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Learning for a lifetime: CommUniversity classes start Feb. 11

Have you ever wanted to make wine? How about preserving apples and bananas? Maybe you would enjoy discussing women’s role in film or historic heroes in comic books. Here’s your chance.

This year’s CommUniversity lineup has set out to pique the interest of all ages. Six courses will be taught by Marty McGoey, Pamela Pierce and Pamla Kukla, Tawnia Cummings, Kevin Anzzolin, Greg Walter and Naomi Johnson.

Dickinson CommUniversity courses have, for over three decades, provided an opportunity to learn more about the world and the forces that affect the way we live, according to a news release.

The program, organized by Assistant Professor of English Peter Grimes and an advisory committee, is a joint effort of the Dickinson community, donors, and Dickinson State University, which supports the philosophy that learning is a lifelong process.

"Dickinson CommUniversity supports education for its own sake,” Grimes said. “Whether it's knowledge about Mexican artists or how to age your own cider, we encourage everyone to sign up for a course and continue learning.”

Courses will be offered at three locations on Saturdays and Sundays starting  Feb. 11.

Saturdays  (Feb. 11, 18, 25 and) March 4)

Food Preservation Essentials

Instructor: Naomi Johnson

Time: 10-11:30 a.m.

Location: Dickinson Research Extension Center (1041 State Ave.)

Cost: $15 (one-time fee)

Students will explore four of the most common techniques for food preservation -- canning, dehydrating, freezing and fermentation. Each week, a different topic will be covered with demonstrations on the equipment needed for the process.

Johnson teaches computer and computer-aided design classes at DSU, but her secondary interest is  food preservation.

“Mom started me canning as soon as I stood up to the sink and washed the dishes,” Johnson said.

“After I got married I made myself apple chips, yam chips and dehydrated onions. I’d take a bunch of grated onions, dehydrated them and have onions for the rest of the year.”

She went on to learn freezing techniques -- the vegetables that need to be blanched and those that don’t. She’s done fruit leathers and tried fermentation, like how to make sauerkraut and pickles.

Johnson decided to share her knowledge of food processing at the request of a niece. As a Master Food Preserver, Johnson will stress food safety.

When Johnson moved to Dickinson from California, she left some of her processing equipment behind. This year, she plans to stock up. She doesn’t have a garden here, but misses her garden and orchard in the foothills above Sacramento.

“I can, freeze and dry a lot of fruit -- it lasts longer and tastes better too,” she said.

Crafting Fermented Beverages (Other than Beer)

Instructor: Greg Walter

Time: 1-2:30 p.m.

Location: Peace Lutheran (1550 21st St W)

Cost: $15 (one-time fee).  Students must be 21 or older. (The dates are Feb. 11, 18, March 4 and 11.)

Explore the process of making fermented beverages at the beginner level. Students will learn the basic steps in making wine, cider, mead and kombucha. Students will gain knowledge for safely and successfully making these beverages a home. Note a week is taken off in the middle of the series to allow the wine to ferment.

Walter is an associate professor of art at Dickinson State. During last year’s CommUniversity, he taught the art of brewing beer. The next logical step was to teach a class about fermented beverages.

“I’ve been doing it for 20 years, but in this part of the country, it's been slower to pick up as a hobby,” he said.

He made his first wine kit while a graduate student at the University of Nebraska. Back in Lincoln, he had access to supplies in a local home brew supply store. Today, he orders on the Internet.

For example, he orders his malt barley from a producer in North Dakota.

To make wine, the fermentation process will require an extra week.

“We’ll start the wine on the first day, and let it work for up to 4 weeks. The last week of the class, we’ll bottle the wine and let folks take a bottle home,” he said.

The second week, the students will make a batch of mead -- fermented honey.

“North Dakota produces more honey than any other state, and I’ve gotten honey from a local beekeeper,” he said.  “We’ll add the water and yeast  to the honey, sanitize it and let it go.”

Because mead requires months to ferment, Walter will keep in touch with the participants and notify them when it’s ready to taste.

During another class, the participants will take on kombucha, which requires a starter yeast -- comparable to a sourdough yeast provided by someone.

“Basically, it’s tea,” he said.  “It’s not everybody’s ‘cup of tea.’  It comes from Korea or Japan or Pakistan. It’s meant to be a medical drink.”

Finally, the participants will learn about cider, described as a ‘hard cider’ and not apple juice.

“Hard cider is usually in between beer and wine as an alcoholic beverage,” he said. “Only in America is there confusion. The term cider comes during the Prohibition when alcohol was prohibited. Cider comes to the English language as an ancient Hebrew word for ‘strong drink.’”

Registration is limited to 30 so that everyone can be given a bottle of wine at the conclusion of the class.

20th Century Mexican Muralism

Instructor: Kevin Anzzolin

Time: 3-4:30 p.m.

Location: Hawks Point (1266 Signal Butte)

Cost: Free. (North Dakota Humanities Council sponsorship)

This course will examine Mexican muralism, describes as a popular art movement in the 20th Century. Students will study the works of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Jose Clemente Orozco. Through the study, the intent is to cultivate a deeper understanding of the art, politics and social values of Mexico.

Moving here from the East Coast, Anzzolin teaches Spanish and communications at DSU.

“Muralism is basically a form of public art, and even in Dickinson we have an interest in mural art,” he said. “Muralism goes back to the beginning of time -- man  started drawing on caves.”

While he didn’t grow up in a Latino  household, Anzzolin has fostered a deep interest of the culture. He wrote his dissertation related to the culture and visits Mexico every year.

“Hopefully, the course will bring people together,” he said. “Hopefully, we'll explore what it means to have Mexico as our southern neighbor. I’m very excited because CommUniversity gives me a chance to talk about the culture and share what I’ve learned in my travels and as an academic.”

Experiencing and Writing Nature: An Introduction

Instructor: Marty McGoey

Time: 5-6:30 p.m.

Location: Hawks Point (1266 Signal Butte)

Cost: $15

This course will examine the relationship between writing and the natural world. The course is a basic, introduction to writing and literature study. It combines reading, discussion and writing activities.

Students will gain a deeper understanding of nature-based writing by studying examples of essays, fiction and poetry, and then craft their own creative writing.

Sundays – Feb. 12, 19, 26 and March 5

Heroes, Rogues and Authors. Oh My!

Instructor: Pamela Pierce and Pamla Kukla

Time: 1-2:30 p.m.

Location: Hawks Point (1266 Signal Butte)

Cost: Free (North Dakota Humanities Council sponsorship)

This course will focus on real-life historical figures and how they are represented in popular culture. The figures will be divided into categories of heroes, authors, criminals and rogues through graphic novels, film clips and music. Students also will have an opportunity to create their own rogue via drawing writing or a medium of their choice.

As outreach coordinator at the Theodore Roosevelt Center, Kukla discovered that  Theodore Roosevelt was depicted in a series of historic comic books called “The Roughriders” with Roosevelt as the main character. A second series of comic books is coming out this year, again featuring Roosevelt in different adventures.

“All of the heroes have had some connection with real life,” she said.

But is it appropriate to spin fiction around a real character? That will be one of the topics for discussion.

“For example, Theodore Roosevelt is shown drinking scotch tea, but he was never known to drink,” she said.

Kukla appreciates the format of CommUniversity for discussion.

“As we get to know the participants, we’ll determine the direction of the course,” she said. “What’s nice about this class is you aren’t tied to the course description and it's not a lettered grade class-- it’s what participants want to learn.”

The Celluloid Ceiling: Women and Film 1900-1955

Instructor: Tawnia Cummings

Time: 3-4:30 p.m.

Location: Hawks Point (1266 Signal Butte)

Cost: $15

This course will focus on the role and impact of women -- as directors, writers or actors -- in film during the first half of the 20th century. Passages from articles will be shared, along with watching short clips of various films. Each week will feature a different era in the history of film.

Cummings is the disabilities services coordinator, as well as the intake and transition specialist for Dickinson State. She moved here from Iowa.

“I’ve always liked movies and films and the scandals of Old Hollywood,” she said. “This class is an opportunity for me to learn more for myself, and I want to pass my passion and enthusiasm for it.”

The accomplishments of women in film are not well known, particularly the women who were the writers. For example, the writer of “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” was a woman, but she didn't necessarily get the credit, Cummings said.

With a master’s degree in education, Cummings said the CommUniversity is an opportunity to focus on the contributions of women to film.

“Pretty much everything was touched by women when you look back in time -- we just didn’t talk about it,” she said.

For descriptions or to register online visit On-site registration, payable in cash or check, will be available at each course location on the first day of class. Classes are open to the public. Employees, members or representatives of CommUniversity partners or sponsors may attend free. For  more information, contact Peter Grimes at