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Popular UW Saturday U Program Returns to Sheridan Sept. 17

August 31, 2016
Mary Humstone, Jonathan Prather, and Sarah Sinclair

The fall 2016 term of Saturday U, the University of Wyoming’s popular free one-day college education program, returns to Sheridan Saturday, Sept. 17.

The day begins with coffee and pastries at 8:30 a.m. at Spear-O-Wigwam -- the Sheridan College mountain campus -- followed by opening remarks at 8:50 a.m. The lodge is located approximately 28 miles from Sheridan in the Bighorn Mountains on the northeast edge of Park Reservoir. For directions, visit

Each Saturday U term features lectures from three outstanding UW professors or community college representatives. Following the lectures, all three professors will participate in a final roundtable discussion. Participants may attend one, two, three or all four sessions. No registration is required, and the event is free and open to the public. The roundtable discussion and luncheon will be held outdoors, weather permitting.

In its eighth year, Saturday U is a collaborative program that connects top 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 presented locally by Sheridan College and the Ucross Foundation.

Listed below are program topic descriptions and UW professors lecturing in the Spear-O-Wigwam lodge:

9-10 a.m. -- “How the Brain Learns to Communicate and Make Good Decisions: What Songbirds Can Teach Us about Human Behavior,” Jonathan Prather, UW Department of Zoology and Physiology assistant professor.

“We use our words to communicate with each other every day, and we rely on good decision making to keep us healthy and out of trouble,” Prather says. “In both speech and decision making, specialized circuits in the brain enable us to learn from experience.”

Prather finds that songbirds do the same thing. Birds learn their songs just like humans learn the sounds used in speech, and that female birds evaluate the quality of male bird’s songs in order to select their mates.

In his lecture, Prather will answer the questions: “How does the brain do that, and how can we use that insight to improve the human condition?”

10:15-11:15 a.m. -- “The Power of Place: Outdoor Literature and Personal Identity,” Sarah Sinclair, Sheridan College social science, humanities, education and English chair.

“We are all rooted in place. The landscapes around us shape our communities, families, careers -- even our souls,” Sinclair says. “Outdoor literature helps us identify the landscape’s impact and can teach us who we are, where we come from and where we might go.”

She says selected tales by Annie Dillard, Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry show how “we connect with the land in which we dwell and, allow, even invite its influence.”

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. -- “Place, Memory and Preservation: From Independence Hall to Spear-O Wigwam,” Mary Humstone, UW American Studies Program research scientist.

Historic preservation in the United States began as a patriotic movement to recognize the lives and contributions of the founding fathers and the important places in history, such as Independence Hall, Humstone says.

“Today, we recognize a range of buildings and sites as worthy of preservation, from downtowns to Cold War missile silos to former dude ranches like Spear-O-Wigwam,” she says.

Her lecture traces the changing role of historic preservation in the U.S., and also places the recent National Register listing of the Spear-O-Wigwam campus in the context of a 160-year-old movement.

For more information about the Sheridan program, visit the Saturday U website at

Two more Saturday U programs are scheduled this fall: Saturday, Oct. 8, in Jackson; and Thursday, Oct. 27, in Gillette.

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