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Courses and Registration

Shortly before the Registration period (August 22-September 5), you will be sent a link to register for courses. Registration for single events and all the courses is on a first come first serve basis. Registration opens on August 22 at 9am!!!

The course developers and the presenters are solely responsible for the content and the presentation of the course material. Vassar LLI does not preview or audit the content. You can find a biography of the presenters in our pdf catalog.

Click here to download a pdf copy of the Fall 2021 Catalog

SINGLE EVENTS [Click event title for more information]

FDR’s Infamy: Japanese Internment During WWII. Thursday, Sept. 30, 1:00-2:35pm

SINGLE EVENTS [Click event title for more information] Limit: 100

Although Franklin Delano Roosevelt is generally considered by historians to have been among just a handful of great American presidents, he did make mistakes. The decision to imprison over 120,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens, will go down as a failure of political leadership based on race prejudice, West Coast commercial interests and national war hysteria. This presentation will trace the unfortunate events leading up to the President’s Executive Order of Removal through the recognition in the 1980s of the nation’s error.

Presenters: Linda Bouchey & Al Vinck

Linda Bouchey and Al Vinck are retired Hyde Park educators. They have been interpreters at Top Cottage--FDR’s Presidential Retreat, Board members for the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association and Wilderstein Preservation, and House Managers at Wilderstein Preservation. They served as Co-Chairs of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Educational Memorial, a permanent public exhibit at the original Franklin D. Roosevelt High School. Linda and Al have given presentations for local educational and historical groups. To name just a few: Hyde Park St. James’ Church Fireside Chats, LLIs at Bard, Marist and SUNY New Paltz, and the National Park Service in Hyde Park.

Walkway Over the Hudson: History from 1888 to Present. Thursday, Oct. 14, 3:00-4:30pm

SINGLE EVENTS [Click event title for more information] Limit: 100

The railroad bridge for many years had 50 trains a day cross it since it was the only railroad bridge over the Hudson River south of Albany, N.Y. When it opened in 1888 trains could ship coal and grain from the rest of the country to New England and goods manufactured in New England to the rest of the country. 3,500 freight cars went over it every day. It was abandoned as a railroad bridge in 1974 when I fire damaged a section of it.

Recommended reading:  Carleton Mabee's Bridging the Hudson

Presenter: Fred Schaeffer

Fred Schaeffer was Chairman of the Walkway Over the Hudson organization from 2004 to 2010. This was the period during which the abandoned railroad bridge over the Hudson River, built in 1888, was converted into the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Fred will tell the history of the bridge as a railroad crossing and how a group of citizens took control of it and were able to turn it into a bike path and walkway. Now over 500,000 visitors enjoy the view of the Hudson Valley from the bridge, which is 212 feet high over the Hudson River.


Pickleball—Four Wednesdays (Sept. 22, 29, 6, 13) 1-2:15 PM-James Baird State Park

IN PERSON COURSES (OFF VASSAR CAMPUS—NOT ON ZOOM!!!!!!) and on special day Limit: 10

**Held in-person, off Zoom, at James Baird State Park - 14 Maintenance Ln, Pleasant Valley, NY 12569

This course is a 4-week Introduction to pickleball, including game play. The first two weeks will cover instruction and the last two weeks will be playing the game.  

Class size limited to ten people and  meets at James Baird State Park. This class size requires two courts. Participants will be responsible for bringing their own paddles. The paddles can be purchased on Amazon and a beginner racquet runs $20-$40.  

Presenter: Vicky Weinblatt

Vicky Weinblatt has recently retired from IBM, GLOBAL Foundries, Marvell Technology after 38 years.  She started playing pickleball about 2 years ago and instantly became hooked as it is easier to play than tennis and provides a ton of fun exercise. Vicky has taught/ co-taught the game at Lime Kiln recreation in East Fishkill and at Fishkill recreation center. She enjoys sharing her passion for the game with others. Her other hobbies include hiking, biking, and skiing.  

Printmaking with a Press—Four Wednesdays (Sept. 22, 29, Oct. 6, 13), 3:20-4:45 at the Underwear Factory

IN PERSON COURSES (OFF VASSAR CAMPUS—NOT ON ZOOM!!!!!!) and on special day Limit: 6

**Held in person, (off Zoom at the Underwear Factory, 8 North Cherry Street, Poughkeepsie, NY)

Learn the art of etching and printing on the Barrett etching press at PUF Studios at the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory. Make an etching using non-toxic techniques and practice intaglio printing. In four sessions, in person, you'll learn about intaglio techniques such as etching, aquatint, dry point and engraving.

Presenter: Anita Kiewra

Anita Fina Kewra is a teaching artist who earned her Master's Degree in Art Education from The College of Saint Rose. She currently works for Hudson River Housing, leading Upcycle, an arts-based workforce training social enterprise for people transitioning from homelessness.  Anita is the Manager of Hudson River Housing's community printmaking studio on the second floor of the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory. She is also a co-founder and co-owner of Queen City 15 Gallery in Poughkeepsie.

Gentle Walks in the Hudson Valley—Four Thursdays (Sept. 30, Oct. 7, 14, 21), 10am-12N

IN PERSON COURSES (OFF VASSAR CAMPUS—NOT ON ZOOM!!!!!!) and on special day Limit: 20

This course offers members an opportunity to get to know each other as they explore the beauty of our Hudson Valley. David Bloom and Mark Boujikian are the walk leaders.  Each Thursday morning walk culminates with an informative talk.

Participants will meet at a designated location at 10 AM. Detailed directions will be provided each week by the class manager. 

Week 1 September 30—Walk to Denning's Point in Beacon. Scenic Hudson will present a talk at the Red Barn in Long Dock Park.

Week 2 October 7—Minnewaska State Park. With a presentation by Environmental Educator Laura Connor.

Week 3 October 14—Ashokan Reservoir. With a talk by Adam Bosch the Director of Public Affairs NYC Environmental Protection.

Week 4 October 21—Norrie Point to Mills Estate. With a talk by Chris Bowser the Education Coordinator at Norrie Point.

Presenters: David Bloom & Mark Boujikian

David Bloom is a retired teacher with a lifelong interest in the outdoors and in creating community. A former jogger, now a walker. David loves to explore the beauty of our Hudson Valley.

Mark Boujikian is a retired Mental Health Counselor and lifelong resident of the wonderful Hudson Valley. He loves sharing its beauty with others on these walks and learning more about its history and ongoing creative energy.

Reconnecting with Nature for Health & Well-Being-Four Wednesdays (Oct. 20, 27, Nov. 3, 10) 1:30-3pm

IN PERSON COURSES (OFF VASSAR CAMPUS—NOT ON ZOOM!!!!!!) and on special day Limit: 12

Shinrin-yoku or 'Forest Bathing' is the research-based experience of immersing in the more than human world. Research has demonstrated numerous physiological health benefits, especially in the cardiovascular and immune systems, and for stabilizing and improving mood and cognition. This practice helps promote and deepen a reciprocal relationship WITH nature.  This course will be held in a small group outdoors. This class is designed for anyone who would like to deepen their relationship with the natural world and learn how our interconnection in and with nature can promote health, gratitude & joy!

Please note that this is NOT a hiking class and there will not be any strenuous walking. Chairs will be provided as well. This course is about noticing and paying close attention and nurturing our relationship with the more than human world. We are ALL nature and every one of all abilities is welcome!

We will meet in-person at the Priscilla Bullitt Collins field station on the Vassar nature preserve grounds

Readings are not necessary, but you may find these useful and very interesting: Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature, by M. Amos Clifford; The Japanese Art and Science of Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, by Dr. Qing Li.

Presenter: Michelle Olson

Dr. Michelle Olson is a social gerontologist and licensed, board-certified creative arts therapist with a strong passion for and commitment to positive and healthy aging. Michelle is an adjunct professor at Montana State University in the Health and Human Development Department.  She also works with Clear Guidance, LLC, assisting families that are facing challenges and opportunities related to aging and dementia. Michelle recently founded Evergreen Minds, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, providing meaningful experiences for people living with dementia and their care partners to engage with nature and the expressive arts.

Tuesday Courses, 9:30–10:45am

Eight-Week Courses (Sept. 21-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

The Nature of Food

Tuesday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 15

We all intuitively understand our food comes from nature, but science and commerce sometimes obscure the connection. During the semester we will examine the composition, origin, and production process of four foods with social and historic significance. The goal is to gain an appreciation for how nature contributes to our health and wellbeing. The foods we'll be exploring are sauerkraut, bread, beer, and poultry.

Presenter: Rob Cohen

Rob Cohen is a farmer who practices sustainable agriculture and a technology consultant focused on helping non-profit organizations leverage technology. His lifelong interest in science, history, and understanding how stuff works shaped his unique approach to staying connecting to nature while living and working in an increasingly unnatural environment.

The Roaring 20s: Then and Now

Tuesday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 100

In 1920 the Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War I, and Prohibition went into effect. The Great Influenza pandemic subsided, Warren G. Harding was elected President, and women voted for the first time. It was the beginning of what became the Roaring 20s, an exciting (and foreboding) decade in the arts: jazz, literature, painting, the Bauhaus, Broadway, cinema, Weimar and so much more. One hundred years later, might we be on the threshold of another roaring decade’? Through videos, narrative and discussion, we’ll delve into the highlights of the decade that broke new ground and rejected traditional standards.

Presenter: Chuck Mishaan

Chuck Mishaan has been presenting his popular Opera as Politics course at Vassar LLI for several years. His commentary on the intersection of politics and the arts continues with this course on The Roaring ‘20s.

First Five-Week Courses (Sept. 21- Oct. 19) [Click course title for more information]

The Faces Behind the Cases

Tuesday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 30

Lawyers cite cases as precedent to support their arguments. Judges cite cases as precedent to justify their decisions. People in general discuss the social and political implications of significant cases. There is, however, another rarely discussed aspect of major decisional case law: the human-interest side. The litigants, lawyers and judges were real-life people with lives and stories that go beyond the cases that pushed them into the legal limelight. This course will first touch upon the significance of some famous cases and then focus on the stories of the participants to see the faces behind the cases.

Presenter: Mickey Steiman

Mickey Steiman (A.B. Colgate University; J.D. Syracuse University College of Law) has been in private practice for 38 years in Dutchess County. He has also served as senior trial attorney in the Office of Special Litigation, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. and has been an adjunct professor at Marist College.

Last Four-Week Courses (Oct. 19-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

The Hudson River Estuary

Tuesday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 100

In this course we'll learn about the Hudson River estuary. Topics will include Hudson River geography, habitats, fish, and community science projects that you can be a part of going forward. Learn about the mighty sturgeon and the mysterious eel, tidal wetlands, and aquatic vegetation, all of which are found in the Hudson Valley.

Presenter: Sarah Mount

Sarah Mount is a science educator with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Hudson River Estuary Program. She works on Hudson River based education and community science projects. She received her BA in Biology from Bard College, and her MS in Fish and Wildlife from SUNY ESF.

Tuesday Courses, 11:05–12:20am

First Four-Week Courses (Sept. 21- Oct. 12) [Click course title for more information]

Slavery, Anti-Slavery and the Underground Railroad

Tuesday Courses, 11:05–12:20am Limit: 100

This course will examine the history of slavery, antislavery activities, and the Underground Railroad in the Mid-Hudson Valley. We'll look at the racial nature of slavery in the United States, but focus our attention on slavery in the North and specifically on Dutchess County. We'll see how our local history fits within the national build-up to the Civil War and post-Civil War attitudes toward the emancipated men and women. We'll also look closely at freedom seekers and the contours of the Underground Railroad. Light readings, class discussions, a workshop on understanding “runaway slave” advertisements ... and singing of abolitionist songs!

Presenter: Peter Bunten

Peter Bunten is chairman of the Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project, located in Dutchess County, and is the current vice president of the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State. He is a trustee of the Dutchess County Historical Society and is affiliated with Celebrating the African Spirit in Poughkeepsie. Before his retirement in 2018, Mr. Bunten was the education manager for Historic Hudson Valley. He has a Master’s degree in historical studies, with an emphasis on public history, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is a native of Poughkeepsie and currently lives in the Bronx.

American Utopias

Tuesday Courses, 11:05–12:20am Limit: 100

Throughout history, people have banded together to build new utopian communities, designed to be purer or happier or fairer than the society around them. This course will explore several dozen American utopias, ranging from the Shaker villages of the early 1800s, to the Kansas towns built by former slaves in the 1880s, to the hippie communes of the 1960s, to the Disney Corporation's town of Celebration, Florida, in the early 2000s.

Presenter: Sandra Opdycke

Sandra Opdycke, Ph.D. is a retired historian. She has written books about the woman suffrage movement, Bellevue Hospital, the flu epidemic of 1918, and the WPA of the 1930s, as well as a biography of Jane Addams and several co-authored books and articles on social policy. She worked for a number of years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, and later taught American History and Urban History at Bard, Vassar, and Marist Colleges. She serves as an occasional lecturer at the Center for Lifetime Studies in Poughkeepsie.

Art on the Edge…and Over

Tuesday Courses, 11:05–12:20am Limit: 20

We will cull works of art from the 21st century that are having comparable disruptive effects that Cubism, Minimal Art, and Pop art had in the 20th century. We will consider the possibility that the ultimate esteem bestowed upon these maverick artists will also be comparable. What kind of conventions are they challenging?

- Artistic creativity is activated as a cooperative venture shared by artists and non-humans.

 - Artworks that are designed to decompose.

 - Artists that resist originality with the same intensity that conventional artists pursue it.

We will take advantage of the discussion-potential that these topics provide.

Presenter: Linda Weintraub

Linda Weintraub is a curator, educator, artist, and author of several popular books about contemporary art: In the Making: Creative Options for Contemporary Artists (2003); Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Art’s Meaning in Contemporary Society (1996); WHAT’s NEXT? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art (2018), To LIFE! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet (2012). Her forthcoming book is titled “Who Do You Eat?” She served as the director of the Edith C. Blum Art Institute located on the Bard College campus. Weintraub was the Henry Luce Professor of Emerging Arts at Oberlin College.

Last Four-Week Courses (Oct. 19-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

Untold History: Local Africans & Their Descendants

Tuesday Courses, 11:05–12:20am Limit: 100

“Invisible People & Untold Stories” was a landmark article in the 1987 Dutchess County Historical Society Yearbook by Lawrence Mamiya and Lorraine Roberts about the inattention given to local Black history. Working from their premise, we look at the experience of local Africans and those of African descent from earliest settlement and enslavement to the juggernaut of World War One’s failed promise. We meet the simple farmer and the first Black judge in the United States, and many in between, involved in anti-slavery and the Underground Railroad. We examine contemporary conversations about historical depictions in public places and monuments.

Additional course information:

Four classes:

1: Black History by the Numbers. Through census records and other source material we examine the scale, location and migration of enslaved and free populations from earliest settlement.

2: Local Black Experience in WWI. We examine the segregated recruitment, deployment and reception of the return of Black troops.

3: Profiles in Courage. Through recent oral histories, 19th century photographs, and other means, we meet a wide range of named individuals.

4: Black History in Public Places & Monuments. We examine recent conversations about 1940 WPA Post Office murals and planned contemporary monuments led by “Celebrating the African Spirit.”


You will find the referenced "Invisible People, Untold Stories" under "Stories from DCHS Yearbooks" at the Dutchess County Historical website

Presenter: Bill Jeffway

Bill Jeffway is the Executive Director of the Dutchess County Historical Society (DCHS). He has been an active member of the former Black History Project Committee of Dutchess County, which, under the leadership of Carmen McGill, recently re-launched as Celebrating the African Spirit (CAS).  CAS is dedicated to telling the history of local Africans and those of African descent and Bill is a member of its research committee. In his role at DCHS, Bill has put an emphasis on the telling of untold stories including women's history and veterans' stories of service, and innovative digital communications and educational tools.

Tuesday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm

Eight-Week Courses (Sept. 21-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

Timeless Goddess: Re-Igniting the Divine Feminine

Tuesday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm Limit: 20

Encounter the Timeless Goddess across world cultures and Her role in human history, art, music, and literature dating from Paleolithic times to the current marginalization of the Divine Feminine in modern Western society. Learn how the once revered Crone Goddess (now misunderstood and maligned due to associations with aging and death) has been exiled. Explore the impact on society and the role of Elder women. Class will encourage new learning, personal growth & reflection through discussion, writing & creative visualization. Class members are encouraged to envision an awakened feminine world where elder women (and all women) are honored, respected change-makers.

All genders welcome! This course does not require a particular belief system or religious affiliation. Timeless Goddess aims to explore the Goddess archetype (Divine Feminine) from multiple perspectives and cultural lenses to note how various belief systems influence the actual treatment of women in daily life. Ultimately, this class calls members to retrieve & nourish the gifts of the exiled Goddess by empowering the inner Feminine (in all genders) to help bring more balance into our modern troubled world.

Presenter: Vincenza Dante

Vincenza Dante is a Mental Health Consultant, Workshop Leader and Educator with a lifelong interest in cross-cultural spiritual traditions. A Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and an ordained minister for a non-denominational church, her spiritual journey has included studies in Eastern traditions in Nepal, Tibet & India, Kabbalah studies with Rabbi Jacob Simonson, medicine wheel gatherings with Chippewa Medicine Man, Sun Bear, and shamanic trance dances in Southern Italy. She has been involved in Kundalini Yoga practices for 25 years. Recently, Vincenza Dante retired from Arlington Central School District, where she was a school social worker.

The Ideal Image: Influences and Counterpoints

Tuesday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm Limit: 40

Each culture creates its pictorial ideals for the values they cherish. In paintings, sculpture, monuments and architecture, these images are in constant flux, but there are common attributes to how they have evolved.  Icons of political power and authority, the ideals of beauty and the general values we cherish are what we've worked to imagine and enshrine in our cultures. The course will look at both ancient and modern societies to investigate the dynamics that have given rise to these images we identify with and are branded by. We will also consider outside influences on these images and their counterpoints.

Presenter: John McGiff

John McGiff has been an educator for thirty years. After receiving an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989, he worked for seven years as an adjunct at Temple and Drexel Universities, teaching drawing, design and painting and served one year as a full-time assistant professor of painting at Temple. He later became chair of the arts department at St. Andrew's School, a preparatory boarding school in Delaware. In addition, he has run the Warner Gallery, taught AP art history, painting, drawing and a senior seminar for twenty-two years.

First Four-Week Courses (Sept. 21- Oct. 12) [Click course title for more information]

Why New York City Looks the Way It Does

Tuesday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm Limit: 35

New York is a world metropolis, a place of neighborhoods, a center of commerce and a generator of arts, culture, and entertainment. It seems to embody the best and worst of urban life. Its buildings, streets, parks, and transportation are admired and enjoyed and at the same time are reviled, frightening and confusing. We will explain NY's physical character and development and try to make sense of what we see and experience in "the Big Apple" in four sessions as we discuss the historic and evolving city, planning, zoning, public spaces, parks, neighborhood changes, historic preservation, super tall skyscrapers, and mega developments.

Presenter: Ethel Sheffer

Ethel Sheffer, FAICP, is an urban planner, who has taught at Columbia University, and has an extensive knowledge of New York City neighborhoods. She has been a community leader in several noteworthy developments and significant battles and controversies. She is also a member of the NYCity Public Design Commission.

Tuesday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm

Eight-Week Courses (Sept. 21-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

iFogey: A Workshop on iPhone Creativity

Tuesday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 15

It's always made sense for folks who live on water to know how to swim.  Here we are, deep in the Internet Era. Yet how hard it is to clearly see the size of that 6-inch super-computer in our pockets. This class integrates two agendas. The first surveys the iPhone’s toolsets with sessions on voice, photography, customization, collaboration, storytelling, and health. The second agenda is hands-on, using the iPhone for creative projects.


Week 1:  myPhone: We introduce presenters, map the iPhone and preview what’s ahead.

Week 2:  myCloud: What does “cloud” mean? What does iCloud mean?

Week 3:  myVoice: Talking is easier than typing or scrolling. Siri is a nice girl.

Week 4:  myView: We dive into the virtuosity of iPhone camera via a trio of selfies. 

Week 5:  myWorldManaging opportunities for maximum creative benefit.

Week 6:  myStory: People love to hate on presentation decks. We will go way, way beyond.

Week 7:  mySelf: At the core of all Apple products is health & fitness. Privacy too.

Week 8:  myWork: During the last class, each student will showcase items from their Gallery.

Please note: This course requires participants to have an Apple iPhone!

We recommend attending classes on a larger screen, with iPhone at your side. You may anticipate 60-90 minutes of assignments each week.

Presenter: Kit Laybourne and Deborah Bond-Upson

As far as fogeys go, it takes one to know one. Kit Laybourne is 78. His career has blended passions for being a teacher, producer, author, and an enthusiast of new technologies. His television work included executive producing with HBO, Oxygen, Nickelodeon, MTV, Tele-TV, and PBS. He was an Associate Professor at the New School and recently taught in Bard’s Prison Initiative. Kit has published two volumes: "The Animation Book", and "Mediapedia"

Deborah Bond-Upson: It’s Kit’s fault. When Deborah was a mere junior in college, her brother-in-law-to-be got her into film animation and teaching in an experimental high school in Philly. Bitten by the Ed Tech bug, though she is an artist and a minister, she is still inventing ways to leverage technology for learning. Solutions include story-based STEM learning, statewide adaptive teacher assessment, and apps to create, research, and publish using Open Education Resources. 

Aesthetic History of Photography

Tuesday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 20

This course will explore the major aesthetic movements through the history of art photography and how they related to the other arts. Starting with the invention of photography in the 1830s and how it defined itself in relation to painting. We will then explore The Pictorialism Movement of the late 1880s and early 1900s; the pure photographic vision of Paul Strand and the clarity of the West Coast Photographers; the revolutionary years in Europe between the World Wars; the Depression years and concluding with the new Social Landscape photography of the 1960s.

Presenter: Robert Stevens

Robert Stevens completed graduate studies at the Visual Studies Workshop Photo Center of SUNY Buffalo based in Rochester, NY. In 1979, upon graduation he became an archivist in the Time-Life Picture Collection for two years; following that, he was a photo editor at Time Magazine for almost 30 years. After Time Magazine he taught at the School of Visual Arts for 12 years. He was a member of the board of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Photography Grant. He edited a book of photos on a French photographer: Yvon’s Paris. He is author of two photo books: Unintentional and Evidence.

First Four-Week Courses (Sept. 21- Oct. 12) [Click course title for more information]

The Wines of New York's Finger Lakes

Tuesday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 25

The Finger Lakes region is an important and interesting American viticultural area. This four-session virtual class will cover the Finger Lakes' wine history, terroir, grapes, and a few notable producers. Of course, questions and discussion about wine are always welcome and an important part of the class. Wine tasting is optional and a list of wines available for purchase in Poughkeepsie area wine stores will be shared well before each class.

Presenter: Arnold Serotsky

Arnie Serotsky has been involved in wine studies, tasting, and travel for 50 years.  Having visited wine regions in France, Italy, and California, he discovered Keuka Lake wines while living in Rochester. Now a frequent visitor to Ithaca, he visits and enjoys the wines of the Seneca and Cayuga Lake AVAs. Arnie is the Vice President of It Was A Good Year, Inc., a wine tasting/education organization that recently celebrated its 40th year in the Mid Hudson Region.

Last Four-Week Courses (Oct. 19-Nov. 9) [Click course title for more information]

Discover Scenic Hudson Parks!

Tuesday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 100

Let's learn about Scenic Hudson parks and what they offer you. We'll explore a variety of parklands focused on themes: rugged natural areas, outdoor history "museum", transforming an urban waterfront, and a future state park on a 520-acre former industrial site. Questions we'll dive into: What does it take to conserve land and create a park? How do we protect natural, cultural and historical resources while providing great experiences for people? What do you value about parks? What stories are important for people to learn about? How can these parks better serve you and your community?

Scenic Hudson preserves land and farms and creates parks that connect people with the inspirational power of the Hudson River, while fighting threats to the river and natural resources that are the foundation of the valley’s prosperity, Scenic Hudson network of parks offer a diversity of features for people of all ages and cultures.

Presenter: Rita Shaheen

Rita Shaheen loves getting people outside to explore the beauty and wonder of the Hudson Valley. As the director of parks and community engagement at Scenic Hudson, she is responsible for the team of professionals who design, construct and manage the parks and provide recreational and educational programming at the parks. Ms. Shaheen has been with the organization for 25 years. Rita has a background in fine arts and holds a Master in Landscape Architecture.

Friday Courses, 9:30–10:45am

Eight–Week Courses (Sept. 24- Nov. 12) [Click course title for more information]

Strong Women, Strong Stories, Strong Storytellers

Friday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 100

Pioneer suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie, aviator Amelia Earhart, Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg are among the strong women whose lives have provided inspiration for millions. But how about the women who told these stories? How and why were they successful? This course illuminates the stories of these women, told through writing, artwork, photography, television, music, and journalism.

Presenter: Gary Miller


Gary Miller is a veteran photojournalist, filmmaker, and live television director with more than 40 years of experience for clients like the New York Stock Exchange, Time, Newsweek, Fortune 500 companies, museums, and galleries. He has taught freelance photography at The New School and is the author of a book on the same subject.

First Six-Week Courses (Sept. 24-Oct. 29) [Click course title for more information]

Cataclysm: America, Germany and the USSR 1932-42

Friday Courses, 9:30–10:45am Limit: 100

International events and related domestic concerns will be discussed, including: Americans' response to the Depression, immigration and isolationism; German response to Versailles Treaty, unemployment and communist threat; Soviet peoples' adaptation to rapid industrialization, minority resettlements and centralization of power. The outsized influence of FDR, Hitler and Stalin highlight the dynamic between powerful leaders and other historical forces during this ten year period that helped shape our modern world.

Presenter: Tom Walker

Tom graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. He flew from aircraft carriers as a Navy Pilot as well as serving as the Legal Officer in three squadrons. He has done post-graduate study in Medieval and Economic History and has presented courses at Vassar LLI, Bard LLI and Dutchess Community College. He is retired from the US Navy and also from New York State service as a Veterans Counselor. He lives in the City of Poughkeepsie with his wife.

Friday Courses, 11:05–12:20pm-[click course title for more information]

Eight-Week Course (Sept. 24- Nov. 12) [Click course title for more information]

American Art Through an Appraiser’s Eyes

Friday Courses, 11:05–12:20pm-[click course title for more information] Limit: 100

"No man except a blockhead ever wrote, except for money," Samuel Johnson told his biographer in 1776.  While some artists might disagree with Johnson's bluntness, the need for them to make a living is almost always as important as aesthetic matters. This survey of American art from 1750 to 1970 deals with commercial issues as much as artistic movements. We discuss patronage, markets, and changing taste and how those factors directed what artists made. We also discuss how changing taste has affected current prices for examples of all schools.

Presenter: Reagan Upshaw

Reagan Upshaw has been a art dealer and appraiser for 40 years. He received his M.A. from the University of Chicago. His articles and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Antiques, the Kresge Museum Bulletin, Art & Auction, the Washington Post, and many other publications. He is a certified member of the Appraisers Association of America.

First Six-Week Courses (Sept. 24-Oct. 29) [Click course title for more information]

Managing Conflict

Friday Courses, 11:05–12:20pm-[click course title for more information] Limit: 20

The first few classes give an overview of the language of conflict and contexts: personal (family, friends), political, neighbor, social media. This is an interactive, participatory class.

Presenter: Gail Goodman and Ruth Weinreb

Gail Goodman and Ruth Weinreb received their Certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution from New York University and trained at CLUSTER, a New York State Unified Court System accredited mediation center. They received specialized training in Elder and Adult Family Mediation from Elder Decisions. Gail and Ruth mediated with parents and teens for Family Services of Westchester and in courts in New York and Westchester counties. Their firm, Talking Alternatives specializes in Adult Family Mediation and Conflict Coaching. There will be discussions, role-plays and lessons on preparing for difficult conversations. Participants are also encouraged to anonymously submit situations for analysis.

The Art and Fun of Telling Stories: A Hands-on Approach

Friday Courses, 11:05–12:20pm-[click course title for more information] Limit: 20

This is a hands on course on the art of oral storytelling. We listen to some professional storytellers, engage in storytelling exercises, "play" with our stories and work on telling our own stories from the genre of your choice. We practice the skills of supportive commenting and deep listening. Each participant chooses a story to work on—personal, family, historical or traditional tale. The group decides whether or not to have a final "performance." Process and not product is the goal.

Presenter: Muriel Horowitz

Muriel Horowitz is a storyteller and retired literacy teacher. For many years, she has performed and led storytelling workshops for all ages from 2-102. She has also facilitated some arts in education residencies. Over 18 years ago, Muriel co-founded the Dutchess County Interfaith Story Circle, which still meets several months a year and holds a Peace Story Concert each winter. She is active in many community activities. Muriel especially enjoys helping others tell their stories and using stories to engage in social and environmental justice work.

Friday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm-[click course title for more information]

First Four-Week Courses (Sept. 24-Oct. 15) [Click course title for more information]

Ancient Mysteries of Latin America

Friday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm-[click course title for more information] Limit: 100

This course is an exciting exploration of the mystical history of Latin America. We shall explore how the Mayans, Aztecs. Incas, Amazon tribes and other groups have used initiation and sacred knowledge. Also, we will examine how different religions in the region have used these concepts and ideas in their own practices. In this process we shall study a wide range of materials including artifacts and texts dating from ancient times to the present. Ultimately, we will show the depth of the spiritual insights of the peoples of the region and the importance of this knowledge to the modern world.         


Presenter: Nathan Rosenblum

Dr. Nathan Rosenblum is a researcher and teacher on mysticism and spirituality. With degrees in Literature, History, and Metaphysical Philosophy, he combines many disciplines and areas of study in his work. He is also an ordained interfaith minister and author and lectures widely on esoteric subjects.     


Psychology and Film

Friday Courses, 1:45–3:00pm-[click course title for more information] Limit: 30

Film provides a powerful art medium for exploring what it means to be human. This course examines films from a psychological perspective. Films have a tremendous impact in our society in countless ways including entertaining, inspiring and teaching. We watch several films that reflect multiple psychological concepts and depictions of specific themes including examples of lifespan, trauma, psychological disorders, grief and resilience. We review and discuss the films from the perspectives of the human condition and psychological functioning. Selections come from a long list of film examples depicting key concepts in psychology.

The film selections and course information will be emailed to attendees prior to the first class meeting. Attendees will need to view the first film prior to the first day of class. 

Presenter: Denise Morett

Dr. Denise Morett is a professor, clinical psychologist and the best selling author of Lifeline. Her 30-year career has focused on clinical practice, teaching and advocating for wellness and lifelong resiliency. In addition to a full time private practice, she has taught in college settings as well as provided workshops and seminars throughout her career. Dr. Morett enjoys the exploration of the role of expressive arts, especially film, in our lives as a source of healing, inspiration and learning about the human condition.

Friday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm

Eight-Week Courses (Sept. 24- Nov. 12) [Click course title for more information]

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (A Book Study)

Friday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 40

When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson's latest book was published in October 2020, it was very well received indeed. The New York Times called it "almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far." Oprah Winfrey said, "Of all the books I've chosen for book club over the decades, there isn't another that is more essential a read than this one." The Race Unity Circle's own book club was similarly impressed with the book's transformational view of how race in America relates to the concept of caste. Please join us in contemplative reading and facilitated discussion.

Reading: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Presenters: Members of the Race Unity Circle

This course will be presented by members of the Race Unity Circle, who have been meeting since 2014 to engage one another in experiential learning around race and racism. Poughkeepsie’s Race Unity Circle grew out of an urgent call to action felt by a few members of the Baha'i Faith in response to the news coming out of Ferguson, Missouri. Though started by Baha’is, the Circle quickly became multi-cultural and multi-faith, and most members are not Baha'is. We believe that all people are members of one race: the Human Race. The elimination of racism from our communities is not just an aspiration; it is a spiritual imperative that requires sustained, persistent action.

Last Six-Week Courses (Oct. 8-Nov. 12) [Click course title for more information]

Families: Social Science and Historical Perspectives

Friday Courses, 3:20–4:35pm Limit: 35

In this six-week course, Vassar faculty from the Anthropology, Sociology, and History Departments will offer their perspectives on "The Family".

Producer David Bloom is a retired teacher and an active member of the Vassar LLI. He enjoys organizing classes for our members. This class is similar to the popular Vassar Science Sampler that is offered each spring.

November 5—Mita Choudhury, Professor and Chair of History: Power and Affection in the Early Modern Family in Europe, 1500-1750. 

November 12—Catherine Tan, Assistant Professor of Sociology: Reimagining autism: how families and autistic adults navigate uncertainty, disability, and identity. 

October 8th—Martha Kaplan; Professor of Anthropology: A cultural approach to Family and Kinship.

October 15—Rebecca Edwards, Professor of History on the Eloise Ellery Chair: Frontier Families and American Empire.

October 22 and 29—Miriam Cohen, Professor of History on the Evalyn Clark Chair: Women, Work and Families in America From Pre-Industrial Times to the Present.

Presenters: Martha Kaplan, Rebecca Edwards, Miriam Cohen, Mita Choudhury, Catherine Tan

Martha Kaplan, Professor of Anthropology

Rebecca Edwards, Professor of History on the Eloise Ellery Chair

Miriam Cohen, Professor of History on the Evalyn Clark Chair

Mita Choudhury, Professor and Chair of History

Catherine Tan, Assistant Professor of Sociology: Reimagining Autism

Last Four-Week Courses (Oct. 22-Nov. 12) [Click course title for more information]