Professors teach at One Day U

One Day University gives adults the opportunity to relive their bright college years — but only for one Saturday or Sunday.

One Day U holds a series of classes over the course of a day in cities across America taught by professors from prestigious universities. The program, which is open to any adult for up to $239, was founded in New York City in 2006 and has included classes taught by well-known Yale professors such as law professor Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 and psychology professor Paul Bloom.

“We’re every bit an entertainment company as we are an education company,” said Steven Schragis, the founder of One Day U.

Steven Schragis said he originally came up with the idea for One Day U when he dropped his daughter off at college and he discussed his wish to go back to college with other parents. He researched professors from Ivy League schools who received the best evaluations from students and contacted them to see if they were interested in teaching a class for adults. Over time, Schragis said, class participants began to request professors from non-Ivy schools as well.

A typical One Day U session begins at 9:30 a.m. and ranges from an average of 10 to 12 classes in one day. Participants can register for up to five classes, with subjects ranging from “The Psychology of Money” to “Who was Confucius and What Did He Really Say?”

Schragis said he thinks most professors accepted the offer to teach a different crowd than university students, adding that the professors also receive a speaker’s fee.

Amar said he participates in One Day U because he can share his ideas with a wider variety of people as well as encourage people to buy his books. One Day U is also a medium to get Yale’s name “out in the world,” he added. A large number of the audience members of his lectures were parents of high school students, he said, and by teaching he was able to promote Yale at the same time.

“Yale wants me to produce ideas that will change the world, and those ideas won’t change the world if they don’t get into people’s heads,” said Amar.

The pay and the opportunity to “take a mini-vacation” are also appealing aspects of participating in the program, said Yale film studies professor Marc Lapadula, who teaches “Five Movies That Changed America” at One Day U.

Tamar Gendler ’87, the chair of Yale’s Philosophy Department, said her experience with One Day U influenced her teaching method because it helped her make her lectures more accessible.

“The process of thinking about how to lecture effectively for an audience like the One Day U audience was a transformative experience that ultimately shaped the way I lecture to Yale undergraduates,” she said.

Lectures can be freer at One Day U because the adult audience is not tested on the material, said Harvard biology professor Hopi Hoekstra. She added that she teaches One Day U courses with a more casual tone than the one she uses with her undergraduate students.

Wendy Schiller, who teaches political science and public policy at Brown, said her lectures at One Day U differ in content, but not in style, from those she teaches to her undergraduate students.

Schiller said she thinks the adult participants respond with stronger opinions than typical undergraduates because the adults are more willing to speak their minds. But Lapadula said he found that despite the difference in age group, he received the same enthusiastic response from students in both venues.

The next One Day U event in New York City will take place on Sunday, April 21.

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