Santa Clara University

Osher Lifelong Learning

Winter 2008   




  • Inventing Religion in America
  • Buddhism
  • Survey of U.S. History 1950-Present
  • Hot Topics in Constitutional Law
  • Genetically Modified Foods: Risks and Benefits
  • Contemporary Middle East Politics
  • Film Odyssey: Films of the 60's
  • Everyday Life in Spanish Colonial California
  • Modern Artists in Provence: From Renoir to late Picasso
  • The Emerging Biodiversity Crisis


  • Life on the Edge: The Psyche of the Risk-Taker
  • Excellent Cadavers: A Primer on the Mafia
  • American Art and Culture of the 60's
  • Spiritual Journey of Aging
  • The Armchair Traveler
  • SCU's Solar Power House
  • Behind the Scenes of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
    Inventing Religion in America– taught by James Bennett
This course explores the tremendous spiritual creativity that has been central part of the American experience. We will explore a number of religions “invented” in the United   States, including Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostalism, the Nation of Islam, and doomsday cults such as Jonestown and the Branch Davidians. Along the way, we explore what circumstances have given rise to such groups, some themes that unite these various movements, and why America has been such fertile ground for religious innovation.

-taught by David Gray
This course is an introduction to the history, major teachings, and traditions of Buddhism.  Beginning with the founder Gautama Siddhartha, we will examine the basic teachings and practices of the early Buddhist tradition in India, and will then move on to explore the development of Buddhism as the religion expanded through time and space, up until the present day.

Survey of U.S. History 1950-Present – taught by Brigitte Charaus

This is the second part of a two part American History survey which will explore topics in 20th Century United   States History.  This course will cover the impact of a post World War Two world on American politics and society, shifts in American family and social life during the Cold War, the polarization of American politics during the McCarthy era, the rise of rights (Civil, women's etc,) movements during the 1950's and 60's, United States involvement in a series of foreign conflicts and the rise of a new mindset of empire in the 1980's and 90's. 
Hot Topics in Constitutional Law – taught by Michael Willemsen

The class will consider the important and interesting constitutional issues currently before the courts. We will examine the different theories of constitutional interpretation - "original intent,” "strict construction," and "activism."  We will then look at current issues:  the President's war powers and the Guantanamo Bay cases, gay marriage (a state constitutional law issue), domestic surveillance, the right to bear arms, election issues, abortion, death penalty issues, etc.  Other topics can be added as they emerge in the news, or if they are of particular interest to the class.
   Genetically Modified Foods: Risks and Benefits - taught by William Eisinger
Back by popular demand, this course will once again examine the enormous popularity of genetically modified (GM) food crops among farmers around the world.  What GM foods are in the grocery store today?  What new ones might we expect to see in the future? The United States has unusual labeling laws that prevent most people from knowing that they are eating GM foods.  In this class we will talk about the benefits and risks of GM foods worldwide, and discuss related issues like GM biofuels and pharmaceuticals.


Contemporary Middle East Politics – taught by Farid Senzai
This course provides an in-depth analysis of the politics, religion and culture of the modern Middle East. It also reviews the recent development in the region by challenging the popular conceptions as presented to a vast majority of us by the media. We will discuss current U.S. involvement in the region including the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism. In addition the class will include the study of religious resurgence as a crucial phenomenon in the region. Particular attention will be paid to transnational Islamic movements in the milieu of the technologies of globalization and the challenges they pose to the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Middle Eastern states today.

Film Odyssey:  Films of the 60s – taught by Mark Larson
Turbulent and revolutionary - the films of the 1960's form a wild mosaic of extraordinary images and sounds. Filmmaker Mark Larson will be your guide through a selection of five films from this amazing decade. Films will include Wanda (Loden), Two for the Road (Donen), The Ladies Man (Lewis), The Plot Against Harry (Roemer), and Blow Up (Antonioni).

   Everyday Life in Spanish Colonial California – taught by Russell Skowronek
Now, after years of documentary and archaeological research, we are finally in a position to recapture how people lived at Santa Clara and the surrounding region during the Spanish and Mexican Periods.  In this course we’ll explore the health, diet, economics and material culture, as well as Sundays, holidays and festivals in Hispanic California in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Skowronek, a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution, is working on a public exhibition with his colleagues from Washington, D.C. focused on their study of Spanish colonial ceramics.  It is scheduled to open in Santa Barbara in 2008.  The project will be discussed in the class. Recommended Reading:  Telling the Santa Clara Story: Sesquicentennial Voices  available at local libraries or for purchase at the SCU bookstore.

Modern Artists in Provence:  From Renoir to late Picasso -- taught by Brigid Barton
Generations of French modernists from the late 19th century to the era after world War II focused their artistic attention on the south of France, particularly on Provence.  Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Bonnard, and Picasso spent many years there, while others came for shorter stays.  The artists Matisse and Picasso will receive particular attention.  This course will introduce you to the region and these artists, exploring how each responded to the climate and culture of the south.  Every class will include original slides taken recently on site.


The Emerging Biodiversity Crisis -- taught by William Burns
The world finds itself in the early stages of what most wildlife biologists believe will be the fifth great extinction spasm in the history of the earth, with the potential loss of as many as 50% of the world’s species over the next century.   Unlike previous mass extinction events, the primary cause this time will be anthropogenic factors, including habitat destruction, trade in endangered species, and climate change.  This class will provide an overview of the biodiversity crisis, including the different measurements of biodiversity, the value of biodiversity, the primary causes of biodiversity, and the primary international responses to threats to biodiversity including the Convention on Migratory Species, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.





Life on the Edge:  The Psyche of the Risk-Taker taught by Keith Johnsgard
Dr. Johnsgard spent a decade doing pioneering research exploring the personality makeup of archetypal risk-takers such as race car drivers and parachutists.  Who are these men and women drawn to extreme sports, and what drives them to live life on the edge?  Is risk-taking pathological, genetic, or what?  You certainly know folks in the everyday world who appear to be driven to take physical, social, financial, or legal risks, and you know others who are almost pathologically risk-avoidant. In this class you will have the opportunity to assess your own personal scores on the various risk-taking personality dimensions and explore how they may have affected your past and present life including your relationships with others.

Excellent Cadavers: A Primer on the Mafia
taught by Douglas Kenning
This class will look at the historical, political, and economic backgrounds to the Mafia, considering first of all whether in fact it exists.  Assuming we decide it does exist, then we will watch it evolve from its birth in rural poverty and feudal negligence, to a uniquely Sicilian quasi-populist shadow local paternal authority, through its bloody struggles for power within itself and against the Italian state, to its becoming a web of international syndicates profiting from extortion, gambling, and drug dealing.  Finally, we’ll look at Mafia literature and at the growing anti-Mafia movement in Italy.  


American Art and Culture of the 60s – taught by exhibition curator Andrea Pappas
The 1960s was an important decade of social, historical, and cultural transformation in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement was underway, the Women’s Movement picked up speed, American consumer culture expanded into every corner of life, and the Cold War and the war in Vietnam affected Americans all over the country. Artists responded to and participated in this cultural upheaval in several ways: with experimentation in materials and form, with a commitment to traditional subject matter, and/or by treating these changes in their art, whether directly or indirectly. We will first look at a broad overview of the art and culture of the time. At the second meeting, we will encounter some of this art directly, in the form of a Curator’s walk-through of the exhibition. Students will be encouraged to participate in discussions of the works of art.

The Spiritual Journey of Aging
-- taught by Ron Zielske and Marita Grudzen
The second half of life gives us the option of living life to the fullest, as individuals and as members of families and communities.  This mini-course provides an avenue for exploring and celebrating the aging process from a multi-cultural and multi-faith context but also provides an opportunity for growth in wisdom and responsibility.  It will include an assessment of the gifts, joys, and challenges of aging.  We’ll explore the influence of spiritual and cultural traditions, the role of the elder in the family and community, as well as experiences of diminishment, suffering and pain.  Because no one ages in a vacuum, we will look at the roles of families, society, and faith communities in our lives.  


The Armchair Traveler: Travel to El Salvador, Cuba, Africa, and Italy--taught by photographer David Pace
 For more than 10 years photographer David Pace has been recording images of daily life in some of the less visited corners of the globe. He will share pictures and stories of his travels. Journey to a remote West African village in the country of Burkina Faso where David has been working with the non-profit organization Friends of African Village Libraries to promote literacy. Visit El   Salvador where he has been collaborating with Spanish poet Juan Velasco. Learn about Afro-Cuban culture in the Oriente province of eastern Cuba. Contrast these locations with life in the Tuscan hill towns of central Italy.

SCU’s Solar Power House
– taught by Tim Healy
In the summer of 2007 students from Santa Clara University built a self-contained 600 square foot solar house, designed to provide all the comforts of home, but with no sources of energy except the sun.  In October the house was transported back east to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where it joined 19 other houses from around the world for the third DOE-sponsored Solar Decathlon.  For 10 days students washed clothes, cooked, heated the house, checked their storage batteries, and drove around Wasington in a small electric car.  This Osher class is a report on how the project came into being, how the house was designed and built, and how the students fared in the ten parts of the Decathlon's competition.

Behind the Scenes of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
– taught by Michael Zampelli, S.J.
This is a seminar offered in conjunction with the Center of Performing Arts’ production of Christopher Hampton ’s adaptation of the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The plot depicts the decadence of the French aristocracy shortly before the French Revolution, and thus is seen as a work that exposes the perversions of the Ancien Régime. It is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others—all the while enjoying their cruel games. Under many different names the novel has been adapted into various media including film, television, radio, and opera. Hampton’s play itself has been adapted to a 1988 film (Dangerous Liaisons) starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. Our discussion will situate the play in—and against—its pre-revolutionary context, and will be supplemented with some readings from the Laclos epistolary novel and an engagement with versions of the story in other media.  How do these performances reflect and construct culture—then and now?  Students are invited to take an optional behind-the-scenes tour of the production.














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