Westminster/Wesleyan University: Fall 2020 Schedule

These courses are taught by faculty at Virginia Wesleyan University, and are offered at no cost to those living at Westminster-Canterbury.

Classes are held in the Penthouse Lounge at Westminster-Canterbury with seating for 25 residents on a first come, first serve basis, and are also live streamed on Channel 143.


Course 1 - Election 2020

Presented by: Dr. Leslie Caughell, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Dean of the Birdsong School of Social Science at Virginia Wesleyan University.

Course Description: This lecture series explores contemporary trends in American elections, the unique political realities of 2020, and the factors that political scientists will be watching on Election Day and in its immediate aftermath.  Every election year reflects a combination of election trends and unique pressures. An unconventional incumbent president, an international pandemic, and social and economic unrest sit at the forefront of voters’ minds this fall. How will politicians respond to these events and how will those events shape campaign messages and voter preferences? What can we learn from past elections, and trends like Republicans losing traditionally safe seats in suburban areas? What will the results mean for 2021 and beyond? 

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Monday, September 14th at 12:00 p.m.

Demographic Shifts in Party Support: Trends in American Elections Embodied and Intensified by the Trump Campaign: This lecture explores how President Trump's victory represented a culmination of trends in contemporary politics and how that victory served to consolidate those trends, providing a background to our current election season.

Monday, September 21st at 12:00 p.m.

Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and an Economic Recession: How the Factors Shaping 2020 Influence Our Elections: This lecture explores how recent events have transformed election campaigns in 2020, and the unique problems they pose for politicians and voters.

Monday, September 28th at 12:00 p.m.

Election Day 2020: What Political Experts Are Watching: This lecture examines things that political scientists will be paying attention to as election results come in, including how the absentee/mail in voting system performs, what lessons the media learned from 2016, and how the presidential candidates address victory/defeat.


Course 2 - Amending the Constitution: Why it’s both too hard and too easy and how this fact will influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election

Presented by: Timothy G. O’Rourke, Vice President Emeritus, served as Chief Academic Officer at VWU from 2007 to 2019, first as the Kenneth R. Perry Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs and then through his 2016 appointment to Provost and Vice President.

Course Description: Four lectures look at a conundrum, which is that it is both extremely difficult to formally amend the Constitution—there have been only 15 amendments since 1804—and relatively easy to change the Constitution through the actions of the President, Supreme Court, Congress, and the states. The series considers why this so (Lecture #1) and then examines three controversies—equal rights based on sex (#2), Electoral College reform (#3), and statehood for the District of Columbia (#4)—that nicely illustrate the paradox and will figure in the 2020 election. 

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Monday, October 5th at 12:00 p.m.

The Amendment Conundrum: The Constitution has undergone profound change over the past 50 years but has not been materially amended during that time. (The 26th Amendment gave the vote to 18-year-olds in 1971; the inconsequential 27th Amendment, declared adopted in 1992, was proposed in 1789 and laid unratified for two centuries.) Only six constitutional amendments, including the Equal Rights Amendment (or ERA, proposed in 1972) and congressional representation for the District of Columbia (1978), have failed to secure ratification after submission to the states. If the Constitution endures in form, it operates very differently from the Founders’ design. Hard to amend formally, it has changed in practice; the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 is an early example.

Monday, October 12th at 12:00 p.m.

Equal Rights Based on Sex: The ERA would have guaranteed “equality of rights . . . on account of sex.” Although the states failed to ratify it—there is at least some dispute whether states can still do so—much or perhaps all of what the amendment would have achieved has been brought about in other ways, which this lecture explores. Interestingly, when a 1973 Supreme Court case held that the Fifth Amendment already prohibited some forms of sex discrimination, Justice Lewis Powell contended that the Court need not define the exact contours of this prohibition since the ERA “if adopted will resolve the substance of this precise question.”

Monday, October 19th at 12:00 p.m.

Electoral College Reform: The 2016 presidential election, in which the national leader in popular votes failed to win election, renewed calls to replace the Electoral College with direct election. While Congress has never sent a direct election amendment to the states for ratification, in recent years 15 states and the District of Columbia (which account for 196 electoral votes) have passed the “National Popular Vote bill.” It would become effective when approved by states with 270 electoral votes (a majority of the 538 electoral votes). At that point, the electoral votes in signatory states would go to the national popular vote winner, irrespective of the outcome of the popular vote in these states, thereby ensuring the election of the national popular vote winner. Critics of the bill variously argue that the current system is superior to direct election, that the bill could not go into effect without congressional approval, and/or that only a constitutional amendment could bring about direct election.

Monday, October 26th at 12:00 p.m.

Statehood for the District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to make the District a state. While the bill will die in the current Senate, it is likely to be revived in the event Democrats win control of both houses of Congress. The bill would go further than the rejected constitutional amendment that would have given D.C. representation in Congress and the Electoral College “as though it were a state.” Advocates of D.C. statehood say the Congress has often added states through simple legislation. Opponents point to language in the Constitution that requires Congress “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District,” implying statehood would require a formal amendment.


Course 3 - British Literature: Creeps and Crimes

Presented by: Kellie Holzer, Associate Professor of English at Virginia Wesleyan University.

Course Description: In this course, we examine several specimens of British literature, jumping from an early nineteenth-century novel by Jane Austen to the detective stories of both the first and second “Golden Ages” of crime writing. We follow Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland’s misadventures—equally terrible out in “Society” as when she’s isolated in a gothic abbey. Then we contrast the detective work of Sherlock Holmes with a female contemporary, Loveday Brooke, as they bring down some authentic creeps. Finally, we witness G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown apprehend criminals only to redeem them before a higher court of justice.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Monday, October 19th at 3:00 p.m.

Northanger Abbey and Bath, England: In this lecture, I discuss Jane Austen’s posthumously published Northanger Abbey (1817), a coming-of-age story and a parody of the popular Gothic fiction genre. In the novel, Catherine Morland’s first foray into society (the fashionable spa resort of Bath, England) is haunted by creepy men, both real and fictional. You’ll have a chance to virtually explore Bath, a fascinating palimpsest of historical sites including Roman baths and Georgian architecture.

Monday, October 26th at 3:00 p.m.

Sherlock Holmes and Loveday Brooke, Detectives of the First Golden Age: In this lecture, I contrast Sherlock Holmes with his little-known female contemporary, Loveday Brooke. While Arthur Conan Doyle’s character is world famous, Catherine Louisa Pirkis’s “Lady Detective” has largely gone undetected by readers today. I’ll also discuss the parallels between Loveday Brooke and the real female private investigators employed by the police force in late Victorian England.

Monday, November 2nd at 3:00 p.m.

G. K. Chesterton and the Artistry of Father Brown: G. K. Chesterton provides a bridge from the fin-de-siècle detective fiction of Doyle and Pirkis to the “Golden Age” of crime writing, typically understood to have taken place between the first and second world wars. This lecture examines Chesterton’s brilliantly sinister plotting and the moral theology behind his enigmatic Father Brown’s detective work.


Course 4 - Early Television Comedies

Presented by: Dr. Dennis Bounds, Writer, Author, and Adjunct Professor at Virginia Wesleyan University.

Course Description: Although many began on radio, comedy shows really became a part of our cultural soundtrack when they moved to television. On TV they introduced and established various styles of humor. This three-part course will examine the key programs that established brands of comedy that are still with us today in some form or another. We will examine a brief history of each program, the key players, and the important styles of comedy that were introduced in each. Plenty of video clips will be enjoyed with time for questions and answers at the end of each session.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Friday, November 6th at 2:00 p.m.

Early Television Comedies: Your Show of Shows 1950-1954: In this session, we will examine the landmark comedy variety program lead by Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Imogine Coca, Howard Morris, and others. We’ll see how Caesar crafted a series of television comedy that was shaped from his work in Vaudeville. We will look at clips of their best work including the phenomenal sketch that spoofed This is Your Life

Friday, November 13th at 2:00 p.m.

Early Television Comedies: I Love Lucy 1951-1957: In this session, we will examine the landmark series created by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnez. I Love Lucy was in many ways a watershed program from its creation, production design, and comedic framework. It was a story of the immigrant/citizen, tenant/landlord, male/female, old/young relationships that make up the fabric of our American culture. We will view clips of their best shows including the “Job Switching” episode.

Friday, November 20th at 2:00 p.m.

Early Television Comedies: The Dick Van Dyke Show 1961-1966: In this session, we will examine the landmark comedy series that centers around the comedy of Dick Van Dyke. As the comedy writer Rob Petrie, with his lovely (and very Jackie Kennedy-esque) wife Laura, this show looked at many ways American cultural home and office behavior had changed between that of the I Love Lucy 1950s to the modern 1960s. We will view sample clips such as the “Alan Brady’s Hair” and “The Walnuts from Outer Space.”


Course 5 - The Chesapeake Bay Maritime World

Presented by: Dr. Paul L. Ewell, D.B.A, Professor and Department Chair in the Management, Business & Economics Department at VWU.  He is also co-founder and Executive Director of the Watermen's Heritage Foundation.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Monday, November 30th at 12:00 p.m.

Callinectes Sapidus:  The history and economic implications of the blue crab industry in the Chesapeake Bay region: This presentation provides a glimpse into the commercial crabbing industry over the past 120 years and includes a discussion of the impacts this fishery has had on the economies, environments, and cultures of local communities.  The development of the fishery will be covered through the use of images and stories as well as other means.

Monday, December 7 at 12:00 p.m.

The Impact of Evolutionary Shifts in Supply Chain Modalities on Geographic, Environmental, and Socioeconomic Climates in Rural Areas: A Field Study: This presentation explores the ways in which the migration of product movement from maritime to rail and then to truck means of transport drastically altered the landscape of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Monday, December 14 at 12:00 p.m.

The South’s Only Extreme Built Clipper Ship: The Story of Mary Patten and Neptune’s Car. Mary Patten was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel and the vessel she commanded, Neptune’s Car, was the only extreme clipper built in the south, Hampton Roads specifically.  This presentation documents the story of two phenomenal ladies! 


Course 6 - Parables: The Stories of Jesus

Presented by: Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning.

Course Description: This class offers hearers and readers of the parables of Jesus new ways for hearing these stories which have become so common in our culture and in the church. Jesus parables have been sanitized, spiritualized, allegorized and in general become so familiar that we often miss the true meaning of these disarming tales. With wit and imagination Jesus most potent teachings can help the us question our assumptions, curb their biases, and hear afresh these ancient stories of a master teacher/storyteller.  In the first lecture I will introduce the meaning and study of parables. In the remaining nine lectures I will examine the parables of Jesus by organizing them into groups by theme or topic. Therefore, each lecture will not only explain the specific theme for the stories involved but will introduce and discuss two or three parables that illustrate this theme. Although I am referencing several scholarly works (both Jewish and Christian) in preparation for these lectures I will roughly follow the organization of the parables found in the book, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus by Klyne Snodgrass.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Tuesday, September 15th at 1:00 p.m.

How we Domesticate Jesus Stories and How Should we Understand the Parables: This first class will introduce the parables of Jesus and help us understand their purpose both in Jesus teaching and in the Gospels. We will examine the place of parables in Israel’s scriptures and well as begin to explain them in the context of Jesus teaching.

Tuesday, September 22nd at 1:00 p.m.

Grace and Responsibility

Tuesday, September 29th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables of Lostness

Tuesday, October 6th at 1:00 p.m.

The Parable of the Sower and the Purpose of Parables

Tuesday, October 13th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables of the Present Kingdom

Tuesday, October 20th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables Specifically about Israel

Tuesday, October 27th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables about Discipleship

Tuesday, November 3rd at 1:00 p.m.

Parables about Money

Tuesday, November 10th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables Concerning God and Prayer

Tuesday, November 17th at 1:00 p.m.

Parables of future Eschatology


Course 7 - Christmas Stories

Presented by: Dr. Benson P. Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning.

Course Description: Christmas Stories for children and adults of all ages are plentiful in our culture. How you celebrate Christmas and no matter where you have learned about this holiday it is arguably the most important day of the year in our culture.  Stories about this day are many and varied. Through reading and discussion these stories (many of them for children), this class will investigate the meaning and purpose of these stories in our culture and the in our social, religious, and educational communities. In some classes I will investigate only one or two stories but other weeks I will cover several Christmas stories.

Dates and Weekly Topics:

Tuesday, December 1st at 1:00 p.m.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: This class will look at this popular story and examine the meaning of each of the twelve gifts associated with each of the twelve days as well as other stories which build upon similar themes.

Friday, December 4th at 1:00 p.m.

The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald: This class will introduce the Scottish author and minister George MacDonald and we will read one of two of his stories.

Tuesday, December 8th at 1:00 p.m.

My Book About Christmas by Me, Myself with some help from the Grinch and Dr. Seuss: Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel was an American children’s author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He wrote and illustrated over 60 books such as Green Eggs and Ham. This class will look at the man and his art. We will examine several of his works, especially those that reference Christmas.

Friday, December 11th at 1:00 p.m.

The Joy of a Peanuts Christmas, a study into the works of Charles Schulz: Charles Schulz has been a cultural force for many years. His works are a powerful tribute to our faults and our goodness. The creator of Peanuts has much to tell us about Christ and Christmas. In this class we will look at the man and his work.

Tuesday, December 15th at 1:00 p.m.

The Night Before Christmas and Other Important Christmas Stories: This class will examine many of the notable Christmas Stories read and watched today.

Friday, December 18th at 1:00 p.m.

Country angel Christmas by Tomie dePaola: Tomie dePaola was an American writer and illustrator who created more than 260 children’s books.  This class will examine his works and we will read and discuss at least one of his stories.