Press Release

Free College-Level Courses in the Humanities Begin This Fall

CHICAGO, IL- June 12, 2012 Illinoisans in the areas of Chicago and Urbana-Champaign are invited to apply to be part of a unique program offering a free college liberal arts course to adults living on low-incomes, complete with college credit.     

The Odyssey Project, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council in partnership with the Clemente Course in the Humanities, is a free college-level introduction to the humanities, founded on the conviction that engagement with the humanities can offer individuals a way out of poverty by fostering habits of sustained reflection, critical thinking, and skilled communication. 

Classes are offered in literature, philosophy, history, art history, and writing, taught by faculty members from top institutions including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and DePaul University. In partnership with the Bard College Clemente® Course in the Humanities, students may receive up to six units of college credit.  

Courses are taught at AKArama Community Service Center in Woodlawn on Chicago’s South Side, the Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park on the North Side, and Spanish-speaking students meet at the Gads Hill Center in Pilsen. The course in Champaign is held at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities on the UIUC campus. Since its inception, more than 500 students have graduated from the program.    

Earl Shorris, the late founder of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, of which the Odyssey Project course is a part, said that, “If one has been ‘trained’ in the ways of poverty … what is needed is a beginning, not a repetition. The humanities teach us to think reflectively, to begin, to deal with the new as it occurs to us, to dare. If the multigenerational poor are to make the leap out of poverty, it will require a new kind of thinking—reflection.” 

The Odyssey Project is now accepting applications for its 2012-2013 school year. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and live in a household with income no more than 150 % of the Federal poverty level.  Classes are free of charge and books, on-site babysitting and transit cards are also provided.  Classes are held mid-September through May at all locations. The application deadline is August 1, 2012. Applications and information about the Odyssey Project are available on the Odyssey Project page at or by contacting Amy Thomas Elder at 312.422.5580. 

About the Illinois Humanities Council 
The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.  

Media Contact:
Carlos Velázquez
(312) 422-5580, x233 

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