Bringing learning to the community

By Kerone McWhinney
February 27, 2014

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Class without quizzesSpecial to Western News

The American presidential elections. Music. Wind engineering. Black holes. These are only a few of the subjects covered since Ivey Business School professor Darren Meister delivered the first session of Classes Without Quizzes in October 2007.

Now in its seventh year, Classes Without Quizzes is Western’s complimentary lecture series for the community. Some of Western’s leading faculty present topical, entertaining and insightful lectures to members of the community, usually at local library branches, at no cost.

The idea for the program came from Western’s desire to connect with the community in an original way, said Marcia Steyaert, Western’s community relations specialist.


“We realized that what Western does best is teach and share knowledge,” she said. “So, we decided to do a community lecture series.”

Steyaert explained the variety of topics keep people coming back to the lectures.

“If you look at the season for this year, for example,” she continued, “we have professors from education, medicine, social sciences, health sciences and also arts and humanities.”

The lectures are usually held in the Stevenson Hunt Room at London Public Library’s central branch. The doors open to the public at 6:30 p.m. and the lectures begin at 7 p.m. Each lecture lasts about an hour and includes a question and answer period.

Kristen Cashera, the Information Services librarian, has worked with Classes Without Quizzes for three years, carrying out administrative duties to support the lecture series.

“Usually, the average number of people coming to the lectures is about 80,” she said. “But because more people know about the lectures and where they’re held, we’ve had times where the room is completely full.”

The Stevenson Hunt Room holds about 120 people when it is full, and according to Cashera, “sometimes we’ve had to pull in extra chairs when more people show up.”

One of the most popular lectures Cashera has seen was a lecture on black holes and the universe, given by Physics and Astronomy professor Sarah Gallagher.

 “There were a lot of people who came to that one,” she said. “Parents came in with their kids.”

Ellen Hobin, marketing and communications manager at the London Public Library, believes Western made a mark in the community by establishing Classes Without Quizzes. “They’re really fantastic classes because they’re so interesting. They’re at a great, approachable level,” she said. “We’re always turning people away, so they’re super popular, too.

 “I know Western works particularly hard to be tapped into and support the local community and this is a great example of it.”

Many Western professors have participated in this lecture series since it started, including Vicki Schwean, Faculty of Education dean.

Schwean has a passion for children’s mental health. In her lecture, Children don’t come with a manual – Exploring children’s mental health, she wanted her message to stay with the people who came to listen – especially parents.

“Nine out of 10 children who need help never receive any professional services,” she said, “I am trying to give those parents the tools to navigate through the system in order to get the help that their children need.”

George Gadanidis, a Western Education professor, was the first lecturer in the 2013-14 series. In his lecture, Why you hate math and how to feel the love, he challenged some of the most widely held misconceptions.

Gadanidis has been at Western for 13 years and has done many public lectures, but this was his first time speaking for Classes Without Quizzes.

 “I did this to get the ideas from my work out to the public,” he said, “I’ve always enjoyed talks like this because it challenges me to express the work that we do in ways that connect with people.”

Walter Zimmerman, 66, is a Western graduate who has attended several of these lectures over the last few years. The connection with his community is only one of the reasons Zimmerman still attends these lectures. Even though Zimmerman isn’t sure which lectures he will be attending this year, he plans to keep looking, because at the end of the day, he’s forever a part of both the London and Western community.

“When these lists go up, I always try and look and see what’s there,” said the Western librarian emeritus, who worked for almost 40 years in The D.B Weldon Library in research and instructional services. “I try to keep my brain active a little bit.”


8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(holidays excluded)


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