Stimulate your brain with Vanderbilt Osher winter classes

The Vanderbilt Osher Lifelong Learning Institute's winter 2015 term begins Jan. 12. (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt University)

Trends in contemporary film, relationships between science and science fiction, Irish comedy, and the ways music propelled the U.S. Civil Rights Movement are among the topics for the winter 2015 term of the Vanderbilt Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Other subjects for the non-credit classes, which are open to those 50 and older, are women’s communities of the late Middle Ages, the U.S. Constitution, history of Christianity in Roman Africa, ancient civilizations of the Americas, and a broad overview of the Ukraine’s political landscape.

“The start of the new year will be a great time for our Osher students to explore topics impacting our community as well as those around the globe,” said Norma Clippard, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt. “[rquote]We offer intellectually stimulating non-credit classes that are taught by Vanderbilt professors and other experts.”[/rquote]

The $80 fee enables members to sign up for three classes, each of which usually meets for six sessions. Each additional class is only $10.

Kassian Kovalcheck, professor of communication studies, emeritus, in the College of Arts and Science, leads off the term Jan. 12 with “Irish Comedy: Light and Dark.” Students will explore six films illustrating the use of Irish humor. The class will meet at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

Two classes meet on Tuesdays at The Temple starting Jan. 13 — “The U.S. Constitution: Foundation and Interpretation” and “Contemporary World Cinema.” The constitution course will be taught by John Vile, a Middle Tennessee State University political scientist. The emphasis will be on understanding various interpretations of the document. The second Tuesday class, taught by Brian Owens, artistic director of the Nashville Film Festival, includes a preview of international films at the April 2015 Nashville Film Festival.

Two classes meet on Wednesdays at Vanderbilt’s Commons Center starting Jan. 14: “Nuns and Prostitutes of the Middle Ages” and “Science and Science Fiction.” Cynthia Cyrus, vice provost for learning and residential affairs, will explore the social dynamics that supported and constrained the women of the Middle Ages. Cyrus is a professor of musicology at the Blair School of Music and is affiliated with Women’s and Gender Studies. The way that scientific ideas have been used and abused in science fiction will be the focus of the second Wednesday class, which is taught by Robert Scherrer, professor of physics. Students will consider whether concepts in science fiction such as time travel and alien life have any basis in actual science.

Two classes meet on Thursdays at The Commons Center starting Jan. 15: “Ancient Civilizations of the Americas” and “Rhythms and Blues Tore Down the Walls of Segregation.” The first class, taught by Anna Guengerich, who earned her doctorate in anthropology, will examine the beliefs, traditions, innovations and institutions of various North and South American civilizations dating back thousands of years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The second Thursday class is offered in partnership with the Blair School of Music. Steve Buckingham, an adjunct instructor in music history at Blair, will focus on how popular music impacted the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Buckingham, winner of four Grammy awards, played in integrated bands in the South during the 1960s.

Two classes are offered on Fridays at Belle Meade United Methodist Church starting Jan. 16 — “The Development of Christian Practice and Belief in Roman Africa” and “Ukraine: From Kievan Rus to the Euro Revolution: National Identity and Geopolitical Aspirations.” J. Patout Burns Jr., Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies, emeritus, and Robin M. Jensen, Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship, will co-teach the first course, which is based on their new book, Christianity in Roman Africa. The second Friday class will be taught by Mary Pat Williams Silveira, who previously worked for the United Nations. The focus will be on contemporary events, but there will be some historical overview the first two weeks to better understand events of the past decade.

Special offerings include “OLLI at the Opera: Florencia en el Amazonas,” which is in partnership with the Nashville Opera Jan. 9, 14 and 21.

To register for the winter term and other activities presented by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt, please visit the institute’s website or contact Norma Clippard at (615) 322-5569.