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 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 Spring 2019 / April to June

Writing from a Sense of Place: A Reading Group

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Mondays, April 8 and 15
Cost: $40

Description: We are all familiar with how “terroir” affects the quality and flavor of what we grow and eat. Similarly our natural and community environments have a powerful influence on the narrative of our poems and stories. Imagine Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” relocated in Times Square or Howard Frank Mosher’s Where the Rivers Flows North set in the Badlands of North Dakota. We will explore how narrative and character are enhanced by their natural and social environments and how your own sense of place informs your life stories. This small discussion group class has short reading assignments. (Not a writing class.)



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 has written five books of fiction.
The Twenty-First Century: The Shape of Things to Come

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Wednesdays, April 10, 17 and 24
Cost: $65
Note: Back by popular demand

Description: This small seminar will address the critical issues we face on the global stage: climate change; arms control in a world of accelerating technological change; and America’s changing world role. Through lecture and discussion, the seminar will explore the implications of each issue for this country and humanity in general. Expect to participate in this small group discussion after having completed essential readings.



Instructor: George Jaeger served as an American career diplomat during the Cold War. He was, among other assignments, staff director of the President’s Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament, a senior negotiator of the Helsinki Final Act, consul general during Quebec’s independence crisis, and deputy assistant secretary general of NATO. Before he retired he taught as Diplomat-in-Residence at Middlebury College.
Religion and Science at the Crossroads

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Thursday, April 11
Cost: $20

Description: Are science and religion fundamentally in conflict, or is it possible to reconcile them? In this class we will consider the challenge posed to religious belief by the advances in science since the scientific revolution. We will discuss theories that view science as in conflict with, compatible with, or even supporting religious belief. Topics will include the debate between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, recent studies of the cognitive science of religious belief, and the Dalai Lama’s project of fostering dialogue between Buddhists and contemporary scientists. This small discussion group class has short reading assignments.



Instructor: John Spackman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Middlebury College. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale and an M.A. in Religion from Columbia. He specializes in the philosophies of mind, language, religion and aesthetics.
Cave Science: Tales from the Underground

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date:Thursdays, April 18, 25 and May 2
Cost: $60

Description: While not everyone is excited about crawling through narrow spaces underground in the dark, everyone can appreciate the beauty of the stalactites and stalagmites that decorate many caves. But did you know that these features store significant information about past climatic and environmental conditions at the surface? Did you know that some caves are cold enough to contain permanent ice? And did you know that one of the longest caves in New England is in Weybridge? This course will present an overview of cave science, including how caves form.



Instructor: Jeff Munroe is a Professor of Geology at Middlebury College. He studies geologic records of past climate that are found in a diverse array of sources, including glacial landforms, soils, lake sediments, dunes and cave formations.
The Enduring Cultural Power of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesday, April 30
Cost: $20 (not a book group)

Description: Students of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God commonly, and understandably, read the novel as a meditation on the heroine’s growth towards empowered selfhood. At the same time, we can also read it meaningfully on other levels from our contemporary perspective. How does the flood scene speak to us in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? And how do we read the scenes of domestic violence in light of the #MeToo movement? Learn about how this novel shines a light on different cultural moments.



Instructor: William R. Nash is Professor of American Studies and English and American Literatures at Middlebury College. The author of Charles Johnson’s Fiction and co-editor of Charles Johnson, the Novelist as Philosopher, Nash’s current research explores the role and function of scrapbooks in the anti-slavery struggle.
Perennials Group: Coming of Age in Growing Old

Time: choose a.m. or p.m., 10-11:30 a.m -or- 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Wednesdays, May 1, 8, 15
Cost: $90 includes books

Description: This small discussion and support group will continue with aspects of life for those who are active and over 70. We will compare Cicero’s How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life, with Madeline Kunin’s recently published Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties. We will explore what this ancient Roman man and this modern American woman have in common with you and your process of aging. Elise is offering two sections of this class—one will meet in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. Choose either the morning or the afternoon session.



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.
Communicating about Climate Change: Reaching Common Ground in Politically Polarized Discussions

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesday, May 7
Cost: $20

Description: Why do those who identify as politically liberal and those who identify as politically conservative often disagree about scientific findings? This talk explores how the discourse used to discuss environmental action and policies can bring us together or push us apart. What are ways to move beyond shallow, reactive responses towards deeper, centrally focused considerations of arguments? How can we facilitate less emotional and more engaged exchanges around environmental science and protection with those outside our own political tribe?



Instructor: Michelle McCauley is a Professor of Psychology at Middlebury College who researches the connections among self-determination, well-being, environmental behaviors, and policy support.
Maple Syrup: From the Trees to Your Kitchen

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Thursday, May 9
Cost: $20

Description: Join Amy Trubek in an exploration of the long history of cooking with maple syrup in Vermont. From baked beans, anadama bread and pancakes, Vermonters—from the Abenaki to the settlers to back to the landers to hipsters—have taken advantage of the sweet sap of the sugar maple tree for generations. Bring in your favorite story about making maple syrup or going to a sugar shack, or share a family recipe!



Instructor: Amy Trubek is trained as a chef and an anthropologist. She is a Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and the faculty director of the Food Systems Graduate Program. She is the author of The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir.
The ‘Jewels’ of Ecuador

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Monday, May 13
Cost: $20

Description: This talk is about the incredible birdlife in Ecuador: nearly 1,600 species and 130 different hummingbirds are found there. Hank will share his photos of these “jewels” and discuss the positive impact of ecotourism at sustaining wildlife for all to enjoy by establishing a series of lodges where birds and hummingbirds are the main attraction.



Instructor: Hank Kaestner spent his career as director of spice purchasing at McCormick and Company. He has been a bird-watcher for 63 years, and has been to Ecuador six times to see the birds there. He is one of the top ranked bird-watchers, having seen more than 7,576 species of birds during his travels.
Environmental Poetry Seminar

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, May 14
Cost: $20

Description: How can art, specifically literary art, contribute to our imagination of environmental catastrophe? In this class Dan Brayton will lead a discussion about “The Convergence of the Twain,” by Thomas Hardy, and “The Berg: A Dream,” by Herman Melville, two poems about a collision between a ship and an iceberg.



Instructor: Dan Brayton is a Professor of English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College. His book, Shakespeare’s Ocean: An Ecocritical Exploration, was published in 2012 by the University of Virginia Press. Brayton has served as Literature, Art and Music section editor of Coriolis: Interdisciplinary Journal of Maritime Studies and has published numerous articles on literature and the marine environment.
Two Evocative Montana Novels: The Whistling Season and Montana 1948

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Date: Tuesdays, May 21, 28 and June 4
Cost: $75 (includes books)

Descripton: Larry Watson’s Montana 1948, published in 1993, relates a story of old-fashioned sense of duty at odds with family loyalty. The teenaged narrator inexorably gains insight into adult life and his father, their town’s unflashy sheriff. Ivan Doig’s 2006 novel, The Whistling Season, creates some unforgettable characters and the rich emotional complexities of homesteader life on the Montana prairie in 1909, as experienced by a teenaged son and his two brothers. Expect to participate in this small discussion group class.



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.
What Is This Thing Called Jazz, Part II

Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Date: Thursday, May 23
Cost: $20

Description: Popular songs written somewhere between the 1920’s and the 50’s, mostly for Broadway and Hollywood, have come to be called The Great American Songbook. In this class, Dick Forman continues his exploration of The Songbook and its relation to jazz. Cole Porter’s tunes from “What Is This Thing Called Love” to “It’s All Right with Me” form an important chapter in The Songbook. Dick Forman will explore how these songs serve to reflect and define American culture. Come ready to sing some great old songs, and learn how to transform those songs into jazz.



Instructor: Dick Forman is Middlebury College’s Director of Jazz Activities. As a jazz piano player, he has led his own combo, The Dick Forman Jazz Group, for decades. The Group has appeared in concerts and regional festivals, on public radio and at countless private functions.
Spring 2019 ESI College Courses

- Reading Group: Sense of Place, Bill Schubart | Mondays, April 8, 15, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Seminar: 21st Century, George Jaeger | Wednesdays, April 10, 17, 24, 1:30-3 p.m.
- Religion and Science, John Spackman | Thursday, April 11, 1:30-3 p.m.
- Cave Science, Jeff Munroe | Thursdays, April 18, 25, May 2, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Zora Neale Hurston, Will Nash | Tuesday, April 30, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Coming of Age, Elise Blair | Wednesdays, May 1, 8, 15, 10-11:30 a.m. -or- 1:30-3 p.m.
- Politics and Climate Change, Michelle McCauley | Tuesday, May 7, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Cooking with Maple Syrup, Amy Trubek | Thursday, May 9, 1:30-3 p.m.
- Birds of Ecuador, Hank Kaestner | Monday, May 13, 10-11:30 a.m.
- Environmental Poetry, Dan Brayton | Tuesday, May 14, 1:30-3 p.m.
- Two Montana Novels, John Berninghausen | Tuesdays, May 21, 28, June 4, 10-11:30 a.m.
- This Thing Called Jazz, Part II, Dick Forman | Thursday, May 23, 1:30-3 p.m.