One Day U
A day each summer, Tanglewood’s a place for continuing education
One Day U’s program is simple: Three subjects are taught; professors lecture for an hour, followed by a question-and-answer segment.
One Day University
Imagine dropping your child off at college, knowing that she is about to embark on a mind-expanding experience, and wishing you could do the same.
In 2005, Steven Schragis, the national director of The Learning Annex, an adult education company based in New York City, made such a wish. And then he made it come true. As he dropped his daughter off at Bard College in upstate New York, Schragis took advantage of a program provided for the parents. Professors were giving short lectures all over the campus, letting them sample the subjects offered to their children.
“Everyone was thinking the same thing: I wish I was going to college. We all made that joke,” says Schragis. On the way home, he discussed with his wife the idea of finding interesting professors from all over the country and showcasing them in one-day programs. “I got home and created a URL for One Day University and launched it. It really was that day and that moment.”
Since 2006, more than 100,000 people have attended a program that was launched in New York City, after which Tanglewood was added. It is now offered at 62 locations nationally, and this year it will be on August 26 at Tanglewood, where the lectures will be on foreign policy, sleep, and climate change.
Schragis says the program really began its expansion about five years ago after Karen Bordeleau, the now-retired executive editor of The Providence Journal in Rhode Island, attended a One Day University in New York with her sister. She asked if Schragis would bring it to Rhode Island and the paper could co-sponsor it. “They would do the promotion and we would do the event,” he explains. With the exception of Tanglewood, that has been the model he now employs. Schragis says the media partners bring in a demographic that “is an exact match.”
Those demographics, he says, tend to skew older, a fact corroborated by Princeton professor Stephen Kotkin, who will be teaching the foreign policy slot at Tanglewood and has been helming classes for the program for almost a decade. A professor of history and international affairs, he says the students are usually “people who finished university some time ago, have had successful lives, often have raised children or have children at university. They are paying for that but not benefiting themselves intellectually.”
These are people who keep up with current events, Kotkin explains. They read newspapers and magazines, they watch television—they’re engaged and interested in specialized subjects not available to them since leaving academia 20, 30, even 40 years earlier. The audiences, he says, are “appreciative and attentive. Some people go online and bone up on the subject and ask excellent questions.”
The program is simple and the same everywhere: Each professor teaches a lecture that is between 45 minutes to an hour in length. This is followed by a question-and-answer segment of 15 to 20 minutes, followed by a break and then a new subject.
Those subjects have changed somewhat over time. Schragis says that for years there was a music lecture at Tanglewood. “In the beginning, there was always someone talking about Beethoven,” followed in the afternoon by a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. This evolved into a lecture on three subjects, not necessarily music.
Frequent attendee Joan Volin has been to many One Day Universities, mostly in New York, but has been to Tanglewood several times and is returning this year. A Yonkers resident, she says that the University is part of the appeal, but so is the locale. It is always “a lovely day and I love the 9th Symphony, which they always play.”
Phyllis Tannenbaum, a resident of Long Island, will be attending her fourth University this summer as part of a “girls trip.” “The lectures are great, and the whole area around Tanglewood is food for everything for me—for my soul, for my brain,” she says. “I go to Tanglewood and I see thousands of people sitting on this beautiful lawn in this beautiful setting, listening to beautiful music in silence. It is miraculous to me.”
That most of the professors are dynamic and great speakers is important to the students, as well as connecting with the audience and teaching them something they don’t know in a way they can take home with them.
According to Schragis, the program is first and foremost “entertainment.” The course ideas are tested and discussed, at length, almost ten months in advance, and the professors are told when hired that “people are coming for fun. If they have a good time, that’s great. If they don’t have a good time, that’s a failure.”
One Day U at Tanglewood:
- “American Foreign Policy: Where Are We Headed?” Stephen Kotkin, professor of history and international affairs, Princeton University
- “The Science of Sleep: How it Affects Creativity, Focus and Memory” Jessica Payne, professor of psychology, University of Notre Dame
- “Climate Change: What We Know and What We Don’t Know” David Helfand, professor of astronomy, Columbia University
Registration is $159 for all three lectures on August 26, 2018 VIP parking, plus one complimentary lawn admission or a 10 percent discount on a Shed ticket for that day’s concert at 2:30 p.m.
Picnic-style lunches are available for purchase. onedayu.com