Garden, to the newly revived Scampston Hall walled garden in North Yorkshire, and from the local Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kan., to the Irish National Garden in Belfast, we will explore the history, beauty and meaning of the botanical garden through photography, art and literature. You won't want to miss this armchair tour! 

Instructor Bio: Thomas Fox Averill is professor emeritus at Washburn University where he taught Kansas literature, folklore and film for more than 40 years. He is the author of three story collections and five novels, almost all of them set in Kansas. His most recent novel is "Found Documents from the Life of Nell Johnson Doerr: A Novel".

June 1-15, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
When Reconstruction ended in 1877, the federal troops occupying the "unredeemed" Southern states were withdrawn, unleashing racial violence by white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White League. This forced as many as 40,000 African American "Exodusters" to flee to Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado. But it was Kansas, the land of John Brown and the Free State, which attracted most of the refugees. We will review the events that caused the exodus, the arduous trek to Kansas and its leaders, the communities that were established here and the fate of those communities.

INSTRUCTOR BIO: Jim Peters, J.D., is director emeritus of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at KU and author of "Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. He also teaches a course on the Underground Railroad in Northeast Kansas.

June 24, 2021 to July 8, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course examines the origins and geographical diffusion of the three most popular caffeine drinks. Although containing the most widely used psychoactive drug, these drinks are seemingly so innocuous they are sold without legal age restrictions and with limited regulations worldwide, yet they have left a legacy of cultural and environmental destruction in the wake of their widespread adoption during the process of globalization. For example, we will learn of the role of tea in the Opium Wars of China, coffee's contribution to slavery in the Americas and the detrimental health effects of sugar in sodas-or "pop" if you are from Kansas. This course can be taken independently of the previous "Six Drinks" course on wine, beer and spirits, the alcohol drinks that changed the world. 

Instructor Bio: Tom Schmiedeler, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of geography at Washburn University.

June 28, 2021 to July 19, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Theodore Roosevelt sits atop Mount Rushmore, nestled between Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He was chosen to be a part of this historical structure in 1927 because he was considered among our greatest presidents, a position he retains among historians today. We'll examine T.R.'s life, overcoming debilitating asthma as a child to build a reputation as a robust outdoorsman, astute politician, pioneering conservationist and international statesman. Roosevelt was New York City's police commissioner, assistant secretary of the Navy, volunteer Rough Rider, New York governor and vice president before becoming the youngest president at age 42 following William McKinley's assassination in 1901. This course will be held in-person at Brewster Place and the public is allowed to attend. 

Instructor Bio: Jim Peters, J.D., is director emeritus of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at KU and author of "Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes. He also teaches a course on the Underground Railroad in Northeast Kansas

July 13-27, 2021, Brewster Place Cultural Arts Center (Topeka, KS)
The world in the decade that followed the end of World War I was a much different place than before. Empires that existed in 1914 were swept away as the Europe witnessed the creation of new states. This three-session course examines the world in the ten years following the catastrophe of the First World War. The first class focuses on the United States during the "Roaring Twenties," a time of middle-class prosperity, prohibition, technological advances in science and industry and societal upheaval. The second class examines Europe in the aftermath of war, with civil war in Russia, the rise of fascism in Italy, the challenges of disarmament and the birth pangs of newly created central European states. The final class looks at Asia, the rise of Japan, India's struggle for independence, unrest in China and the quest for self-determination among European-dominated Asian states. 

Instructor Bio: Robert Smith, PhD, is the Director of the Fort Riley Museum. He has a doctorate in history from KSU, and has published numerous articles on military history.

June 1-15, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
This course will explore the historical development of the U.S.- Mexico border from the perspective of both Mexico and the United States. Together, we will explore how the border evolved and hardened through the creation of the Border Patrol, the Mexican Revolution and the effects of Prohibition. We'll review personal accounts, photographs and songs of "borderlanders," along with government officials providing crucial context to today's current debates. Finally, we will examine how to negotiate the border in the age of nationalism.  

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.

April 16-30, 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)
Traders and Trading on the Santa Fe TrailWho was trading? What and where did it come from? From simple trade deals to sophisticated merchant houses, the Santa Fe Trail was truly global with trade goods coming from European markets on both ends. Traders bought goods in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Goods came into St. Louis from those eastern cities and from ports at New Orleans. Spanish goods came into Mexico and up the Camino Royale into the province of New Mexico. Those traders have left their names on towns and landmarks throughout the west.

Instructor Bio: Deb Goodrich is the host of the TV show "Around Kansas," and the Garvey (Texas) Foundation Historian in Residence at the Fort Wallace Museum. She chairs the Santa Fe Trail 200, the bicentennial of that historic route in 2021. Deb has appeared in numerous documentaries including "The Road to Valhalla," "Aftershock," and "American Experience" on Jesse James, as well as the series, "Gunslingers" on AHC. She wrote and produced the docu-drama, "Thof's Dragon," about the discovery of a plesiosaur in western Kansas in the 1860s.

June 7-21, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Two Holocaust survivors, one a young Jewish boy, the other a Catholic teenage Polish Resistance fighter, would meet years later as professors at KU and form a strong friendship. The story of Lou Frydman explores the Holocaust and his eyewitness account of Jewish resistance in the concentration camps. Jarek Piekalkiewicz's story as a Polish Resistance fighter illustrates the mistakes, triumphs, history and organization of the Polish Resistance-the most effective underground movement to challenge the Nazis. We'll discuss what it means to lose not just one's family, but one's whole community and way of life, and the challenge of creating a new life in a new land. 

Instructor Bio: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the author of 19 books. This course is based on her book, "Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and a Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other".

July 13-27, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Larger than the U.S. (with one-tenth the population), and a major destination for tourists from the south, Canada is our closest friend and ally. For many Americans, however, it's also a land of mystery and confusion. How much do you really know about the history, geography and culture of our giant neighbor? French is an official language, the system of government is British, and the first settlers were Vikings. It's an independent country, but loyal to the "Crown" (and Harry and Meghan's new home!). This course is your "far and wide" introduction to Canada, and an invitation to explore "the True North strong and free." 

Instructor Bio: Kevin Boatwright is emeritus director of external affairs in the KU Office of Research. He has a bachelor's degree in English and master's degrees in journalism, history and higher education administration. He studied Canadian history at the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Manitoba, and is a past president of the Midwest Association for Canadian Studies.

June 28, 2021 to July 19, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Join us as we explore the great women in aviation and learn about all they have accomplished since 1906, when they first learned to fly the skies. We will discuss Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly the English Channel; Matice Wright, the first Black woman flight officer on an aircraft carrier; Eileen Collins, first captain of the Space Shuttle; Lillian Todd, who, in 1906,designed, built and flew one of the first airplanes; Olive Beech, who would take over Beech Airways to become the CEO when her husband died; and Amelia Earhart, who attempted to fly around the world twice at the equator. We will dive into the history, past and present of how women learned to conquer the airplane and the skies and deal with men's attitudes. From early biplanes, autogyros and helicopters working in two world wars, air races, stunt flying and delivering the mail, we have 7,038 international women pilots flying commercial planes and 7,503 in air transportation flying freight.

Instructor Bio: Russ Hutchins teaches U.S. History, Western Civilization, and Economics at Friends University-Topeka. He is a retired public school administrator and educator of 41 years.

June 3-17, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)