Want to spend more time learning about a topic in depth with one of our top tier professors? For dedicated lifelong learners, we’re pleased to offer Premium Programming. Each Program includes extended sessions, inspired by some of the most popular and fascinating courses at universities around the country. Premium Programs offer extended chances to interact with our renowned professors, and walk away having learned much more about a subject.
Professor Marc Lapadula | Yale University
September 19th, 7 – 9 PM EDT
While most works of cinema are produced for mass-entertainment and escapism, a peculiar minority have had a profound influence on our culture. Whether intentionally or not, some movies have brought social issues to light, changed laws, forwarded ideologies both good and bad, and altered the course of American history through their resounding impact on society. Renowned Yale Film Professor Marc Lapadula will discuss four films that, for better or worse, made their mark.
Caroline Winterer | Stanford University
September 22nd, 7 – 8:30 PM ET
The rise and fall of ancient Rome is one of the greatest stories in the history of the world. From a group of settlements huddled along the Tiber in Italy, Rome rose to conquer much of the Mediterranean world and Europe. At the height of the Roman Empire, one in every five people in the world lived within its territory. For Americans, Rome’s unlikely ascent, spectacular ambitions, and gruesome decline have provided endless fuel for our national self-examination. Is the United States an empire? Are empires good or bad? What makes great civilizations decline and fall—and how can America avoid that fate? This talk will explore the great American question—”Are We Rome?”—and show why this ancient empire continues to fascinate our very modern nation.
Catherine Sanderson | Amherst College
September 28th, 7 – 9:00 PM ET
Happiness has been in the news quite a bit lately. The UN released a “Happiness Report” rating nearly 200 countries, which found that the world’s happiest people live in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands). The US ranked 11th. The report’s conclusion affirmatively states that happiness has predictable causes and is correlated specifically to various measures that governments can regulate and encourage. And there’s more. A new AARP study looks at how Americans feel – and what factors contribute to their sense of contentment. It concludes that nearly 50% of us are “somewhat happy” and another 19% are “very happy.” What role do money, IQ, marriage, friends, children, weather, and religion play in making us feel happier? Is happiness stable over time? How can happiness be increased? In the Science of Happiness, Professor Sanderson will describe in depth cutting-edge research from the field of positive psychology on the factors that do (and do not) predict happiness, and provide practical (and relatively easy!) ways to increase your own psychological well-being.
Professor Louis Masur | Rutgers University
September 27th, 29th and October 4th 2021, 7:00pm – 8:30pm ET
In 1873, Mark Twain maintained that the Civil War and its immediate aftermath “uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.” In this three part course, we will examine the coming of the war, the four years of conflict that forever transformed the United States, and the struggle that followed to reconstruct the nation.
Jeremi Suri | University of Texas
October 6th, 2021 7pm – 9pm ET
The pursuit of wealth is part of what defines the American experience. The 150 years from 1870 to 2020 witnessed the greatest production of wealth in the United States, unparalleled anywhere else in the world. A small group of individuals drove this wealth-creation, and they benefited from it in remarkable ways that are hard for the rest of us to even imagine. This talk will trace the careers of some of the most important men who expanded the American economy and became super-rich. We will understand their actions, their risk-taking, and their values. We will assess their contributions and their crimes. We will also see how earlier generations — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie — influenced more recent moguls, especially Gates, Bezos, and Musk. We will conclude with some reflections on the historical role of wealth in our democracy.
Joseph Luzzi | Bard College
October 11th, 7:00 pm – 9:00pm
This brand new Premium Course will explore the power of the written word to explore the mysteries and paradoxes of American life, as we see how novelists including John Steinbeck, Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee, Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jonathan Franzen, and many more have told their individual versions of the “American story” in their pages. Questions we will consider include: How have America’s novelists reacted to cataclysmic events like war and civil strife? How have America’s struggle with racism and class inequality inspired transcendent literary responses? And how have constructs like the “American dream” shaped the development of American literature? Overall, we will see how profoundly American issues like our immigration history, our dynamic social structure, and our centuries-long journey through democracy have been interpreted and translated into powerful narratives by writers as varied, eclectic, and diverse as America itself.
Robert Watson | Lynn University
October 26th and 28th, 7 – 8:30 PM ET
U.S. presidents are evaluated in many ways, and this fascinating, timely and unique 2-part program will discuss nearly all of them. The major characteristics that academic and public polls use vary from survey to survey, but the main standards remain consistent. It is important to keep in mind that time changes what people consider critical characteristics, and presidential rankings reflect this. For example, early in U.S. history, the United States was isolationist, so foreign policy wasn’t a factor in presidential evaluations. Foreign policy became much more important in the 20th century.
Sean Hartley | Kaufman Music Center
Musical theater is known as the domain of certain super-talents with strings of hits: Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, the Gershwins, etc. Most of the writers who create one great show go on to create another. But there is a fascinating subset of writers who, for one reason or another, hit it big once and never repeated. Whatever the reason, we often refer to individuals or composing teams that had only a single acclaimed show as One-Hit Wonders.
David Helfand | Columbia University
November 9th, 7 – 9:00 PM ET
If the Sun were the size of an orange in my local New York market, the Earth would be a grain of sand 15 feet away, circling it once per year at the speed 3 inches per day. The nearest star would be a similar orange — in Minneapolis; it has orbiting sand grains too. And there’s 300 billion other stars whizzing around in our little island galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is one of half a trillion other galaxies of stars in the observable Universe. What is remarkable is how much we know about all these stars and galaxies by observing from our little grain of sand. We know their sizes and masses, what they are made of, how they are born, live out their lives, and die.
Matthew Andrews | University of North Carolina
November 22nd, 11:00am – 12:30pm
Yogi Berra once said, “I don’t make predictions, especially about the future.” In this lecture, we will do the opposite and ask: “What might sports look like a few decades from now?” Will virtual reality and “smart stadiums” put you on the field of play? Will the gender divide be eliminated from our athletic competitions? Are you ready for no more nations at the Olympic Games? Should performance-enhancing drugs be readily available in sports? And if not, why not? Does a New York Knicks v. Xinjiang Flying Tigers matchup for the World Basketball Title pique your interest? As we survey the potential sports landscape, one thing will be made clear—in many ways, the future is already here.