A New Chapter for ESI College

After a few years of online learning, we are very excited to be returning ESI College to the larger, in-person programs so many of you enjoyed prior to Covid-19. The program’s revitalization is led by our new ESI College Coordinator Justus Sturtevant, who returned to Elderly Services after several years.

Please be aware of three changes to our program. To make our program more accessible, we are trying a pay-what-you-can approach, rather than a regular fee, with a suggested contribution for each course. Another change is the location of classes this summer. Due to the construction at Elderly Services, ESI College classes will be held at the Congregational Church of Middlebury. We are very grateful for the opportunity to use this amazing space: the Carpenter Room for smaller classes and Unity Hall for larger lectures, both of which are located near the North Pleasant Street entrance. Finally, registration is fully online; those who need help can call our office.

ESI Focus: Climate Change Conversation

Over the next year, ESI College will have a focus on Climate Change, thanks to an Environmental Justice grant from the Vermont Community Foundation.

As we saw last summer, with the wildfire smoke, wind storms, extreme heat, and floods, the effects of climate change are being felt in Vermont. Older people can be some of the most vulnerable to climate crises due to health and technology limitations, and yet are not always part of the conversations at a local level.

The goal of the Climate Change Conversations is to provide education and engagement on environmental and climate initiatives locally and globally, and to have older voices be heard, from the classroom to the statehouse.

Classes in the climate change series this semester range in scope from the international to the very local, including: Jess L’Roe’s research on the effect of tree planting in Uganda; the innovative work of New Perennials to re-imagine agriculture and education; NOAA’s Scott Whittier talking about Vermont weather and how it has changed; Bill Schubart’s class on understanding how Vermont government works; and Jay Leshinsky’s talk on power of gardens to create community. We hope you can join us!

Greatest Hits of ESI College

Along with the environmental focus, ESI College will also offer classes on past favorite topics, including Robert Wyatt’s very engaging musical storytelling, Russ Leng’s brilliant historical political perspective, Caleb Kenna’s inspired photographs of Vermont, Matt Dickinson’s incisive analysis of the upcoming election, and book groups with Elise Blair and Michael Thomas.

Register for Courses!

Click on the link below to register for Summer 2024 courses.

https://elderlyservices.wufoo.com/forms/esi-college-summer-2024

We use an online registration system named “Wufoo” that provides an easy-to-use form to select your classes.

  • Please sign up at least 48 hours in advance so we can be in touch with you about the class.

  • Some classes have limited enrollment; others have readings. 

  • Each person in your household must register separately. If you share the same email address, simply fill out a separate form for each person.

  • The registration system calculates the amount you have agreed to pay on a per person basis. The total cost for your classes will be listed when you complete your registration. 

  • Some courses may require books that will be available at the Vermont Book Shop at a discounted price.

  • After you submit your form, you will receive an automated email confirmation from “Elderly Services-ESI College <no-reply@wufoo.com>.”

Payment Options

You may pay by check. Please send it (within a week of registration) to:

Elderly Services-ESI College
P.O. Box 581
Middlebury, VT 05753

Or, you may make a debit/credit card payment via PayPal, as you complete the online registration form. You do not need a PayPal account to use this feature.

We look forward to seeing you!

Justus Sturtevant
Kristin Bolton
Jeff Rehbach


Course List for Summer 2024

Vermont Government Institutions | Bill Schubart | Wednesdays, June 19, 26, 10-11:30 a.m.
Stephen Sondheim | Robert Wyatt | Tuesday, June 25, 10-11:30 a.m.
Scott Russell Sanders | Michael Thomas | Tuesdays, July 2, 9, 16, 10-11:30 a.m.  
Paying Others to Plant Trees | Jessica L’Roe | Wednesday, July 10, 1:30-3 p.m.
What Causes Intelligence Failures | Russ Leng | Wednesday, July 17, 10-11:30 a.m.
The Underground Railroad | Lindsay Varner | Tuesday, July 23, 10-11:30 a.m.
Vermont Drone Photography | Caleb Kenna | Tuesday, July 30, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
The New Perennials | Bill Vitek | Wednesday, July 31, 10-11:30 a.m.
The 2024 Election | Matt Dickinson | Tuesday, August 6, 10-11:30 a.m.
Marta Zarazka | Elise Blair | Wednesdays, August 7, 14, 21, 1:30-3 p.m.
Vermont Weather | Scott Whittier | Tuesday, August 13, 10-11:30 a.m.
Gardens as Intergenerational Spaces | Jay Leshinsky | Thursday, August 15, 1-2:30 p.m.


Reverse Engineering Vermont Government Institutions to Achieve Progress

Date: Wednesdays, June 19 and 26
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Carpenter Room
Pay what you can: $40 suggested

Description: To those not involved in state government, the process of making change to our laws seems painstakingly slow. To effect any change, we first need to understand the inner workings of our state government, its weaknesses and strengths. With an understanding of current structures and functions of the Vermont government, students will then consider and discuss what changes could be made to facilitate more effective governance in the state of Vermont.

Instructor: Bill Schubart has lived in and written about Vermont for decades. He has served as board chair for numerous Vermont organizations, including Vermont Public, UVM Medical Center, Vermont Digger, and the Vermont Board of Libraries. He has published several novels set in Vermont and regularly contributes to local print and radio media.


– Climate Conversation

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Stephen Sondheim: The Wizard of Broadway

Date: Tuesday, June 25
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: American music specialist Robert Wyatt takes you along a path through Stephen Sondheim’s life and creations, from the trailblazing contributions of West Side Story, Follies, and Company, to the animated precision of shows like A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd, and along to the boldness of later works like Assassins and Passion. Come witness the wizardry of Stephen Sondheim as he pairs the virtuosity of his words with the passion of his music, allowing you to exit the theater with “Send in the Clowns” ringing in your ears.

Instructor: Robert Wyatt is a Steinway Artist who has performed throughout the United States and internationally, gathering critical acclaim for sensitive and colorful solo and chamber music recitals. He delights audiences with a rare blend of pianistic savvy and engaging storytelling that makes each performance a creative event.

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Scott Russell Sanders’ Hunting for Hope

Date: Tuesdays, July 2, 9, 16
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Carpenter Room
Pay what you can: $60 suggested; books, purchased separately, are available at the Vermont Book Shop at a discount.

Description: When a hiking trip intended to bring him closer to his son instead led to an angry confrontation, Scott Russell Sanders began to reflect on how his own despair had impacted his son. Hunting for Hope explores his search for hope and his discovery of the healing found in nature, in culture, in community, in spirit, and within each of us.

One of our finest essayists, Sanders combines storytelling, poetry, science, history, and philosophy to invite reflection on our own values and sources of hope.

Instructor: Michael Thomas grew up in the mountains of Tennessee, lived a while in South America, and settled down in Vermont for the past 24 years.  He has taught literature and social science at the college level and currently teaches English and Humanities at Vergennes Union High School.

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Why Paying Other People to Plant Trees Might Not Be A Good Solution

Date: Wednesday, July 10
Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: A popular response to climate change has been to promote planting trees on “degraded” land. However, this raises interesting questions regarding our role in influencing places we may never set foot. In this course, we will explore a tree planting boom in Western Uganda and share local perspectives on how the landscape is changing, who benefits, and who is harmed. We will examine potential issues related to planting efforts, including exacerbating inequality and undermining food security and land rights.

Instructor: Jessica L’Roe is an Associate Professor of Geography at Middlebury College. She studies land use and livelihoods in tropical forest regions undergoing rapid change, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon Basin, and does empirical research to improve the equity and effectiveness of conservation and development policies.


– Climate Conversation

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What Causes Intelligence Failures: Pearl Harbor and the 10/7 Hamas Attack on Israel

Date: Wednesday, July 17
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: The military intelligence failures that have been cited as major causes of the lack of preparedness by Israel on 10/7/23 are eerily similar to those that preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, human errors arising from preconceived views of the adversary’s intentions and capabilities and communication failures had disastrous consequences. This lecture compares the two cases and demonstrates that technological advances in intelligence gathering over the past eighty years have not resolved the key issues: human judgment and communication.

Instructor: Russ Leng is the James Jermain Professor Emeritus at Middlebury, where he taught international politics for 40 years before retiring. Since retiring, Russ has taught courses to adults and undergraduates that blend political science with his love of diplomatic history. He has written extensively on international diplomacy, particularly crisis bargaining.

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Seeking Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Legacy of a Vermont Family

Date: Tuesday, July 23
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: Learn what’s new at the Rokeby! This National Landmark site is a historical treasure, telling the story of the Underground Railroad through the many generations of the Robinson family who lived at Rokeby in Ferrisburgh from 1793 to 1961. The Robinson family is unique because of the abolitionists who were active in the antislavery movement— and the later generations who saved the antislavery documents. Meet Rokeby Museum’s new director and learn about her research in upgrading the exhibition on the Underground Railroad and the antislavery movement in Vermont.

Instructor: Lindsay Varner is the executive director at Rokeby Museum. She has over a decade of experience in public history. Her research background is on the history of Quakerism and the Reformation in Early Modern England. She has taught at several higher education institutions, including Dickinson College and Elizabethtown College.

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Vermont from Above—Drone Photography over the Green Mountain State

Date: Tuesday, July 30
Time: 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: Come see bird’s-eye views above the Green Mountains, offering a unique perspective of landscape alive with seasonal colors, etched with shadow, and rich with mood. Middlebury, Vermont photographer Caleb Kenna will show his drone photography from around Vermont and discuss using a drone to capture Vermont’s landscapes.

Instructor: Caleb Kenna is a photographer and drone pilot based in Middlebury, Vermont. His clients include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vermont Community Foundation, and Vermont Land Trust. More of his work can be seen at www.calebkenna.com and on Instagram @calebkenna.

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The New Perennials: Conversations about Roots, Relationships, and Rhythms

Date: Wednesday, July 31
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Carpenter Room
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: The New Perennials Project at Middlebury College explores the intersections between what we eat and how we think, and the emerging efforts in agricultural and educational research to develop long-lived and deeply rooted varieties of both.

Instructor: Bill Vitek directs the New Perennials Project and is a scholar-in-residence and affiliate humanist chaplain at Middlebury College. He taught philosophy at Clarkson University, with the goal of helping students recognize that the philosophical imagination can and must do useful work in the world. Much of his work has engaged ecological issues, including collaborations with Wes Jackson. The pair co-edited two books, Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place and The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge.


– Climate Conversation

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Forecasting the 2024 Presidential Election

Date: Tuesday, August 6
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: The 2024 election presents a historic rematch between an incumbent versus a former president.  Who is likely to win? Why?  And what does it mean for the future of the two political parties, and for American politics more generally?

Instructor: Matt Dickinson teaches at Middlebury College, where he specializes in the study of American politics, particularly Congress and the presidency. Previously he taught at Harvard University, where he also earned his Ph.D. in Government. He is the author of Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch.

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Marta Zaraska’s Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

Date: Wednesdays, August 7, 14, 21
Time: 1:30-3 p.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Carpenter Room
Pay what you can: $60 suggested; books, purchased separately, are available at the Vermont Book Shop at a discount.

Description: An exploration of why kindness and connection are just as important as broccoli and bicep curls, this well-researched and engaging book makes a compelling case to consider how strengthening our social connections, cultivating a positive attitude, and being kind is as close as we may ever get to the fountain of youth. We’ll take her message to heart as we discuss our own lives and finding meaning and purpose as we age.

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 played a large role in the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis as a teacher, board member and president. She is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

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Vermont’s Weather Hazards and A Changing Climate in Vermont

Date: Tuesday, August 13
Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: Vermont’s weather has always been a topic of conversation, and the impact of climate change was certainly felt last year. Hear how a seasoned meteorologist understands the weather of our past and future. We’ll review some of Vermont’s historical weather events and weather that affects us annually. In addition, we’ll look at our changing climate and discuss what impacts that has had and what can be expected in the future.

Instructor: Scott Whittier is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist (since 2008) at NOAA/NWS Burlington, VT Forecast Office and has been at NWS Burlington since 1993. Scott was awarded the Northeast States Emergency Consortiums Emergency Manager of the Year for Vermont in 2013 for his efforts with Tropical Storm Irene (2011) and Vermont’s Catastrophic Full Scale Exercise (2010).


– Climate Conversation

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The Importance of Gardens as Intergenerational Spaces

Date: Thursday, August 15
Time: 1-2:30 p.m.
Location: Congregational Church of Middlebury, Unity Hall
Pay what you can: $20 suggested

Description: Gardens can be places for learning about kinship, elder wisdom and community. The Knoll at Middlebury College has been one such special garden. Join us as Megan Brakeley, current manager of the Knoll, facilitates a discussion with Jay Leshinsky, the Knoll’s former manager and veteran gardener, about how gardens build community. Following the program, interested students can visit The Knoll with Jay and Megan.

Instructor: Jay Leshinsky has been an organic gardener for 53 years. From 1987 to the present he has run seed trials for Vermont Bean Seed Company, Shepherd’s Garden Seeds and Renee’s Garden Seeds. In 2003 he helped Middlebury College students start the organic garden at the Knoll, at which he was the educator and manager for 14 years.


– Climate Conversation

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