The Odyssey Project in Champaign-Urbana

IPRH Research Prizes

Since the fall of 2006, the Odyssey Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has offered a suite of courses following the Bard College Clemente Course model. The Odyssey Project is a free, 32-week college-credit granting humanities program for income-eligible adults with limited to no access to higher education. IPRH is proud to partner with Illinois Humanities to bring the Odyssey Project to the Champaign-Urbana community. Through this effort, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign numbers among 40 major universities and colleges across the country each year that offer the Clemente Course in the Humanities, which was recently awarded the 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Obama.

The premise of The Odyssey Project is that a foundation in these core humanities courses offers students an opportunity to build their knowledge base and develop critical thinking skills that will serve them in their pursuit of higher education, workforce opportunities and a lifetime of learning-based citizenship.

IPRH is pleased to work with community partner Urbana Adult Education Center (UAEC), which hosts the Odyssey Project classes. For information about enrolling, please contact Odyssey Project Coordinator Jennifer Burns at (217) 300-3888 or

To apply online, visit the Illinois Humanities website. The deadline for enrollment is August 17, 2018. 

Learn about becoming an Odyssey Project student.

Learn more about supporting the Odyssey Project.

Watch a short film about the Bard College Clemente Course in the Humanties.

Spring 2019 Instructors

Odyssey Project Coordinator and Art History: Dr. Jennifer Burns is a longtime student of art history, having pursued the subject as an undergraduate at Yale University and as a master’s candidate at the University of Michigan. She earned her PhD at the City University of New York, where she specialized in modern and contemporary art and wrote her dissertation exploring feminist interpretations of Andy Warhol’s silkscreen paintings of the early 1960s. A decade ago, she and her husband moved to the Midwest, where she is now the proud parent of two girls and three dogs. A dedicated teacher, she has taught a wide range of courses in art and architectural history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from Visual Culture to Global Art, Sustainable Design to Modern American Architecture.

Literature: Valerie O’Brien is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Illinois specializing in twentieth-century Anglophone literature. Her dissertation explores inclusiveness and the representation of disability in modernist and contemporary novels written in the style of autobiography. She earned a BA and MA in English and a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois. Since 2017, she has served as the blog co-editor and website manager for the International Auto/Biography Association Students and New Scholars Network. An award-winning instructor, she has taught a variety of literature and composition classes at the University, including Introduction to Fiction, Modernist Poetry, Science Fiction, and Fairy Tales and Gender Formation.

Critical Thinking and Writing: Meghann Walk is pursuing a PhD in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois, concentrating in philosophy of education. She has a BA in political science from the University of Illinois, an MSLIS from Simmons College, and a CAS in School Building Leadership from St. John's University. Previously she was the Library Director and a Social Studies instructor at Bard High School Early College-Manhattan and is an associate of Bard College’s Institute for Writing & Thinking. Her research has focused on situated information literacy and the high school to college transition.

Philosophy: Dr. Shelley Weinberg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her interests are more broadly in the history of early modern philosophy (17th and 18th centuries) with a past focus on psychological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in the philosophy of John Locke. Her work has appeared in Journal of the History of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. More recently she has published a book with Oxford University Press (2016) entitled Consciousness in Locke. Shelley’s teaching interests include entry level courses in philosophy introducing students to philosophical questions concerning human nature, how we ought to live and what meaning our lives may have, what (if anything) we can claim to know, whether God exists and we can explain our experience of evil, whether we have free will, and whether artificial intelligence is possible. She also teaches lower and advanced level undergraduate courses as well as graduate level courses in early modern philosophy and theory of knowledge.