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Saturday U Program Feb. 12 at Gillette College

February 5, 2015
man working with high tech equipment
UW Professor Carlos Martinez del Rio will discuss Wyoming’s biological diversity during a Saturday U event in Gillette Thursday, Feb. 12. (UW Photo)

Area residents have the opportunity to go back to college for an evening, with three professors from the University of Wyoming lecturing Thursday, Feb. 12, in Gillette for the spring term of Saturday University -- UW’s popular, free, one-day college education program.

The economic impact of religious pilgrimages; tracing Charles Darwin’s roots; and the ways Wyoming’s biological diversity shapes our lives are topics that will be discussed at Gillette College’s main building. The program is free and open to the public.

The evening of college classes and discussion begins with a light meal and refreshments at 6 p.m. Feb. 12, followed by a welcoming address at 6:25 p.m. The guest lectures begin at 6:30 p.m.

In its seventh year, Saturday U is a collaborative program that connects popular UW professors with lifelong learners. Offered six times a year -- twice each in Jackson, Gillette and Sheridan -- Saturday U is sponsored by the university, the UW Foundation and Wyoming Humanities Council, and is presented locally by the UW Outreach School and Gillette College.

Participants may attend one, two or all three lectures in Gillette.

Listed below are program topic descriptions and UW professors lecturing:

6:30 p.m. -- “Commercial Aspects of Religious Pilgrimages,” John Mittelstaedt, UW College of Business professor and interim dean.

Pilgrimage is big business. The 8.4 million pilgrims to Mecca in 2005 spent more than $8 billion. And business is booming: The number of Christians seeking to enhance their salvation by a pilgrimage to Santiago do Compostela in Spain has increased nearly 50-fold since 1989. What is the commercial impact of pilgrims’ spiritual journeys? To answer this question, Mittelstaedt will look at a new pilgrimage site -- Marktl am Inn, the birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI -- to understand how the influx of pious pilgrims has recast the town’s commercial character.

7:10 p.m. -- “The Descent of Darwin,” Caroline McCracken-Flesher, UW Department of English professor.

From where did Charles Darwin come? What was his line of descent? McCracken-Flesher will trace Darwin’s lineage, from his prominent family through his education and influences, and will show how “Darwinism” was in the air, for shepherds, scientists and poets from the 18th century on.

7:50 p.m. -- “Biodiversity Inside and Out: A Look at Life’s Richness from Wyoming’s Perspective,” Carlos Martinez del Rio, UW Department of Zoology and Physiology professor, and director of UW’s Biodiversity Institute.

From our domestic breakfast to the wild animals in Wyoming’s extraordinary landscapes, biological diversity supports our lives and our livelihoods. Martinez del Rio will explore the variety of Wyoming’s animals and the webs that connect them -- and show how biodiversity shapes our lives.

The spring Saturday U term also includes programs in Sheridan Feb. 7 and in Jackson March 7.

For more information, visit the Saturday U website at

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