Austinite Fairy Rutland can tell you all about the medieval crusades
from Europe to the East. She can explain how feudal inheritance practices
left the younger children of noblemen searching for a worthy cause,
how factions of the Catholic Church were vying for control of Alexandria
and how the seeds of distrust between the East and West were planted
all these generations ago.
Odyssey program offers adults opportunities to learn about
memory and myriad other topics.
But Rutland isn’t a student seeking
a university degree nor a factoid-spouting history buff. She’s
an attorney and one of hundreds of area adults who has participated
in the new Odyssey
personal enrichment program in the Division of Continuing and Extended
A class offered by English professor Geraldine Heng
as part of the “Mediterranean
Encounters” Humanities Lecture Series last fall led Rutland
to consider the lasting impact of the crusades.
“It was fascinating,” says Rutland of the series. “It
was one of the first times I had the opportunity to study anything
about the Middle East. Odyssey offers a terrific opportunity for
me to keep learning.”
The Odyssey program offers short-term,
noncredit classes for students of all ages, from all backgrounds.
Engaging topics from Beethoven
to Argentinian ballet, the evil eye to candidates eyeing the White
House, Odyssey aims for the grand scope implied in its name. It
is quickly becoming the place where the community comes to gain
to the best that The University of Texas at Austin has to offer.
And the community is driving the program.
“One of the great things about Odyssey is that it can be really
responsive to student demand,” says Dr. Jo Anne Shea, director
of University Extension and one of the key forces behind the creation
of Odyssey. “The
curriculum is established directly from what people tell us they
They want classes in history, music, art and the humanities.
They want in-depth learning that goes beyond what they can get
cable television. They want the chance to not just listen, but
engage speakers on a variety of topics. They want access to the
riches of the university usually reserved for degree-seeking students.
Odyssey delivers on all counts.
Odyssey courses run one night a week
for six to eight weeks and are held at the university’s Thompson
Conference Center (TCC) and Bass lecture hall. Most courses focus
on a particular topic with
experts approaching the topic from a variety of directions.
For example, for the spring offering “Memory:
The Bridge to the Past,” Dr. Bradley Love from the Department of Psychology
will give a talk on the brain’s learning and memory systems
one week, and another week Dr. Samer Ali from Middle Eastern
Studies will talk about memory and identity in sixth-century
will also learn about Proust, memorial gardens and Renaissance
Texas-focused lectures include “Lone Star Nation” and “Joining
the Wartime Fight for Mexican Rights in Texas.”
“Odyssey is bringing some of the university’s finest lecturers
to the forefront,” says Wayne Hunt, director of the TCC. “The
caliber of the lecturers is one of the things that makes the
University enrichment programs exist
all over the country, but it’s
rare to find one so centered in the university itself. Usually
universities match experts outside the university with students
outside the university.
Odyssey enlists active, esteemed university faculty, along
with some top-of-their-field guests, to interact with students
who may be retirees,
local professionals, university students or staff or just interested
members of the community.
This type of interaction benefits
the students, but it benefits the faculty members as well.
“This program offers faculty members the opportunity to think
about their disciplines in relation to other disciplines,” says
Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, director of the LBJ Library and a well-known
and editor. “What’s fun is that because you are
speaking to a general theme, you may have to think outside
the confines of
Flowers offered a lecture in the fall
as part of Odyssey’s
for Word: The UT Speaker Series. Word for Word connects
Odyssey students with thought-provoking lecturers in a line-up
anything imaginable. This spring journalist and author Liz
Carpenter will talk about making speeches and Dr. Robert Freeman,
dean of the
College of Fine Arts, will present “Beethoven and the
Future of Austin.”
Flowers’ November lecture, “Poetry,
Story and Soul,” was
a classic Odyssey event. The students ranged in age from 25
to 80. Some took notes. Other simply listened. The discussion
And when Flowers spoke of the power of poetry, saying, “what
makes things beautiful and poignant is that they pass,” she
had a rapt audience.
This is one of the other benefits for faculty
members: students who are simply glad to be there.
“It’s learning for the sake of learning, the joy of
learning and the experience of learning,” says Hunt. “This
is the purest form of learning there is.”
third season begins February 2, and this season’s
offerings are diverse and exciting. In addition to the series
on memory and Word for Word, the program will offer a seven-week
commemorating the 60th anniversary year of the Normandy Invasion, “Local
Fronts, Global Consequences: A 60-Year Perspective on World
War II.” University
scholars and researchers will cover everything from the origins
of the war to the wartime Mexican civil rights fight.
students can see Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino perform in
March as part of the ArtesAméricas series.
is also celebrating its first collaboration with the Performing
Arts Center (PAC) for the “ArtesAméricas Up Close
and Personal Lecture & Performance Series.”
is an initiative of the PAC and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute
of Latin American Studies. It brings the best in Latin
American and U.S. Latino performing artists to the university
and to new audiences across the country through partnerships
than 40 universities and institutions. Launched last fall,
ArtesAméricas has already featured a wide range of Latin
American artists. This
spring it will premiere the opera “La Tentación
de San Antonio” by Mexican composer Luis Jaime Cortez,
present Julio Bocca and Ballet Argentino and stage a first
production of the opera “The
Old Majestic” by San Antonio native Robert Xavier Rodriguez.
“It began with the idea of bringing Latin American and Latino
artists to the forefront,” says Judith Rhedin, community relations
specialist at the PAC. “The focus is to make it as commonplace
to bring in artists from Latin America as it currently is to
bring them in from Europe.”
The collaboration with Odyssey
enables ArtesAméricas to expand
its educational component. The series is like a living documentary.
Students attend eight lectures and behind-the-scenes encounters
with choreographers, directors and other performing arts professionals.
the rare opportunity of meeting with the composers of both
operas. And then they attend the performances. Enrollment will
to allow for a real hands-on experience. It’s hard for
participants to get more in-depth without getting on the stage
The ArtesAméricas collaboration is the first
in what Odyssey planners hope will be a long line of collaborations
with the PAC
and other organizations across campus. Given the enthusiastic
response of Odyssey students and the wealth of resources at
the possibilities for future courses are endless.
“This is where people, ideas, the community and the university come
together,” says Hunt. “It is, as our dean likes
to say, serious fun.”
[For more information about Odyssey courses, visit the Odyssey Web
site or call 512-471-2938.]