Press Release

Recruitment Begins for Free Philosophy, History, Literature Classes for Adults

CHICAGO, IL- May 16, 2012— This month a unique program in Chicago, which offers adults living on low-incomes free college-level liberal arts courses complete with college credit, graduates its 13th class, and it is inviting others to see how their lives can be changed through the curiosity and thought inspired from the humanities.    

The Odyssey Project, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council in partnership with the Clemente Course in the Humanities, will graduate the 70 students from its three Chicago courses on Saturday, May 25, 2012, at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. The ceremony also marks the announcement of the application window for the 2013-14 session of classes beginning next fall. 

Adam Davis, a long-time professor in the Odyssey Project and recently announced as Executive Director of the Oregon Humanities Council will be the keynote speaker.   

The Odyssey Project 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. 

“The most valuable thing that I obtained [from] the Odyssey project was to learn to question, to have a critical thought, and not to suppose that everything learned in life is what it is,” said Antonia Salinas, a 2010 alumna of the program.  “What I learned in the Odyssey Project is valuable at a personal level because it takes a blindfold off the eyes, as to not keep on walking along the world blindly.” 

Classes are offered in literature, philosophy, history, art history, and critical thinking and writing, taught by faculty members from top institutions including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University, and Lake Forest College. 

“[Odyssey] students overcome enormous challenges to participate in the program. They bring an openness, a level of engagement, and a hunger to the classroom that leaves me feeling grateful for the opportunity to be there with them.” said Hana Layson, a Professor at Northwestern who teaches critical thinking and writing in the Odyssey Project. 

In partnership with the Bard College Clemente Course in the Humanities, students may receive up to fourteen units of college credit over two years. 

Courses in Chicago are taught at AKArama Community Service Center in Woodlawn on the South Side, the Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park on the North Side, and in Spanish at a location soon to be announced in Pilsen. The course in Champaign is held at the Douglass Library. Since its inception, more than 500 students have graduated from the program.    

Accepting Applications

The Odyssey Project is now accepting applications for its 2013-2014 school year. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and live in a household with income at or below 150 % of the Federal poverty level.  Classes are free of charge and tuition and books are provided, along with on-site babysitting and transit cards.  Classes are held mid-September through May at all locations. The application deadline is August 1, 2013. 

The Odyssey Project graduation ceremony will take place Saturday, May 25, 1pm at the National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 West 19th Street) in Chicago, Illinois. 

For more information about the Odyssey Project, please contact Amy Thomas Elder at 312.422.5580 or visit the Odyssey Project page at    

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