A BRTC program to encourage lifelong learning will begin a new year in September. Open to new and returning members, Serendipity is described as part book club, part discussion group, and part monthly luncheon gathering with opportunity to meet and engage with old friends and new people. Serendipity programs typically include multi-media presentations. Members also have occasional travel opportunities around the state and region, said Patti Blaxton, Director of Corporate and Community Education.
This year’s titles include stories with many universal themes and topics—overcoming challenges; the bonds between parent and child; solitude and friendship; the unique challenges and opportunities of life in a small town; negotiating cultural differences; the essence of a meaningful life. Some of the books deal with contemporary topics: society’s obsession with social media and the skewed perception of perfection; the ageless struggles and triumphs of refugees; the effects of terror on both victim and perpetrator.
Serendipity is made possible by a partnership of BRTC’s Office of Corporate and Community Education, the Office of Institutional Advancement, and the BRTC Foundation. Working with Patti Blaxton and Jessica Bailey to facilitate the meetings is Dr. Jan Ziegler, retired BRTC administrator and faculty member.
“In keeping with our mission, we have designed Serendipity to encourage members to think about people, places, and ideas that are often very different from their own experiences,” Ziegler said. “Serendipity was created in part to do just that: to make us more aware of the global community even as we come to understand that in spite of our differences, we are all connected by a common thread of humanity.”
The program focuses on contemporary works, primarily fiction. Many are critically acclaimed works of emerging literature. Many of the books or their authors have received the Pulitzer or other awards, explained Bailey.
In a letter to Serendipity members, Ziegler said this year’s theme, “From the Inside Out,” was prompted by one of the selections, The Accusation: Hidden Stories from Inside North Korea, a collection of fictional short stories that shed light on life inside the “Hermit Kingdom.” The stories have been smuggled out at great risk to the author, writing under the pseudonym, Bandi. “Their content,” Ziegler said, “could not be more relevant. As always,” she added, “I know I will learn much from each of you. Maybe, by considering these books from the inside out, we’ll even understand a little better this world we all share and call our own.”
For more information or to register for Serendipity, contact Rhonda Swink at 870-248-4180 or Jessica Bailey at 870-248-4189. Serendipity luncheon meetings are held monthly beginning Friday, September 29, at 11:30 a.m.