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What is Senior College?

Designed to encourage community members to participate in academic learning opportunities beyond a single field of study, ATCC established the series in 2006 in response to community interest in informative and challenging college learning without the pressures of tests, grades or degrees. The Distinguished Lecture Series brings noted speakers and college faculty from across the state and beyond to share their expertise on a range of topics of thought.  Individual sessions delve into Community, International Affairs, History, Humanities & the Arts, Literature, Nature & Ecology, Science, Travel, Personal Interest and context relevant to our world today.

  • Senior College Spring Season Kicks off Tuesday, March 12 with a Discussion about Tribal Communities

    Feb 9, 2024 by Senior College   Updated: 02/14/24

    Since 2006, Senior College of Alexandria Technical & Community College has been hosting accomplished educators, researchers and speakers from around the state & beyond to share their expertise, passion and perspectives. 

    The first speaker is Mitchell Berg, Clinical Assistant Professor, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. In this session you will learn about MN tribal communities and what they are doing to not only lift up their tribal members, but that of the communities around them. 

    The season will feature a dozen prominent speakers who will present informative, timely and socially relevant discussions about our world today. Among them: Our Drinking Water; Artificial Intelligence; Biden vs. Trump Redo?; Norwegian Americans in World War II— as well as Mechatronics and the evolution of the industrial robot from basic device to artificial intelligence integrated machine. 

    Admission is by Season membership only - $125 per person provides six weeks of programming (12 Lectures).  Season membership registrations and/or gift certificates may be purchased online or by phone.  For more information, please contact the ATCC Customized Training Center at 320-762-4510 or register online.

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    Spring 2024 Lectures:

    Click/tap the session title to see each session's description

    Mitchell Berg, Clinical Assistant Professor, Indiana University, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs

    Promoting Tribal Cooperation to Advance Equity and Inclusion Learn about MN tribal communities and what they are doing to not only lift up their tribal members, but that of the communities around them. This presentation will also explain why it remains difficult, to this day, for tribes and their community partners to work together to achieve this. By exploring practical solutions to overcome those barriers, this presentation can also yield practical advice and solutions for aspiring community leaders who want to close the social equity and inclusion gap within BIPOC and marginalized communities.

    Timothy M. LaPara, Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering, University of Minnesota

    The National Academy of Science and Engineering cites “water supply and distribution” as one of the five-greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century. This presentation will begin with a summary of how our modern drinking water infrastructure is designed and implemented. We will discuss several emerging scientific and engineering issues within the field of water treatment and distribution, including novel disinfection by-products and emerging microbial pathogens, including a brief recounting of the outbreak of Cryptosporidosis that occurred in 1993 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The presentation will culminate by discussing an engineer’s perspective on the catastrophe in Flint, Michigan in which excessive levels of lead were found in their public water supply.

    Dr. Van D. Gooch, Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Minnesota, Morris

    In the past few years, science and scientists have been under increasing attacks. Some of these attacks are purely political, some are due to a misunderstanding of what is science, and some are because scientists tend not communicate well to non-scientists. In a democratic society it is important that the average citizen understands what science is as well as what science is not.

    Matthew Julius, Professor of Biological Sciences, St. Cloud State University

    A few biomineralizing micro algal lineages exist that utilize inorganic material for cell wall construction. Most notable are the diatoms. This session will explore applications from drug-delivery systems, bone graft fillers and medical devices in context of how the diatom knowledge base was created supporting applied research goals. This work demonstrates the importance of collaborative groups and provides narratives supporting requests for research efforts expanding an understanding of diatom biology.

    Dr. Kyle Ward, Director of Social Studies Education, Minnesota State University, Mankato

    Created in Minnesota and trained as elite ski troopers at Camp Hale, Colorado, the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was a small unit that served during World War II and whose history has been all but forgotten. Made up of Norwegians, who escaped the Nazi occupation of their homeland, and Norwegian Americans, this unique unit was involved in a number of battles and events throughout the European campaign. From fighting in France, to the Battle of the Bulge, helping to liberate Buchenwald and serving as the Honor Guard for King Haakon VII’s return to Norway, the 99th played an important role in liberating Europe from Nazi oppression.

    Nic McPhee, Professor of Computer Science, University of Minnesota Morris

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is the "hot new thing", splashed on nearly every ad and product description. We've been promised self-driving cars, automated content creation, and amazing discovery tools. We've also been threatened with job loss, fully autonomous weapons, deep fakes, and computers that hallucinate. What's actually happening here? What do phrases like "machine learning" and "artificial intelligence" mean? In this talk I'll provide a general (not overly technical) history and background on various different approaches to artificial intelligence, and a discussion of the current state of the field. Prognostication in this arena is a fool's errand, but I will attempt to outline some of the field's possibilities and challenges, and suggest some things to keep an eye on as we move forward.

    Thomas Saylor, Professor of History, Concordia University St. Paul

    In the early 1970s, wealthy Minneapolis businessman, conservationist, and state senator Henry McKnight spearheaded a plan to build an experimental community in rural Minnesota. Established in Carver County and named after explorer Jonathan Carver, this new town would reflect America's rising environmental awareness and solve the problems of urban blight - pollution, crime, high prices, sprawl and overcrowding. Launched with great hope in 1970, the community was in foreclosure just ten years later. This is the story of what happened, and why.

    Louis Johnston, Associate Professor of Economics College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University

    The Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota honors James Ford Bell, who funded the construction of the U’s natural history museum in the 1930s and supported its operations from the 1920s onward. Yet, beyond the museum, Bell’s name is not well known. In this presentation, this session will inform about the man who turned a flour milling company (Washburn Crosby) into an integrated food corporation (General Mills), was a founder of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, was Herbert Hoover’s right-hand-man in feeding American soldiers during and European refugees after World War I, and who led the U of M Board of Regents from 1939 to 1960, among other highlights of his life.

    Athena Kildegaard, Lecturer, University of Minnesota Morris

    How do we hear what is no longer present? We take the idea of prairie for granted, but it is long gone. Kildegaard will talk about the process of writing her new book of poetry, Prairie Midden. In particular, she will talk about the research she did, especially at the Gale Research Library in the Minnesota History Center, in order to write the book.

    David Schultz, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Legal Studies, and Environmental Studies, Hamline University

    The 2024 election proves to be the most unique, contentious, and unpredictable in American history, and it is one the few Americans want to see. This talk examines why it looks like it will be Trump versus Biden again, how political scientists view the race, and what factors make this so difficult of a race to predict.

    Mark Sagedahl, Mechatronics Instructor, Alexandria Technical & Community College

    Mechatronics: Bringing together Pneumatics, Hydraulics, Electricity and Robotics to Solve Industrial Problems This session will discuss a brief history of fluid power and its evolution provide a quick introduction to industrial automation and why it is so important in a global market and finally discuss and show examples of the evolution of the industrial robot from basic device to artificial intelligence integrated machine.

    Nikki Jessop, Professional Speaker, Certified Peer Support Specialist, and Lived Experience Expert

    Nikki takes you through the hallways of hospitals and clinics, where, as a child, she spent a significant amount of time as a severe asthma. Life in her teens didn’t get any easier and Nikki was diagnosed at age 17 with Hepatitis C. As an adult, you’ll see how her positive attitude and a sense of humor got her thought decades of chronic illness, pain addiction, unnecessary medical treatments, surgeries, and depression. Today, Nikki shares her story as she plants message of positivity and takes you on a journey which will have you laughing and crying as well as engaged and entertained.


    Schedule subject to change.

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About Senior College

Distinguished Lecture Series

Three “seasons” of programming include fall and spring lecture series and a winter short course.  All lectures are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:15-5:00 p.m. - typically in the auditorium of the ATCC Information and Technology Center. 

Admission is by Season membership only.  Season membership registrations may be purchased on-line or by phone.  For more information or to register, please contact the Customized Training Center at 320-762-4510 or 888-234-1313 or register online.

The program has hosted some of Minnesota’s best educators. From the flagship University of Minnesota, the program has featured cutting edge research and initiatives underway to develop solutions that affect our lives, including Dr. Michael Osterholm on infectious disease and Mark Seeley on climate change in our own back yard. Professors also come from University of Minnesota Morris, University of Minnesota Duluth, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, St. Thomas University, St. Olaf College, Carleton College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Augsburg College, and Alexandria Technical and Community College. It is an exhilarating experience to be in the presence of public intellectuals who demonstrate a care for and attention to lifelong learning.

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Contact Senior College

Customized Training Center: 320-762-4510

Toll Free: 888-234-1313

Email Senior College seniorcollege@alextech.edu