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Cultivate your mind and approach learning on your own terms! Intellectually challenging and personally enriching, LearningLife’s innovative portfolio of short courses, seminars, and one-day immersions feature a range of topics and approaches to learning. Taught by University faculty, and scholars and professionals from the community, the program offers rich, meaningful experiences that highlight the intellectual resources of the University for those who seek knowledge, academic engagement, and personal development.

LearningLife also is home to Encore Transitions, a series of courses designed to help you imagine and prepare for a vibrant post-career life, and Headliners, a lively current event discussion series that highlights the recent work of University scholars and researchers.

Courses, Seminars, Immersions

Revolution in Taste: California’s Changing Viniculture

Start Date: February 11 | Short Course
Instructor: Jason Kallsen
In 2013, Jon Bonné’s book The New California Wine shook the wine world. Labeled as a comprehensive guide to the must-know wines and producers of California's new generation, the book is an astute consideration of “the young, innovative producers who are rewriting the rules of contemporary winemaking.” Based on Bonné’s book, this course explores the old vineyards, forgotten grape varieties, under-appreciated growing regions, and iconoclastic winemakers who are changing the face of Golden State viniculture.

My Ántonia

Start Date: March 9 | Short Course
Instructor: Toni McNaron
In the same year that marked an onslaught of explosive immigration crises and debates, author Willa Cather’s My Ántonia turned 100, and ever so quietly, her masterpiece acquired a new timeliness. As a writer, Cather created characters so vibrant and compelling they seem to leap off the page and into the reader's heart. This is particularly true in My Ántonia. In conjunction with the Illusion Theater’s production of the novel, LearningLife is pleased to offer this one-session course with Dr. Toni McNaron, who will explore the author’s life and work, before leading an in-depth discussion about My Ántonia. Registered students receive a special offer for up to four discounted tickets to the Illusion’s production.

Constant Craving: Of Neuroscience and Addiction 

Start Date: March 13 | Short Course
Instructors: Jazmin Camchong, Julia Lemos, Mark Thomas, Alik Widge, Anna Zilverstand
In conjunction with Brain Awareness Week, LearningLife joins forces with the University’s Departments of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction, and the Brain Conditions area of MnDRIVE to highlight the most current neuroscientific research on addiction. These ongoing inquiries into the common features of addiction are what allow scientists and clinicians to envision and develop new therapies for this most-difficult-to-treat brain condition. Led by five of the University’s finest neuroscience researchers and educators, all three sessions include presentations and ample time for Q & A. 

The Double Act of Yeats and Beckett: Two Irish Writers Compared

Start Date: March 14 | Seminar
Instructor: Patrick O'Donnell 
Often seen superficially as contrasting figures, the indefatigable William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) and the formidable Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) have much more in common than is typically recognized. In this seminar, we’ll examine how Yeats and Beckett are a double act whose work mirrors one another’s obsessions and cultural themes.  

Moving Beyond Perceived Limitations: Improv and Mental Health 

Start Date: March 16 | Short Course
Instructor: Jim Robinson
Anxiety, depression, and tired old stories and feelings of inadequacy can rob us of our vitality, making us feel like wallflowers and spectators rather than participants in any number of social interactions. But did you know that improvisation can help you discover personal strengths and move beyond what you perceive to be your limitations? Offered in conjunction with Brain Awareness Week, this course provides a supportive, task-focused environment in which we’ll explore the physiology of anxiety, and the improv tools that can help to manage your dread and demons, rejuvenate your self-worth, and improve and sustain your mental health. 

The Common Good

Start Date: March 18 |Short Course
Instructor: Larry Litecky
What is the common good? What happened to the common good? Can the common good be restored? Based, in part, on Robert Reich’s The Common Good, this course looks unabashedly at these questions and consider what Reich calls “the very essence of any society or nation.”Tackling one question at a time, we’ll begin with a history of the common good in the United States, examine the decline of the common good in American life over the past half century, and discuss whether the common ground can be restored. 

Genomes: Understanding Your Body’s Ancestry

Start Date: March 25, 2019 | Short Course
Instructor: David Matthes
It’s complicated, but grasshoppers and elephants are built from the same arrangement of just four chemical bases. How? A little (and huge) thing called genomes. In this course participants will not only learn about ancestry and genomes, they also will learn to interpret their own human genome sequence. Take the plunge and discover the amazing world residing within nearly every cell of your body.

The Normandy Invasion: A 75th Anniversary Retrospective

Start Date: April 9 |Short Course
Instructor: John Kim Munholland
Perhaps one of the most dramatic events of World War II came with the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when approximately 156,000 US, British, and Canadian forces landed on five separate beaches along France’s Normandy coast and forever changed the course of the war. As the world marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this retrospective taught by Professor Emeritus John Kim Munholland provides details of how the historic invasion was achieved. 

Poetry: A ReIntroduction

Start Date: April 11, 2019 | Short Course
Instructor: Toni McNaron
Poetry is one of the most ancient and durable art forms. So why does it get such a bad rap? While it’s true that poetry is sometimes taught in a way that makes people feel intimidated, it’s also true that poetry has long been a reservoir to help people understand and voice their relationships with the natural world and one another. Taught by Professor Emerita Toni McNaron, this course will guide participants through three highly accessible poetry collections.

Galileo on Trial in Italy

Start Date: April 17 |Seminar
Instructor: Laura Coffin Koch
Have you ever wondered what Galileo found so fascinating about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the study of mathematics and science? Or why he was willing to risk his career, his freedom, and even his life for science? In this seminar we’ll learn how Galileo and his now-renowned contributions to math and science came into conflict with arguably the most powerful institution in Europe and perhaps the world, during post-Renaissance Italy. We’ll also examine what themes and issues surrounding the great 17th-century thinker might be manifested in today’s world.

The Fallen One: Verdi’s La Traviata

Start Date: April 30 |Short Course
Instructor: Daniel Freeman
First performed in Venice in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata (The Fallen One) maintains an unassailable position as one of the best-loved and most frequently performed operas in the world. Offered in conjunction with the Minnesota Opera production of La Traviata, this course celebrates the opera’s easy-to-follow love story and endless variety of memorable musical ideas and motifs, including the extravagant and florid passagework required of the female lead.

FROM THE FIELD | The EPA: Scientific Integrity in the Balance

Start Date: May 21 |Seminar
Instructor: Deborah Swackhamer
The past two years have been met with tremendous change in the protection of human health and the environment and nowhere is this more apparent than at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this seminar, Dr. Deborah Swackhamer will discuss her experience as a former EPA science advisor and how she believes recent changes are being bolstered by selective and dubious scientific evidence, therefore undermining the very integrity of science itself.

Positive Psychology: The Science of Well-Being

Start Date: July 9 | Short Course
Instructor: Amy Gunty
Would you like to become more adept at activities that researchers believe increase life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning? Would you like to live your life more fully? This course delves into the tenets of Positive Psychology, which focuses not on human deficits and problems but rather human strengths, resilience, and well-being. Gather some optimistic steam and come learn about the research behind this bold approach to looking at the variances of the human condition. 


There are four ways to register:

1. Online by selecting the course title

2. By phone if you're paying by credit card: 612-624-4000 

3. By faxing the completed form to 612-624-5359

4. Via mail by sending the completed form to:

CCAPS Registration Center
353 Ruttan Hall, 1994 Buford Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55108

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