Featured Course

Psych 101: A Performance

Behind the Scenes of Psych 101

Sigmund Freud

On June 8, Jim Robinson and a talented crew of improv artists will launch LearningLife’s summer season by dramatizing an entire semester of introductory psychology in just under 90 minutes. The lead character, played by Robinson, is a professor who bemoans online learning and rages against the classroom’s dying light. Truth be told, this character is not entirely fictional.

“I relate very closely to the professor in Psych 101,” says Robinson, who aside from improv, is a psychologist who has been teaching at the college level for 30 years. “While I am in danger of becoming an old codger, I did write this show to speak out against prepackaged, condensed learning. It was more fun than just throwing my hands up in the air and saying, ‘I give up’.“

“I've also seen the inevitable shift from in-class learning to online learning, and while I do see the benefits of reaching more students with online learning, I do mourn the loss of person-to-person interactions when the classroom is just a student and a professor and a series of laptops. So, in some ways, this was my light-hearted elegy to traditional learning.”

Additionally, “Michelle Cassioppi's character is based on these nontraditional students… fierce, dedicated women who really want to claim their education and who bring lots of wisdom and passion to the classroom—and it was really fun to celebrate them through her character.”

Psych 101 includes a script and lyrics by Robinson and music by Dennis Curley. Directed by Joshua Will, the cast includes Michelle Cassioppi, Dennis Curley, Rachael Flanery, Jim Robinson, and Joshua Will.

And like all courses worth their salt, there will be a test—in fact, two: a midterm and a final exam. So move away from that computer and come boost your conative function. It’s time for some classical conditioning. (Ding! Ding!)

Recommended text: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Course Details

Psych 101: A Performance
Thursday, June 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., $55

Michelle Cassioppi is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and an alumnus of Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop. She has performed locally with the History, Jungle, Illusion, and Old Log Theaters. She sings with the Mick Sterling Band.

Dennis Curley, BA, Northwestern University, is co-founder and executive producer of Table Salt Productions. He has composed music for Vampires! Horror!, Love After Hours, and two shows in the Church Basement Ladies franchise.

Rachael Brogan Flanery, MFA, UCLA is an actress, teacher, and writer. A co-founder of Table Salt Productions, she currently teaches in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Jim Robinson, PhD, University of Southern California, is an alumnus of The Brave New Workshop, the Disney Cruise Line, and a co-founder of Table Salt Productions. He co-wrote Psych 101 based on his 23 years of teaching psychology at St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas. Jim hails from Riverside, California.

Joshua Will is an alumnus of Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop, has written two screenplays and more than 20 stage productions, and has an Emmy Award under his belt. He is the Artistic Director of The Recovery Party, a member of The Theater of Public Policy.


Inside Out: The Mind-Body Connection

Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

"If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working?"
—Tuco, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

silhouette of a man, filled with colorful abstract imageryPhilosophy on the connection and exchange between mental and physical health has been rewritten over the centuries. Today’s version goes something like this: We’ve got deadlines and expectations. We’ve got people relying on us, counting on us, demanding all sorts of things of us. And we have critics everywhere, from bosses and family to the voices in our heads. Let’s face it: with the pressure we face on all sides, we should be made of solid diamond.

Traci Mann, professor of Social and Health Psychology at the University, is more than acquainted with these myriad worries. “That's how stress tends to get you,” she says. “It adds up slowly over time. You don't need one giant stressor to cause the health problems associated with stress.”

Take for example her research: “My research focus has been on the self-control of eating, which tends to eventually spread into the topics of dieting and obesity, exercise, weight stigma, body image, and stress and coping.” The stress of living up to perceived social expectations creates an unnecessary battle within us, between who we feel we should be and the cost of attaining these equivocal goals.

In June, Mann will lead Inside Out: The Mind-Body Connection, a two-session course that will explore “the interplay between psychological factors and physical health, and the role of behaviors (eating, exercise, stress reduction) in health.” Join us and connect the dots between your thoughts and your well-being.

Course Details

Inside Out: The Mind-Body Connection
Wednesdays, June 14, 21, 28, 1−3 p.m., $135

Traci Mann, PhD, Stanford University, is a Professor of Social and Health Psychology at the University of Minnesota. As founder and principal investigator of the Health and Eating Laboratory, her research aims to understand the behaviors associated with eating regulation, body image, and self-control. She is the author of Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again (Harper Wave, 2015).


Constant Craving: The Politics of Privileged Consumption

Nature Bats Last

A pretty woman holds a small Earth in her hand and takes a large, messy bite out of it.We in the industrialized world are (belatedly) concerned with our impact on the environment and resource consumption, but developing nations are themselves developing—and rapidly. “I first traveled to the Philippines in 1967, courtesy of the US Navy,” says Professor Emeritus Jim Bowyer, “and have been there and in other locations in Southeast Asia many times in recent years. The ‘then’ and ‘now’ differences are nothing short of stunning.”

“For instance, Manila—the capital of what is pretty much thought of as a backwater country—has three shopping centers larger than the Mall of America, which are all spectacular and generally filled with shoppers. The annual growth rate of the economy has averaged better than 7% each year for the past 20 years.”

Bowyer’s career and experiences stretch from Wyoming’s Black Hills National Forest to the Vietnam War. His background as a forest aide and timber cruiser got him interested in forestry and wood science, and the Pacific conflict exposed him to the biome of tropical forests. He bent his experience toward research on efficient manufacture of wood products, then began tracking global trends in wood and raw material consumption. “These experiences have provided considerable insight into what and how people think about environmental issues,” he reflects. “The fact of the matter is that people and environments all over the world are impacted by first-world consumption, and often negatively.”

No doubt about it, we live in a world of increasing population, unfettered aspirations for development, rising competition for resources, and growing environmental concerns. But what does that mean for our planet? For us as its inhabitants? Can we guide the course of progress with a responsible hand? Join Bowyer July 19 for Constant Craving: The Politics of Privileged Consumption to discuss these and other questions of no small consequence.

Course Details

Constant Craving: The Politics of Privileged Consumption
Wednesday, July 8, 9 a.m.−noon, $70

Jim Bowyer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota, is director of the responsible materials program at Dovetail Partners, Inc., an environmental consulting firm. He has published widely on the topics of life-cycle assessment, carbon tracking and reporting, bioenergy, green building standards, and environmental policy.