The publishing executive Steven Schragis, A78, was visiting his daughter at Bard College in 2005 when he got an idea. The faculty talks during his trip were so engaging that they made him want to go back to school himself. What if he could take that experience and offer it to people everywhere? His answer to that question, One Day University, launched in 2006. Catering to adults, the traveling lecture series features talks on everything from the ethics of artificial intelligence to films that changed America. Schragis works with professors from top-tier schools, including Tufts (psychology professor Aniruddh Patel, for one, is an expert on the evolution and biological power of music), to put on two hundred events in sixty cities each year. Here, Schragis talks about his brainchild. onedayu.com
Tufts ties: The idea of recreating college for the fun of it started with Sol Gittleman. When I was at Tufts, if you stopped forty kids and asked, “Who’s a really cool professor?” everybody would say Sol. When I was starting to develop my idea, I went to talk to him about it, and over the past decade Sol has probably given a dozen lectures for us.
The wow factor: We go to a school and try and identify the one, two, or three most popular professors. If one won a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, that’s fine—we don’t hold it against him or her! But it doesn’t mean anything to us. Instead, we are looking for that intangible ability to connect with people.
Lifelong learning: For people who are fifty to seventy-five years old, learning for learning’s sake is cool—intellectual stimulation is more worthwhile than it ever was. I also hear a lot from doctors, lawyers, and architects who say that when they were in college, they never took an art or a film course. Now they want to give it a try.
What’s next: We’re developing different types of programs—theater events, breakfasts, a short film festival. No one ever says, That’s it, I’ve learned enough! We have an almost unlimited supply of interesting topics and professors.