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, print and fill out the ESI College application 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 Winter 2018 / January 16-March 22

Resilient Women in Two Captivating Novels

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Tuesdays, January 16, 23, 30
Cost: $80 (books included)

Description: Through two captivating novels by English writers,
we look at strong female characters who have experienced life-changing events, and how they became resilient. Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice is a gripping love story between two prisoners of war in Malaya, a young Englishwoman and an Australian soldier. Penelope Lively’s Consequences traces intertwined lives of three generations of women from the 1930s up to the 21st century. These books are page-turners! This discussion-based small class assumes active participation in sharing ideas.



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. An avid reader, he collects Chinese paintings and is a world traveler.
Historical Geology of the Champlain Valley

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Wednesdays, January 17, 24, 31, Feb 7
Cost: $80

Description: The geologic landscape had a major influence on settlement and cultural patterns of Native Americans and early European settlers, the effects of which are still visible today. This course will explore the intersection of geology and human settlement, considering topics such as: Paleo-Indians and the Champlain Sea, rivers and lakes as corridors for settlement and war, glacial soils and early agriculture, the early iron industry, the slate and marble industries, and more.



Instructor: Will Amidon is an Assistant Professor of Geology at Middlebury College. He teaches environmental geology, climate history, satellite remote sensing, plate tectonics, and geomorphology. Will grew up in Charlotte, Vermont and graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in 1997. He received his B.A. from Carleton College, his M.Sc. from U.C. Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. from Caltech. His research focuses on developing techniques to date the age of rocks and sediment deposits.
The Taliban

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Thursday, January 18
Cost: $20

Description: Who are the Taliban? How powerful are they?
To whom are they a threat? Can they be defeated? These questions are at the heart of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. This course will provide an overview of the Taliban, from their rise to prominence in the 1990s to their partial containment today. We will learn about the Taliban’s early alliance with al Qaeda, its ethnic rivalries and tribal politics, and its on-again, off-again partnership with Pakistan’s security forces.



Instructor: Ian Barrow teaches South Asian history at Middlebury College. He has been the Chair of the History Department and the Director of International Studies. He has published two books and is finishing a third on the history of the East India Company.
Exploring Together How Vermont’s Rural Culture Has Changed in Our Lifetime

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Fridays, January 19, 26
Cost: $50 (book included)

Description: We will read Bill Schubart’s latest novel, Lila & Theron, and discuss Vermonters’ 250 years of hardscrabble living, working the land, and building small communities. How has our past culture framed the present? How has more centralized policy control affected change? Together, we’ll explore the cultural impacts of urbanization, rural job losses, changes in the land, and media to project a stronger future.



Instructor: Bill Schubart has served as Board Chair at Vermont Public Radio, UVM Medical Center, Vermont Digger, and Business Roundtable. Educated at Exeter, Kenyon, and UVM, he co-founded Philo Records and Resolution, Inc. Bill currently chairs the Vermont College of Fine Arts Board and has written 5 books of fiction.
The Trump Administration After One Year

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Thursday, January 25
Cost: $20

Description: January 20, 2018 will mark one year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President. How can we assess the Trump Administration after one year? What impacts has Trump had on political institutions, political parties, and the media? What are the administration's accomplishments? What are the areas in which it has fallen short of its goals? How does the public assess Trump and his Administration? What are the prospects for Trump's second 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 print and broadcast media organizations.
Free and Easy Wandering: An Introduction to the Chuang-Tzu

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Mondays, January 29, February 12 & 26
Cost: $75 (book included)

Description: Unique among early Chinese texts, this Taoist classic celebrates individual freedom. Its unbridled imagination, sparkling wit, philosophical paradoxes, and epistemological insights have earned it a place as one of the all-time greatest masterpieces of Chinese literature – one of the instructor’s desert island books. Everyone will be expected to have read chapters 1-7 before the first class.



Instructor: After receiving his Ph.D. at Harvard, Peter N. Gregory taught Buddhism and East Asian Religions at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for 15 years before joining the faculty as the Jill Ker Conway Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies at Smith College, where he also taught for 15 years.
First Amendment: Freedoms of Speech, Religion, Association

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Thursdays, February 1, 8, 15
Cost: $60

Description: The course will address interpretation of freedoms of speech, religion and association from a judge's perspective. We will study the leading and current cases applying First Amendment principles to issues of the day.



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, had a private law practice, and as a judge served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the US Judicial Conference. Currently he is a U.S. District Court Judge and a Visiting Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Baseball, Segregation, and the “Atlantis” of Black Baseball

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Fridays, February 2, 9
Cost: $40

Description: Organized baseball was segregated, black and white, from the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. Within segregated black communities, amid the debilitating effects of a separate and unequal world, a rich culture emerged – an Atlantis of sorts – and an absorbing chronicle was written. We will learn about life in baseball's "Negro leagues," and the great black players and teams. Then we’ll ask how this sporting phenomenon reflects American values and history. How do we understand our cultural heritage by looking through the lens of black baseball?



Instructor: Karl Lindholm earned his B.A. in English from Middlebury (1967) and Ph.D in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University. He returned to Middlebury to serve in many roles including Dean of Students and Assistant Professor of American Studies. Now retired, he continues to teach and work on a variety of writing projects.
Love, Pain and Chocolate: A Scientist’s Perspective

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Tuesday, February 6
Cost: $20

Description: This fun talk explores the mood-altering substances associated with Valentine’s Day. Love, pain and chocolate are all interrelated when it comes to the chemistry of our bodies. Understanding the chemistry of love, pain, and chocolate at a molecular level gives us insight into how and why drugs work.



Instructor: Jeff Byers is an organic chemist, who has been teaching at Middlebury College since 1986. In addition to his classes, he has mentored over 100 beginning researchers in the course of his career. Jeff’s own research interests include the study of reactive intermediates known as “free radicals.” He is also attempting to build molecular wires for potential use in micro circuitry.
Shakespeare’s As You Like It: The Scene’s the Thing

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Tuesdays, February 13, 20, 27, March 6, 13
Cost: $100 (book included)

Description: The best way to appreciate Shakespeare’s dramatic art is to approach it as theater. In our class, we ask directors’ and actors’ questions: “How will it play?” “How will it sound?” and sometimes, “What does it mean?” My roadmap of the scenes will help us imagine the play on stage. Equip actors with his gloriously adept poetry, set it all in motion through this roadmap, and then one can imagine the genius at work in the theater. The scene’s the thing in which we catch the essence of Shakespeare’s work.



Instructor: Alfred Kloeckner holds degrees from Columbia University (B.A., M.A.) and Indiana University (Ph.D.). He studied in Stratford, England and has acted in local theatre. He taught at Indiana University, University of Rochester, Loyola University of Chicago, Norwich University, and in a Fulbright program in Hamburg, Germany. For twenty-five years he taught Shakespeare's plays as works for the stage.
The Russian Revolution

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Wednesdays, February 14, 21, 28, March 7
Cost: $80

Description: The Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 sought to transform the very basis of human existence and usher in a utopian future. But where did this revolutionary sentiment come from? Were the events of 1917 and the victory of the Bolsheviks inevitable? What were the outcomes of the revolution? We will examine the rise and fall of revolutionary sentiment in Russia from late-imperial terrorism through the establishment of Stalin’s dictatorship. Texts, images and music from the Revolutionary era will enliven our exploration of this fraught age.



Instructor: Rebecca Mitchell is Assistant Professor of History at Middlebury College. Her research explores the cultural and intellectual history of the Russian empire, with particular interest in the intersection between philosophical views, artistic expression and identity politics within the multi-ethnic context of the Russian lands, as well as the trans-national spread of culture and ideas.
The Continuing Significance of Racism in the U.S.

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Thursdays, February 22, March 8, 15, 22 (no class March 1)
Cost: $80

Description: This course will introduce students to theories of race and racism in the United States, how racial categories are formed and maintained in a variety of social arenas, and how race and racism influence social systems. Each week, we will explore a different topic (such as education) and examine how it is influenced by race and racism. Students will gain an understanding of the historic and contemporary significance of race and racism in the United States - and how race influences our everyday interactions in multiple different social arenas.



Instructor: Chong-suk Han is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Middlebury College; he received his Ph.D. in 2007 from the University of Washington. His areas of expertise are race and sexuality. Before becoming an academic, Dr. Han was an award-winning journalist and he served for three years as the editor-in-chief of the International Examiner.
Reading Modern Poetry

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM
Date: Fridays, February 23, March 2, 9
Cost: $60

Description: Modern poetry can be beautiful but elusive, puzzling, and even challenging to grasp. Together with poetry professor Brett Millier, we will read and discuss modern poems in ways that bring them to light. Understand better and delight in significant 20th century American poems and poets.



Instructor: Brett Millier is the Reginald L. Cook Professor of American Literature at Middlebury College, where she has taught since 1986. Her teaching interests include twentieth century American poetry and fiction, gender studies, Canadian literature, and critical writing and pedagogy. She is a graduate of Yale University (B.A.) and Stanford University (Ph.D.).
Hate, Love and Reconciliation in the Public Sphere

Time: 1:30-3:00 PM
Date: Thursday, March 1, and Monday March 5
Cost: $40

Description: In this course we will study the power of love to effect social change. We will review major historic episodes, including the Civil Rights Movement, post-Apartheid reconciliation in South Africa, and current efforts – including Black Lives Matter – to address longstanding injustice. We will learn from historic (e.g. Ella Baker) and contemporary (e.g., Van Jones) leaders who promote love as a ‘force more powerful’ and also study the limits of love in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation.



Instructor: Jon Isham is professor of economics at Middlebury College, where he helps students to prepare for lives of positive social change. Isham graduated from Harvard College, served in the Peace Corps in Benin, and then earned his master's in international studies from Johns Hopkins University and his doctorate of economics from University of Maryland.
Classes for Winter 2018

• Resilient Women in Two Novels, January 16, 23, 30
• Champlain Valley Geology, January 17, 24, 31; February 7
• The Taliban, January 18
• VT’s Rural Culture: Changes, January 19, 26
• Trump Administration, January 25
• Intro to the Chuang-Tzu, January 29; February 12, 26
• The First Amendment, February 1, 8, 15
• Baseball and Segregation, February 2, 9
• Love, Pain, and Chocolate, February 6
• Shakespeare: As You Like It, February 13, 20, 27; March 6, 13
• The Russian Revolution, February 14, 21, 28; March 7
• Racism in the U.S., February 22; March 8, 15, 22
• Reading Modern Poetry, February 23; March 2, 9
• Reconciliation in the Public Sphere, March 1, 5