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Adult University goes virtual with free ‘education vacations’

For decades, Cornell’s Adult University (CAU) has hosted Cornell alumni, their families and friends on the Ithaca campus for faculty-led programs for adults and youth during the summer months. COVID-19 made these weeklong “education vacations” impossible this year.

But CAU is still carrying out its mission of lifelong learning by presenting free online courses, lectures and seminars for adults and youth July 6–31.

“Public interest in CAU’s virtual summer offerings has exceeded our expectations,” said Lora Gruber-Hine, director of CAU, which is part of Cornell’s School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.

“The response from alumni has been overwhelmingly positive; returning students are signing up in droves, anxious to learn from their favorite faculty member and reunite with acquaintances from years’ past,” Gruber-Hine said. “Parents and first-timers are excited to engage with our instructors and find out firsthand what CAU is all about.”

The online offerings were made possible by an outpouring of support from Cornell faculty and students who dedicated time, energy and expertise to make the virtual program a reality, Gruber-Hine said.

The high demand for CAU’s ambitious, first-ever Virtual Summer Program has resulted in full enrollment for weeklong, faculty-led courses for adults. Topics include “Getting Back to Ithaca: Homer’s ‘Odyssey,’” taught by Michael Fontaine, professor of classics; “Handling the Coronavirus, at Home and Abroad,” taught by David Silbey, director of Cornell in Washington; and “Medical Ethnobotany,” taught by plant biologist Guilia Friso, senior research associate in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

But daily live webinars are open for registration. Topics include:

  • “Bones, Brains and Bodies: Prelude to a Class on Human Evolution Through the Lenses of Art and Science,” taught by anthropologist John Gurche, artist in residence, July 9, 3 p.m.;
  • “Cornell Through Crisis,” taught by Corey Ryan Earle ’07, visiting lecturer in the American Studies Program, July 10, 4 p.m.;
  • “Global Health or Economic Health: Do We Have to Choose?,” taught by David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, July 13, 2 p.m.;
  • “There’s No Place Like Home: Cornell’s Residential Landscapes,” taught by architectural and urban historian Roberta Moudry, July 14, 3 p.m.;
  • “Panel Discussion on the Impacts of COVID-19,” with faculty members in the areas of economics, fiber science, microbiology and immunology, and politics, July 15, 2 p.m.;
  • “Photography: A Portrait of Home,” taught by Jennifer Gioffre Todd, art and photography studio manager at the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, and artist David Todd July 16, 3 p.m.; and
  • “A Taste of Wine Science,” taught by Kathy Arnink, wine microbiology researcher in the Viticulture and Enology Program, July 17, 4 p.m.

For youth and teens ages 9 to 15, CAU’s free virtual activities include daily online classes on topics such as veterinary science, bioengineering, Supreme Court decisions and creative writing. Webinars and social media meetups will feature virtual campus tours, Q&A sessions with Cornell students, contests, trivia and more.

See the full schedule of offerings here. All online courses and webinars are free; registration is required.

Shelley Preston is the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions’ communications and marketing specialist.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli