Financial Literacy…No, Really!

Eileen Sharkey

A brief testimonial from Eileen’s former class assistant about how this class teaches and empowers people about their investments. An

Submitted by Donna Svendsen, CFP®

Eileen SharkeyAs an observer of the Financial Literacy class taught by Eileen Sharkey, CFP®, I had a first-hand view of how students reacted to the course content and to the instructor. Selecting investments can put most people to sleep, yet Eileen makes it easy to understand and almost amusing when she uses the analogy of shopping for groceries: “We don’t buy broccoli if we don’t know how to cook it or if we don’t like it – even if it is on sale and looks pretty! Why do we buy a financial product that we don’t understand, or don’t like – even if it is well represented with a glossy brochure and a handsome salesman?”

There is much more in this class than selecting investments, too. This introductory class helps students understand the current market and why it’s where it’s at. Eileen, a witty Brit, was educated in London and then in Kansas which gives her a practical and global view of finance. Students appreciate the handouts and worksheets that help them organize their personal financial world and get focused on their own goals.

Session topics also include evaluating insurance needs and risk management, record keeping, financial professionals and how to find who and what you need. One guest speaker presented an ethical discussion about medical care and dying with dignity and Eileen wrapped up the course with information about preserving your wealth and your decisions when you approach the end of life.

The class was well received by students. Comments included:

  • motivating
  • practical
  • exceeded my expectations
  • I’ll bring my spouse next time  

One female student revealed, “I now have more confidence to speak with my own financial advisor!” – a big step for her.

I work with Eileen Sharkey and admit my bias towards her; however, Eileen has me observe her classes to assist and to give her honest feedback and that’s exactly what I do.

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Rosetta Stone for a Long & Healthy Life?

Healthy Living Apple Illustration

Healthy Living Apple IllustrationWhether you want to live to a hundred or not, we now have scientific evidence that centenarians–who’ve lived for 100 years or longer— share healthy, active lifestyles.

You’ve heard the myth that “the older you get, the sicker you get”—right? Au contraire: the 18-year-long New England Centenarian Study suggests that “the older you get, the healthier you’ve been,” by making these 6 choices–

  • Staying connected to others of all ages and involved in your community
  • Exercising daily
  • Continuing to use your brain
  • Learning to handle stress
  • Coping through humor
  • Finding spiritual meaning, interest and joy in everyday life.

See more at:
–Adapted from Ways to Live a Long and Healthy Life, posted on January 15, 2013 by Dr. Eliza “Pippa” Shulman

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Brain HQ Revolutionizes Brain Games


1-brain-gearsThe jury is still out: do crossword puzzles improve your brain fitness? Maybe, or maybe not. If you are searching for a scientifically based alternative—or SEVERAL alternatives that target a rich variety of mental skills–then you’re ready to try out the online brain games available through Posit Science’s BrainHQ.

BrainHQ offers a research-based smorgasbord of different games scientifically designed to—

  • Focus your attention
  • Increase your brain speed
  • Improve your memory
  • Enhance your people skills
  • Sharpen your intelligence
  • Tune up your navigation skills

For a free trial, click on
Also available from Posit Science is a breakthrough game to train your brain to hear better. Read more at this Time magazine link:

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Academy Helps “Rescope” CU Prof’s Webcast

University of Colorado, Boulder, adult, courses

In fall 2012, were you one of the Academy participants who peppered Dr. Darin Toohey with questions after his lecture on short-lived climate forcers, in the CU Science: At the Cutting Edge course? If so, you might have helped shape Darin’s revised presentation on that topic to 4000 online viewers, a few weeks later.Darin Toohey, CU-Boulder, Science classes, adults

Darin recently emailed Academy coordinator Donna Barrow about a live webcast at a State Department outreach event at the Doha (Qatar) climate change conference (COP18). He wrote, “I changed my talk in response to the outstanding questions that I was asked by Academy participants. . . . and I thank your members for helping me ‘rescope’ this talk so that it was useful for a broader audience.”

To learn more about human-originated gases and particles called short-lived climate forcers and Darin’s work to reduce the climate changes they trigger, view his full webcast at

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CU Scientists Star at the Academy

University of Colorado, Boulder, adult, courses

2-Darin-TooheyOne of the most exciting developments in the Academy’s last ten years has been the series CU Science: At the Cutting Edge. Researchers from the science faculty at CU-Boulder, Colorado’s flagship university, have shared their latest discoveries and expertise in areas as diverse as–

  • climate-changing rocket experiments
  • galaxy formation
  • major advances in infertility options
  • fracking’s environmental footprint
  • the millions of bacterial communities thriving inside every human (there IS good news . . . )

CU physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists and other scientists (including Prof. Darin Toohey, pictured here) translate their extensive knowledge into polished multi-media presentations guaranteed to mesmerize and enlighten any eager learner, regardless of his or her educational background.

These veteran professors also clearly relish the mind-stretching Q&A sessions the Academy is known for, often lingering long after each class is over to accommodate every participant’s special inquiries. (To learn more: see the special blog on Prof. Darin Toohey’s thanks for Academy-triggered improvements in his worldwide webcast.)

Collaborating with CU staff, Academy board member Donna Barrow designs and coordinates these series, ensuring a fascinating array of topics each time they are offered. Stay tuned for details on the next series, planned for as early as spring 2014.

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Short Fiction Under the Microscope


WassersteinPauletteEver since Dr. Paulette Wasserstein began offering her Contemporary American Short Stories course five years ago, it has filled quickly every term. It’s easy to see why.

Participants examine one or two memorable stories every week, teasing out each story’s meanings and enriching their understanding of the short story as an art form. The stories—selected from the annual editions of the Best American Short Stories series—are all masterpieces of the latest short fiction. But it is Paulette’s insightful analysis, interactive approach and keen eye for short fiction’s unique appeal that keep longtime enthusiasts returning for her latest installment and newcomers racing to enroll.

Put aside that novel you’re devouring and take a few minutes to register for her course starting in September. You’ll open your next novel—or short story–with new eyes.

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Tech Training Course Challenged by Demand


Scott Henke and Maria Arapaikis’ Tech Training course has proved so popular that it was expanded this past spring from a series of one-hour, drop-in sessions to a full two-hour course running nine weeks. And, shortly after it was offered, that 9-week spring course filled, with late-enrolling participants even agreeing to sit on the floor or stand.

2-Tech-TipsWhether seated or not, virtually everyone arrives at Scott and Maria’s classes frustrated with their tech gadgets–from iPads to Skype and every other software program that can be installed on a PC—and worried about how to protect them. But our participants invariably leave class with enhanced skills and transferable tech savvy.

Scott’s company, Onsite Consulting, offers PC training, PC and network troubleshooting, repair, virus and spyware solutions, free offsite backup, remote emergency help and many other computer services. The company received the 2008 Business of the Year Award. Check it out at

Maria offers tutoring in “All Things Mac” plus iphones and ipads.  Contact her through

During his 27 years as a computer consultant, Scott taught classes for 11 years at Denver Community Schools, as well as serving for 13 years as a technology coordinator at Hamilton Middle School, where he helped students learn about computers and the Internet.

The Academy feels extremely fortunate to have Scott Henke and Maria Arapakis–longtime professionals who are also seasoned teachers—heading up our technology instruction.

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Academy’s New President: A Learning Junkie


A career public school teacher, Sherma Erholm brings three especially critical skills and interests to her new job as Academy board president–

  • professional communication expertise
  • several years’ experience facilitating an impressive variety of Academy courses
  • all the hallmarks of an ideal Academy learner—or, as she describes herself, a “learning junkie.”

Academy President, BoardThough Sherma holds a bachelor’s degree in speech and music, and a master’s in communication theory and psychology, only one of her many Academy courses has focused squarely on her academic training—Bombarded with Persuasion: Are You the Next Target?

At the Academy and elsewhere, she jumps at the chance to explore topics outside her formal fields of study. Her desire to understand and share the evolution of Middle Eastern political and cultural complexities motivated her to offer classes on The Persian Puzzle and Egypt Since World War II. Similarly, her passion for examining life’s great unsolved questions resulted in the course Science & Religion: Enemies, Strangers or Partners?

Adult courses she has facilitated for other organizations have examined futurism, China, evolution and the UN, among other topics.

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Sheila Porter Driven by Curriculum Passions


Driven by her passion for superb courses, Dr. Sheila Porter has served many years as the Academy’s Curriculum Committee chair.Academy Board, Curriculum Committee

As a retired psychologist with an impressive portfolio of international volunteer work, Sheila brings a rich base of experience and expertise to her many Academy roles. Porter marries her professional credentials and her international concerns by continuing to conduct psychological assessments of asylum-seekers.

On top of her duties as a longstanding board member and vice-president for curriculum, Sheila has custom-designed courses ranging from art’s kinship with madness, to African leaders’ corrupt regimes, the stubborn questions shadowing international aid, and the assimilation dilemmas of US immigrants and minorities. Despite their always challenging and often disturbing dimensions, her classes attract participants hungry to enrich their understanding of the complex worlds within and beyond their own life experiences.

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They Plan Vacations Around Academy Classes

Register, classes, adults

2-Linda-Jack-KeenanThough they’re both still working, Academy members Jack and Linda Keenan plan their vacations around Academy classes rather than their work schedules. In the past four years, Jack has missed class only once, for a business trip—and then Linda taped the class for him.

When the Keenans returned to Denver after a 20-year absence, they were delighted to discover “fascinating people our age at the
Academy, with the same passion for learning that we have,” Linda says, “now that we have the time to pursue our educational interests.”

Jim Kneser’s economics course was the first class both Jack and Linda took. Impressed by Jim’s expertise and depth, they followed him to his Mahler course–a special treat for Linda, a professionally trained violinist who played with the Dallas Symphony. They are now sharing the many Mahler CDs they bought for class, with their grandchildren.

“Jim is so exceptional,” Jack says, “that we thought there was bound to be a drop-off” when they decided to explore courses led by other instructors. But, Linda notes, their doubts vanished when they discovered the “quality of all the Academy’s courses and leaders.”

This past spring Jack took four courses, and Linda, three. Jack had high praise for all and especially for Lew House and his course, The Big Bang: Stars, Galaxies and Dark Stuff. “It’s inspiring, one of my best intellectual experiences. Lew has a world-class academic background and makes very difficult subject matter understandable for a non-scientist. His handouts are a road map for further study.”

Jack and Linda were equally enthusiastic about Lorraine Sherry’s course, The Garden as Art, which they took together. Though the class focused on European landscape architecture, Lorraine was “marvelous in advising us on plants” for their own garden, Linda recalls. “We love the amazing access to instructors outside the classroom.”

“The Academy has enriched our lives enormously,” Jack concluded. Linda added, “Kudos to the Knesers for their commitment to learning—and to our learning!”

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