Curriculum Spotlights  

Meet Coordinators

Featured Courses

18 photo(s) Updated on: May 20, 2020
  • Tess Mulrooney
  • Tom Schlicht
  • Toni Jakovec
  • Brent & Leslie
  • Jack Mitchell
  • Craig Wille
  • Paul Brandl
  • Phil Paulson
  • Andy Millman
  • Bonnie Dill, Carol Spiegel and
  • Kirk Elliot and
  • Peter Krug
  • Daryl Sherman
  • Joseph Koykkar
  • Norman Leer
  • Fred Ross
  • Grethe Brix-J. Leer
  • Bruce Fischer

Spring 2020.  
Russian History: Using the Past to Understand the Present

Bruce Fischer offered PLATO members the course, Russian History: Using the Past to Understand the Present, this Spring. Then came the corona virus and the cancellation of all PLATO in-person courses and activities. Bruce decided to try an online format to continue their course.

Here is what course participant Beverly Priefer had to say about Bruce’s online course; I was a student in Bruce Fischer’s Russian History course this past semester and am wondering if, in one of the weekly PLATO updates, you might give a shout out to Bruce and his wife Jayne. Two weeks after PLATO classes were cancelled this past semester, Bruce, with the help of Jayne, converted the class to Zoom. Twice a week a group of about 16 students, including a participant from Russia (who Bruce met on a trip a several years ago) participated via Zoom. Having this class twice a week for the past 5 weeks has been so stimulating and gave me, and I think others in the class as well, something to look forward to as we struggle through our Safer-At-Home days. Bruce is an excellent instructor who brings history to life and makes the subject matter relevant to current times.

Thanks Bruce for offering this interesting and well-received course, and for trying videoconferencing.

Spring 2020.  Women's Journeys Toward Self-Discovery

Women’s Journeys Toward Self-Discovery, a course coordinated by Grethe Brix-J. Leer, has been offered by PLATO for many years. It became one of PLATO’s most popular courses, and led to two other courses being offered by members of Grethe’s class. One course was a poetry course. The other course is the section two of Women’s Journeys, which is currently offered on Thursday mornings with Paula McKenzie coordinating it.

Writing journals and memoirs help a person shape their life story while also clarifying what it has meant to them. Grethe’s class uses prompts to help a participant enter into their writing as a stepping-stone toward deeper self-awareness. The prompts are meant to be suggestive, and class members freely modify them as they choose. An important aspect of the class is the continuation of building a sense of community within the group. Writings are shared in an open non-judgmental atmosphere. Discussions are based on class members’ writings, and all sharing is of course voluntary and respectful of each person’s privacy.

Thanks, Grethe, for helping many PLATO members develop a deeper awareness of themselves especially in a sometimes confusing world.

Spring 2020.  History of World War II

Over the years, Fred Ross has offered PLATO members a variety of interesting courses. For the past couple of semesters, including Spring 2020, he coordinated History of World War II. This course looking at one of the most significant events in the 20th century affected most places in our world.

Fred used the book, A War To Be Won, by Williamson Murray and Allan Millett, as the focus for the participants. Fred and course members studied and discussed the causes, considerations, conduct and consequences of this overwhelming event. Particular emphasis was placed on the strategic, political and moral issues the war pressed on the world then, and continues to do so to this day.

World War II was the largest and most consequential event in recent world history, affecting in diverse and often unimaginatively agonizing ways the bulk of the world’s population. Thanks Fred for guiding PLATO members in learning more about and reflecting on this important time in history

Spring 2020. Life Maps

Norm Leer has offered courses for PLATO members three different times a year, for several years. In the Spring and Summer, his Life Maps courses explore connections between the areas of modern lliterature, film, music, philosophy, and visual arts, and the participants own life searches. Members are encouraged to share their own relevant memories and experiences.

During the PLATO Winter session, Norm offers a course, The Exploration of Roots Music. Roots Music refers to any music that starts as the collective expression of a culture. It includes folk music, but also jazz and the written songs of Woody Guthrie or the Carter Family.

Thanks Norm, for coordinating these interesting thought-provoking courses. We look for more in the coming semesters.

Spring 2020.  Pathways to a Sustainable Planet.

For the last several years on Monday mornings, Richard Steeves and Tony Praza have coordinated the course, Pathways to a Sustainable Planet.    

They have tackled some of the difficult problems of climate warming, and how we can adapt to a sustainable society. One Monday the presentation and discussion was on the acidification of our oceans; what happens when these oceans become too acidic; and what is needed to prevent this. Another morning they looked at recycling and how to reduce the amount of recycling that humans do.

Taking this course allows PLATO members to educate themselves on the problems of our earth’s future and how can we move in the direction of sustainability in order to help this planet of ours: all of its inhabitants, both human and non-human. We want to leave a healthy earth for our descendants. Through the use of presentations, videos, and speakers, Richard and Tony are showing us what is happening in our world and how we can help, before we lose what we have.

Thanks Richard and Tony for providing opportunities for all of us to become more educated on the problems that face our world as our planet warms, and what we can do to help mitigate the problems.

Spring 2020. Evolution of the Beatles Music: 1962-1970

This Spring Professor Joseph Koykkar explored the evolution of the Beatles music from early 1962 through their last album in 1970.

He looked at the music styles that influenced the Beatles in the very beginning of their careers. He divided the time period for their music into 4 sections: the early Beatles, the middle Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s and beyond, and the final period. In looking at the different periods, he examined key songs from each segment in-depth and in general to highlight what makes their music continuously innovative and able to stand the test of time.

He also placed these songs in the context of the 1960s showing the relationship of their compositions to the social and musical trends of the era.

This is a fascinating course about the music that for many of us defined our teenage years. Not only is it fun to see some of the Beatles early performances but Professor Koykkar will give you an appreciation for how they composed their music, and why many of us enjoyed it so much.

Thanks Professor Koykkar for offering this course to PLATO members.


Winter 2020. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  Peter Krug is offering a course this Winter for PLATO on the International Law and Policy foundations of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

This course presents information that is helpful for developing an in-depth understanding of the Agreement’s specific provisions, the policy considerations underlying them, and the global political context in which the Agreement was negotiated and adopted.

The Paris Climate Agreement is part of a collective effort begun in the early 1990’s by the United Nations to address the threat of climate change. Peter discusses the ways this effort has been addressed, with a focus on the 2015 Paris Agreement.

His course is offered at Oakwood West on Friday mornings.

Peter is a retired Professor of International Law from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. His past two courses for PLATO were on Sharia Law and Shi’ism.

Thanks, Peter, for helping PLATO members understand this very timely and fascinating topic.

Fall 2019.  What in the World Happened.  Bruce Gregg coordinated this PLATO course at the Verona Library. which covers a variety of topics. The course met for 10 Thursday mornings in the Fall. 

The range of the topics during Fall semester ran from a presentation “Mysteries of the Ancients” to “Lawrence of Arabia” and several topics in between. They include “The Ho-Chunk nation” to Project Hannibal”. Normally, a presenter talks for 40-50 minutes which is followed by a 10-15 break for treats. The second part of the class includes a Q and A session. There is no enrollment limit for this interesting course.

Following is a sample of the presentations given during the Fall session.

On Thursday November 7 Lori Bessler, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, gave a presentation on doing genealogy research to the members of the PLATO What in the World Happened course

During another session Jim Albright spoke on the Ho Chunk Nation.

Jim is a "regular" in "What in the World Happened" and also contributes art to Agora publications.  

Comment from a member of the course said the presentation was well prepared and well received by the group.

This course will be offered again during the Spring.  When the spring courses schedule comes out in late January be sure to check out Bruce's course.

Thanks, Bruce, for coordinating this course each session

Summer 2019.  Continuing Philosophy.  On Wednesday mornings this summer, about 14 PLATO members gather to learn about philosophy. For 10 weeks they are reading and discussing, The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics, and Physics. Very interesting discussions take place with a variety of views.

Jim Halloran and Ed Cothroll coordinate the course which has been offered by PLATO about 20 years. There are sessions of Continuing Philosophy offered three times of the year: Spring, Fall, and Summer, and the books to discuss are voted on by the participants. If you have time, think about joining this engaging group in the Fall or Spring.

Summer 2019. Short Stories. This summer some PLATO members are meeting at the Gardens Retirement Community to discuss two short stories each week. They are using  AMERICAN SHORT STORY MASTERPIECES. This book includes authors such as James Baldwin, Frank Conroy, Joyce Carol Oates, Arthur Miller, and Gail Godwin.

Irv Klibaner coordinates this course, which produces lively discussions and varying views. In Fall and Spring this course uses books with short stories and essays. Please think about joining this friendly and engaging group in one of the upcoming Fall or Spring Sessions.

Thanks go to Irv who has coordinated this fascinating course for at least 20 years!

Summer 2019. International Film Festival.  This summer about 85 PLATO members are enjoying a few Thursday mornings with Bob Fry and Jim O’Brien looking at International musicals. The class meets at Capitol Lakes and there is no participation limit. A lively musical from France began the series. That is followed by a Japanese musical. The last two musicals will be from the United Kingdom. There is an intermission each week where members socialize and enjoy good treats. The series ends on Thursday June 27, and if you are looking for a way to spend an enjoyable Thursday morning please join the group. If you are unavailable this summer, the International Film festival is offered in Fall and Spring.

Jim and Bob have been coordinating this course for 20 years. Thanks to both of them for the experiences they have provided for PLATO members!

PLATO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in association with:

For more information about PLATO, contact:

Edie Urness-Pondillo
UW-Madison Continuing Studies
21 N. Park St, 7th Floor, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: 608-262-5823
Fax: 608-265-4555

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