"Mind-expanding" was the word Guerren Solbach '95, a UC Davis alumnus and employee, chose to describe the first UC Davis Alumni College. About 30 attendees gathered at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center on the weekend of July 15-17 to explore the topic "Social Change and Ethical Challenges" under the guidance of some of the university's top professors.
"They really rolled out the creme de la creme," said Brian Micek '99, a public relations account executive from West Sacramento.
Beginning with a lecture on colonial America by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan S. Taylor, the "students" grappled with a breadth of topics. Robert Feenstra and Peter Lindert discussed social issues relating to modern economics. Historian Eric Rauchway lectured on the progressive era. Naomi Janowitz delivered a rapid-fire talk on religion and violence. And Georges Van Den Abbeele, Gail Finney and Jay Mechling held a panel discussion on "Europe and the United States: Paths of Greater Convergence or Divergence."
"The great thing about this program," said Allen Shiu '01, an attendee from West Sacramento, "is that you get to come back after you have career experiences to hang the knowledge on."
Attendees also learned about campus developments. Dean Elizabeth Langland -- who helped design the Alumni College program -- presented an update on the arts at UC Davis. A tour of Mondavi Center and a private concert featuring pianist Lara Downes followed. After a campus tram tour, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Planning Bob Segar described some of the planned physical changes to the campus.
High-level campus administrators and faculty, including Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, attended nightly receptions. "We place a very high value on lifelong learning and on trying to understand the world as it changes under our feet," Vanderhoef told the group.
Students and planners agreed that the first Alumni College -- a collaboration among the College of Letters and Science, UC Davis Extension and the Cal Aggie Alumni Association -- was a success. One architect of the program, Dean Steven Sheffrin, said the attendees demonstrated their "thirst to reconnect with the same issues they grappled with in school -- their even greater thirst as alumni."
But the best praise came from Alumni College students as they left: "See you next year!"