Everyone who’s been to college knows the dream. You walk into a lecture hall of a class you’ve been skipping to find assistants passing out what will be a crucial test — and you without a pencil or pen.
There is a chance at redemption this month for everyone with guilt about skipping classes. And the good news is it comes without the recurring dream.
That’s one of the attractions of One Day University, the brainchild of Steven Schragis.
One Day University, through a partnership with The Kansas City Star, will offer its first Kansas City lectures on May 21. Participants can spend from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Overland Park Marriott listening to four lectures on a variety of subjects by professors known for their entertaining teaching styles.
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There are no tests, no homework and no diploma — just a chance to learn something new.
The Kansas City lectures:
▪ David Helfand, Columbia University, speaking on “What We Know about the Universe (And What We Don’t Know).”
▪ Louis Masur, Rutgers University, speaking on “The Civil War and Abraham Lincoln: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction.”
▪ William Burke-White, University of Pennsylvania, speaking on “The Five Most Powerful People in the World.”
▪ Shelley Carson, Harvard University, speaking on “Genius and Creativity: The Science Behind Imagination.”
Schragis says the inspiration for One Day University came from his time as a parent on a college campus.
“We brought our daughter up to college her freshman year in upstate New York (in 2006) and when we got there, about a dozen professors scattered throughout the campus were giving brief talks about their subjects,” he said. “These were their star professors. It was really interesting. Everybody really liked it — I really liked it — and everyone in my age group was thinking the same thing — ‘I wish I didn’t have to go back to the office tomorrow. I wish I could hang out and do this all the time.’ ”
Schragis, who already had a background running seminars as national director of The Learning Annex, went home and bought the URL for One Day University, and the lecture business was born.
One Day University was originally a New York event, Schragis said. After getting established there, he was approached by the Providence Journal about bringing the event to Rhode Island, with the newspaper as a partner.
Now the lectures are offered throughout the country, with 51 newspaper partners, including The Star. Schragis’ company runs the event, the newspapers do the marketing, and the profit is split. Schragis said this works well because the attendees are often people who regularly read the print edition of the newspaper.
The first time One Day University comes to a medium-sized city, attendance is around 300, but it usually grows the second time, he said.
There usually are two lecture days a year, one in spring and one in fall. Kansas City’s second lecture day has not yet been determined.
“It tends to appeal to the 50-and-over age group, extremely well educated with the idea of learning new stuff and being entertained by professors who know they need to be entertaining as well as educational,” Schragis said. “The motivation is very similar to why people go to a Broadway show or a symphony or an art museum — to broaden their horizons and have some fun and learn something.”
Some of the appeal has to do with nostalgia for a chance to learn, without the stress of grades, he said. Attendees may miss the learning experience of college, and some may come because they missed out on some interesting classes because of the demands of their majors.
Schragis said One Day University differs from TED Talks in that nearly anyone with a compelling message can be approved to give a TED talk, and the presentations are only about 20 minutes, compared with a 70-minute university lecture.
One Day University emphasizes that its lecturers are acclaimed as the best in their fields. “You must be one of the most popular professors at a nationally recognized school” to give a One Day University lecture, he said. “We don’t bring in consultants and authors and advisers. We bring in great professors, and that’s the niche.”
The One Day University lectures are online for those who subscribe to the video library. The website is www.OneDayU.com.
Coming to Kansas City
When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 21.
Where: Overland Park Marriott, 10800 Metcalf Ave.
Cost: Registration is required at OneDayU.com or by calling 800-300-3438. The cost is $99 by using the code “KC” upon registration (or $179 without). Lunch will be available for purchase.