KINGSPORT - Imagine college classes with little or no homework.
The coursework can include everything from American history and English literature to eating out at area restaurants or going "Around the World in Six Tuesdays" by learning about the Arctic, Brazil and New Zealand from people who have lived, worked or traveled there.
It also includes a class called "So What's in the News" that focuses on current events, as well as a firsthand glimpse into the police corruption investigation the FBI did in Cocke County, plus a look at the Cherokee in Appalachia.
The cost is $45 for unlimited classes for a six-week term. Sound too good to be true?
Individuals with free weekday mornings, afternoons or occasionally an afternoon can explore everything from American history to identity theft in a relaxed college setting through the Kingsport Alliance for Continued Learning or KACL.
Formerly known as the Kingsport Institute for Continued Learning, KACL was established in 1993 to provide area adults with opportunities to expand their cultural horizons through informal classes with little or no homework and no grades or tests. Although aimed at adults age 50 and older, KACL classes are open to all adults.
Spring classes begin March 12 and run through April 20 at ETSU at Kingsport, 1501 University Blvd., not far from Allandale Mansion. It's commonly called the University Center.
KACL President Jim Finney, a retired Eastman Chemical Co. engineer originally from Louisville, Ky., said the nonprofit group's classes drew 84 students in the fall, and brochure mailings for the spring offerings will begin soon.
Of 21 instructors, four are full-time ETSU professors. Many donate their time, but the group offers to pay a stipend for travel.
George O'Neill, chairman of the group's curriculum committee, said the dinner class - "What's Cooking, Kingsport?" - this term will visit Aladdin's Cuisine and Broadway Cafe, Fuji House, Molcajetes Mexican restaurant and the Steakhouse.
The group will see a presentation from the owners or operators on everything from how food is prepared to the business of running an eatery and maybe a glimpse at recipes. The food is dutch treat.
"We've had as many as 20 come to the meals," said O'Neill, a retired Eastman research chemist originally from Delaware, adding that the class offers a good chance for socialization, especially for older adults new to the area or looking to make new friends and acquaintances.
O'Neill said the group also hopes to get more mentions in brochures and Web sites and believes it can help in the region's efforts to attract people who plan to retire or relocate to the area. Sullivan County is one of nine Tennessee localities in the Retire Tennessee pilot program.
The Fabulous Friday offerings include FBI Special Agent Tom Farrow's presentation on the Cocke County sheriff's deputies corruption probe, as well as Tom Patton of the Kingsport Police Department talking about identity theft, and assistant anthropology professor Jay Franklin, who has discovered Cherokee settlements along the Holston River, talking about Native Americans in Appalachia.
Other offerings include a "journey" to exotic places for two hours every Tuesday morning, where participants will learn more about the Arctic, Brazil, England, Australia, New Zealand, England, Chile and Panama.
O'Neill said the group hopes to grow its participation so it can afford nationally known guest lecturers, and the group hasn't ruled out working with other alliances in Johnson City, Bristol and Abingdon.
Although the group has no educational prerequisite, most who attend have high school degrees, and many have bachelor's or post-graduate college degrees.
Last fall's offering brought out 24 new people.
"We can't afford paid ads," said Margy Clark, a former Kingsport Times-News feature writer and secretary of the group.
Other classes cover art and music, as well as "Celebrated Criminal Cases in U.S. Law."
"We do not try to compete with the Senior Center," Clark said of classes there.
Usually two hours long, KACL classes run from 10 a.m. to noon or from 1 to 3 p.m. except for the dinner class, which is from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays.
For more information or to be placed on the mailing list for the spring schedule contact Patricia Stafford, ETSU at Kingsport, by calling 392-8000 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.