Change is the mantra of the moment. The presidential candidates have incorporated it into their campaign spiels, and it is the spirit infusing this year’s selection of adult education classes. Be it a blueprint for building green, a course in Zen meditation, a plan for the evolving cityscape, or the magical transformation of curdled milk into cheese, here are eight local offerings that demonstrate different ways to make over and manage your own life in these dramatically changing times.
THE BUSINESS OF BUSINESS
A quick trip to the Yellow Pages reveals countless listings for lawyers, dentists, accountants, and other white-collar workers—basically, says Henry Feldman, anyone who "sells his knowledge, judgment, and experience for money."
But in a city like Chicago, says Feldman, few busy professionals hawking their "high value products" realize that they need to do more than work hard and play fair to be successful. Feldman’s signature seven-week course, Building a Professional Practice, should help people overcome their fears and biases about self-promotion and learn how to stand out in their overcrowded fields.
"The market is changing," says Feldman. "There are an immense number of sellers rushing in with large technical muscle, but with no idea how to retain clients." Using the experience he gained at Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney—"We were taught about product, but not how to sell," laments Feldman—as well as chapters from the book he is finishing about professional-practice building, Feldman demonstrates to his students how to rise above the competition by actively selling their services, keeping clients loyal, closing more deals, and generating referrals.
What’s more, insists Feldman, all this can be accomplished with little money, little time, and little energy—music to any entrepreneur’s ear.
Offered by the College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Meets at UIC, 1333 South Halsted Street, Room 205. $695. The class begins in October, but specific dates had not been assigned at presstime. Call 312-355-0423 for more information.
THE NEXT STAGE
Sure, you’ve mastered the solo Power Point presentation, but can you nail a monologue on a bare stage in front of a full house? Acting 1, offered at The Second City, doesn’t end with a sold-out performance, but it does culminate in a mock audition—and an audience composed of a dozen fellow students can feel like a full house to someone who has never stared into a blinding spotlight before. Equipped with the skills necessary to follow in the footsteps of Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and other Second City alums, students leave the course ready to win over directors and casting agents—or prepared to deploy their newfound communication talents and team-building expertise in the real world.
The eight-week course, which meets once a week for three hours, is open to people with all levels of experience. It focuses on preparing students for a theatrical audition by laying out the basics of script study and by introducing them to the instructor’s philosophy of acting, which requires students to draw from personal experience to paint a psychological portrait on the stage.
The instructor, Michael Pieper, the head of The Second City’s acting program and a veteran of Chicago’s Trap Door and Boxer Rebellion theatres, relies on lectures and acting exercises to help students fully explore the physical and emotional elements of the human condition—and the results can be just as useful in the workplace as they are in the playhouse.
Offered by The Second City. Meets from October 13th to December 13th at The Second City Training Center, 1608 North Wells Street, fourth floor. $285. 312-664-3959.
Despite the name-calling and mudslinging that has characterized most U.S. presidential contests, Alan Gitelson remains fascinated by the electoral process. "As a student of politics, and campaigns," he says, "I think 2008 is a particularly exciting election year with much to study, analyze, and understand." Gitelson hopes that his fall course at Loyola University—The 2008 Election—will spread that enthusiasm to a classroom of students, inducing thoughtful discussion and creating at least a handful of better-informed voters.
Against the backdrop of this year’s historic election—in which the first African American nominee of a major party is facing off against a 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran—Gitelson’s six-week course will focus on the issues surrounding the candidates. The class will examine both major parties’ political platforms and discuss the myths surrounding campaigns and elections—"for example," says Gitelson, "[the belief] that money always buys elections."
The author and coauthor of numerous articles and several books about U.S. politics, Gitelson will rely on campaign coverage from the mainstream media for class discussions on "the nomination process, the campaign process, campaign financing, the role of the media, polling, and the electoral college." The final session takes place November 5th, the day after the election, which should provide an opportunity for a final evaluation of this year’s transformative battle for the White House.
Offered by Loyola University. Meets Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., from September 24th to November 5th at Loyola University, 6525 North Sheridan Road. $275. 312-915-6507.
ZEN AND NOW
Grace Chen-McClone knows better than anyone that, in today’s busy world of commuting, teleconferencing, and multitasking, setting aside 30 uninterrupted minutes for some quiet meditation is a luxury that few people can afford. That’s why her contemplative eight-week class, Chinese Zen Meditation—which Chen-McClone describes as "the spiritual practice of mind connection"—focuses on adapting the principles of this ancient philosophy to today’s hectic pace of living.
Chen-McClone, who has master’s degrees in divinity (from Fu Jen University in Taiwan) and in pastoral counseling (from Loyola University of Chicago), introduces students to what she calls "the art of conscious living." She shows how to be present and aware in everything from walking to eating to washing the dishes.
In the class, which is broken down into two-week sections, Chen-McClone first takes participants through such basic techniques of meditation as mindful breathing. They are then introduced to the concept of cosmic balance, as exemplified by the complementary forces of yin and yang. Next they are asked to make a regular effort to identify and accept their emotions, which should prepare them for the final section of the course, which is devoted to an awareness of the connection between everyone and everything.
Having accomplished all that, students will leave the class better prepared to manage the stress in their lives—and they might even succeed in giving their diets a boost. According to Chen-McClone, taking a meditative moment to taste and enjoy a meal can make all the difference for someone trying to lose weight.
Offered by New Trier Extension. Meets Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon, from October 27th to December 15th at New Trier High School, 7 Happ Road, Northfield. $120. 847-446-6600.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it’s no surprise that it also takes one to save the planet. That’s the philosophy behind Building Green Villages, a fall course offered by the University of Chicago that demonstrates why strong, united, and aware communities are the linchpin to successfully implementing "green" living.
Led by Naomi Davis—the founder of Blacks in Green, a Chicago-based group devoted to environmental activism, and one of the winners of Chicago’s 2008 Green Awards—the course will concentrate as much on ways to bring communities together as it does on the environment itself. To that aim, Davis will focus on the eight principles of green building, which include a category called Borders and Stories. "The basic aspect of any place is that it is a place and that there is a way to speak about it," Davis says. "Recognizing the natural order of the place and allowing people to tell their story is empowering." Another category, Micro Saving, introduces individuals to the leverage that even small liquid assets can bring to a community.
In advance of the class, Davis will provide her students with packets featuring selections from recommended books, articles, and Web sites. She will supplement those readings with appearances by guest lecturers, such as the architect Douglas Farr, who will lead the class on tours of some of his green construction projects—projects that also earned Farr one of this year’s Green Awards.
Offered by the Graham School of General Studies at the University of Chicago. Meets Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., from October 4th to November 22nd at the University of Chicago. $355. Exact location to be announced. Call 773-702-1722 for more information.
GET THE LEAD OUT
In order to keep up with today’s perpetually shifting economy, businesses need to evolve. But change in the corporate world amounts to much more than a CEO giving an impassioned speech, says Aleen Bayard, an independent marketing consultant and the instructor teaching Leaders as Change Agents at Northwestern University.
"Businesses can’t be successful without great leaders who are adept at navigating change," says Bayard, and corporate change—be it a merger, a takeover, or a shift in company focus—needs to be prepared for and supported. Bayard’s course will help small-business owners, corporate team leaders, and project managers become diagnosticians of "change readiness." They will learn to identify the speed bumps that accompany any transition and gain the skills to shepherd employees through the change process. They will also gain a deeper appreciation for the human element of change, which Bayard says is more important than the fiscal bottom line. "Optimizing the talent of your people," she says, "is a corporation’s biggest challenge."
On top of the required reading of works by corporate change gurus—John P. Kotter, Marcus Buckingham, and Daniel Goleman—Bayard looks to her students to guide the direction of the course. "Students bring rich experience to the table," says Bayard, "and everyone benefits from the shared ideas relevant to their situation"—an attitude that transfers well into the corporate world.
Offered by Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Study. Meets for two days—on Friday and Saturday, October 24th and 25th—from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Northwestern University, 210 South Clark Street. $995. 312-503-4846.
HERE’S THE PLAN
As the 100th anniversary approaches for Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, city residents are busy debating the merits of moving the Children’s Museum to Grant Park or building temporary stadiums for the 2016 Olympics. In Donald Whitfield’s opinion, that makes it the perfect time to revisit Burnham’s long-term prospectus for the Windy City.
To that end, Whitfield—an editor and director of higher education programs at the Great Books Foundation—will lead a Newberry Library seminar called Reading The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and Civic Vision. The class, broken down into five weekly two-hour sessions, will revolve around group readings of The Plan.
Though most Chicagoans know Burnham as an architect, Whitfield hopes the seminar will provide students with a sense of the legendary urban planner’s "passionate concern for blending the built environment with the natural setting of the city." That concern led, in part, to the expansive lakefront parks and paths that grace Chicago today. And 96 years after his death, says Whitfield, Burnham can still provide people with "a sense of what they as citizens can do to help create a more livable city."
Offered by The Newberry Library. Meets Tuesdays from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. from September 16th to October 14th at The Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street. $120. 312-255-3700.
Here’s change you can sink your teeth into. At Angelic Organics—the picturesque farm in Caledonia (about 15 miles northeast of Rockford) that’s become a poster child for the community-supported-agriculture movement—foodies can participate in a one-day Cheese Making Workshop. The three-hour hands-on class takes students through all aspects of the cheese-making process from milking a goat—all the cheese made in the class comes from goat’s milk—to acidifying and curdling the milk to tasting the final product.
Preservative and colorant free, the cheeses made in the class—such as feta, ricotta, chèvre, and mozzarella—require no aging. Students who complete the class will leave ready to repeat the procedure in their own kitchens (though they will need a cheese press to explore the aging process). They will also acquire the know-how to expand on basic recipes by adding herbs and spices to craft their own signature creations.
Deb Crockett, the program director for the organization’s On-Farm Initiative and the instructor for its cheese workshop, hopes that in addition to learning about cheese, participants will also establish a connection to the organic farming community and acquire an expanded knowledge of where food comes from. Once class is out, she suggests students take a tour of the farm and learn more about its co-op program, which points the way toward incorporating organic change into daily dietary regimens.
Offered by Angelic Organics. Meets Saturdays, September 13th and October 11th, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Angelic Organics, 1547 Rockton Road, Caledonia. $60. 815-389-8455.
Illustrations: Biran Cronin