Great teachers join us for ESI College, offering everything from one-hour lectures to six-week courses.

You can view the current season of ESI College classes here. [ You can also download and/or print out a PDF version. ]

Once you’ve selected a course, or courses, print and fill out the ESI College registration form (PDF) and send it to Elderly Services-ESI College, P.O. Box 581, Middlebury, VT 05753. The form has information on registration deadlines for each season of classes.

ESI College, Fall 2019 | September 23-November 25

Reading Group | Cicero

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Mondays, September 23, 30 and October 7
Cost: $65

Description: Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) is one of the most famous and influential Romans. We will consider him as an orator, a statesman, and a philosopher. Through presentation on background material and discussion of the assigned reading, we will explore the fascinating world of Rome in the first century, Cicero’s views on friendship, and of course Cicero himself.

(Reading consists of about 50 pages per class: from Plutarch’s biography, Cicero’s own oratory from the year he was consul, and an essay about friendship he wrote in his later years.)

Instructor: Jane Chaplin is Professor of Classics at Middlebury College, where she teaches courses in ancient history as well as Greek and Latin. She holds a B.A. from Brown and a Ph.D. from Princeton, and her published work is on Livy. 

What Is It Like to Survey in Addison County?

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesday, September 24
Cost: $20

Description: Using a combination of history, law, mathematics, research, communication and outdoors skills, surveyors for centuries have helped landowners answer critical questions about land ownership. Ken Weston will talk about the profession of surveying, how to use measurements to establish boundaries, and the ways boundaries were established in Vermont and in the towns of Addison County in particular. This talk will be illustrated with surveyors’ instruments, old maps, historical background and humorous stories.

Instructor: Ken Weston has a Masters in Forestry from Yale. For more than 15 years, he worked for Rutland-based Vermont Woods Inc. and then for A. Johnson Co. in Bristol as a surveyor and forester. Since 1975 he has worked independently as a surveyor and consultant and operates a Christmas tree farm in Bristol.

Social Entrepreneurship in China

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, October 1
Cost: $20

Description: This talk will examine trends in social entrepreneurship in China: who is starting social enterprises, who is funding these enterprises, and what social problems are they attempting to solve? Given the challenge of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) registering in China and dealing with a sometimes hostile government, are social enterprises the way to tackle social problems in China? 

Instructor: Jessica Teets teaches in the Political Science Department at Middlebury College and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Chinese Political Science. She was recently selected to participate in the Public Intellectuals Program created by the National Committee on United States – China Relations. She is the author of Civil Society Under Authoritarianism: The China Model.

Persecution and Revival of Religion in Modern China

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesdays, October 8, 15
Cost: $40

Description: Since the late 19th century, religious people and institutions in China have been buffeted by many major political and social changes: Christian missionaries, “modernizing” of religious traditions, the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and significant repression of religion. Soon after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, however, a remarkable and varied religious revival began. Government control of religious life is ongoing, and yet many Chinese citizens are able to maintain religious traditions or adopt new religious practices.

Instructor: Elizabeth Morrison earned a B.A. at Amherst and an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Stanford, all in religious studies. She studied and lived in China, Taiwan and Japan. Her research and teaching revolve around the intersection of Buddhist studies and East Asian religions. She has taught at Middlebury College since 2003.

Book Group | Dissecting the South: William Faulkner’s Short Fiction

Time:10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Mondays, October 14, 21, 28
Cost: $75 (includes book)

Description: Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, called Faulkner the best writer to come out of the South. Let’s delve into Faulkner’s definitions of what it means to be a Southerner and how the region, at once noble and cultivated, could also be the bastion of racism and reactionary politics. We will read a selection of Faulkner’s best short stories from the 1930s and 1940s.

Instructor: Paul Christensen taught contemporary literature at Texas A&M University and coordinated its creative writing program. His short stories have appeared in national journals and reviews, and he is the author of two memoirs as well as studies of the American poets Charles Olson and Clayton Eshleman. His newest story about the South, “Where Dreams Refuse to Die,” was recently published in The Antioch Review.

Smart Driver

Time: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Date: Saturday, October 19
Cost: $15 AARP members; $20 non-members

Description: This AARP course covers defensive driving techniques as well as normal changes in vision, hearing, and reaction time associated with aging. It provides practical techniques and adjustments to ensure your own safety and that of others. We’ll learn about current rules of the road and how to operate vehicles more safely in today’s challenging driving environment: proper following distance, dangerous blind spots, driver distractions, car features, medications and driving, maintaining physical flexibility, as well as monitoring your own skills and the capabilities of others.

Instructor: Baird Morgan is former president of Vermont Tubbs, manufacturer of snowshoes and furniture. Currently, he is a much sought-after AARP Safe Driver instructor and a volunteer bill payer with the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging.

A Judge’s Perspective on Sentencing

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesdays, October 22, 29
Cost: $40

Description: Are sentencing guidelines resulting in prison overcrowding? What do judges consider when sentencing? What about white collar criminals? We will study the origins and purposes of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and contrast those with state sentencing policies. We’ll analyze mass incarceration issues. More broadly, we will discuss sentencing decisions, including what judges think about in imposing sentences.

Instructor: A Middlebury College graduate, Bill Sessions received his law degree from George Washington University Law School. He has worked as an Addison County public defender, taught at Vermont Law School and had a private law practice. He is currently a U.S. District Court Judge and a Visiting Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. His expertise is in sentencing policy and he was chair of the U. S. Sentencing Commission.

Book Group | Two of the Greats: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations & F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Mondays, November 4, 11, 18, 25
Cost: $100 (includes both books)

Description: Both great novels—one from the England of the 19th century, the other from the America of the 1920s—have stood the test of time. These two works have long entertained readers with strong plots, memorable characters and superb writing.At the same time these two works of imaginative fiction have long challenged conventional thinking of their era with explorations of love and morality, money and maturity, social stratification and existential questions.

Instructor: After earning his Ph.D. at Stanford, Professor Emeritus of Chinese John Berninghausen established Middlebury College’s Department of Chinese Language and Literature. Along with teaching Chinese, he led popular seminars on Western and Asian literature. He is an avid reader, a world traveler and an art collector.

Perennials Group: Women Rowing North

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Wednesdays, November 6, 13, 20
Cost: $75 (includes book)

Description: In this book group and support group on aging, we will be reading Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age, by Mary Pipher. We will explore the lives of women in their seventies and beyond. Data suggests that this is the happiest time of life for many women, but it is not without its difficulties. With the book as a foundation, we will explore the challenges and rewards for women in their seventies, eighties and beyond. (Men are welcome to participate.)

Instructor: Elise Blair trained and worked in the Netherlands as an industrial social worker. She became a psychoanalyst in Washington, D.C., and had a private practice for 30 years. She is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The Infamous Northwest Passage, Then and Now: History, Wildlife and Native Peoples

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Thursday, November 7
Cost: $20

Description: Characterized by incredible cold, absolute isolation and scarcity of food, the Northwest Passage has been inhabited by humans for more than 15,000 years, and by wildlife for longer than that. How did humans and animals survive in and adapt to this hostile environment, and how do they do so today? The Northwest Passage was also the goal of dozens of expeditions from the days of the Vikings to the present. This talk traces the history and remaining evidence of these expeditions and contrasts them to a dangerous and uncertain modern-day transit.

Instructor: Tom Perera is a retired Professor of Neuroscience from Columbia University. An expert on the Enigma machine, he loves travel and adventure. He and his wife Gretchen document and lecture about the interesting and unique aspects of each area that they visit. 

The Presidential Election: One Year to Go

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, November 21
Cost: $20

Description: How is the presidential campaign developing one year in advance of the 2020 election? Which Democratic candidates appear to be separating themselves from the rest of the field, and why? How is President Trump using the resources of incumbency to help his re-election bid? What events might impact the campaign over the next year?

Instructor: Eric Davis (B.A., Brown University; M.A., Ph.D. Stanford University) is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Middlebury College. From 1980 to 2008 he taught courses on American politics. Since retiring, he has continued to be a close observer of Vermont and national politics, writing a column for the Addison Independent and providing analysis for local and national media.


ESI College Course List
Fall 2019 | September 23-November 25

  • Reading Group: Cicero / Jane Chaplin, Mondays, Sept. 23, 30 & Oct. 7, 1:30-3 p.m.
  • Surveying in Addison County / Ken Weston, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Social Entrepreneurship in China / Jessica Teets, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 1:30-3 p.m.
  • Religion in Modern China / Elizabeth Morrison, Tuesdays, Oct. 8 & 15  u 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Faulkner’s Short Fiction / Paul Christensen, Mondays, Oct. 14, 21 & 28  u 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Smart Driver / Baird Morgan Saturday, Oct. 19  u 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • A Judge’s Perspective on Sentencing / Bill Sessions Tuesdays, Oct. 22 & 29  u 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Two Great Novels / John Berninghausen Mondays, Nov. 4, 11, 18 & 25, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Perennials Group / Elise Blair, Wednesdays, Nov. 6, 13 & 20, 1:30-3 p.m.
  • The Infamous Northwest Passage / Tom Perera, Thursday, Nov. 7, 1:30-3 p.m.
  • The Presidential Election / Eric Davis, Thursday, Nov. 21, 10-11:30 a.m.