BRTC’s Serendipity program will open its tenth year on the college campus at Pocahontas with its first meeting of the year on Friday, September 6, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The theme for the year is “The Ties That Bind,” featuring eight contemporary books and other activities, according to Patti Blaxton, Director of Corporate and Community Education, who, together with Dr. Jan Ziegler and Jessica McFadden of the Office of Development, plan and implement the program.
Serendipity is a community outreach endeavor designed to encourage lifelong learning, explained Blaxton, who added that membership is open to men and women of all ages. Serendipity membership includes participation at the monthly luncheon meetings and other activities.
The meetings include lunch beginning at 11:30, followed by discussion of the book and its themes. The program frequently includes also music and video that is related to the book and its author and its topic. Sessions conclude at 1:00 p.m.
“We always have a varied group of people,” Ziegler said. “Some of us read the book, or part of the book, while some never do, and that is perfectly fine. Serendipity members greatly look forward to a summary of the book by Jessica McFadden, who is a great storyteller. So it’s not a problem if they haven’t read the book,” she added. “The stories and the characters embody universal themes and struggles and dreams, hopes and disappointments to which every single person in the room can relate. Everyone has something to share—something that matters and something that adds to the understanding of others, something that makes us all think. That is what we try to do in Serendipity. To make each other think.”
“This program has generated a lot of loyal members,” Blaxton said. Of the approximately 30 people involved in Serendipity, she noted, 17 of them have been members for five years or more. “Five of them have been in Serendipity for nine years,” she added, “and six of them have been in the club for eight years. We are very excited about seeing the returning people, and also hope new ones will want to join.”
Serendipity is also one way the college brings diversity to the community, Ziegler pointed out. “Typically we read and discuss works that are set in many different cultures, and this year will be no exception,” she said. “Part of our mission at BRTC is to emphasize the importance of diversity for our students and our community, especially since we live in an area where there is not a great deal of ethnic diversity.” The last accreditation team that visited gave the college high marks in accomplishing this through many activities and events, including Serendipity.
“This year we will read books set in Zimbabwe, England, Afghanistan, China, the West Bank region of Israel, and India, as well as three novels set in the United States,” Ziegler said. “I think looking at universal themes – in this case, family ties and the ways they shape us – through the lens of perspectives very different from our own, help us to better understand not just those other cultures, but better understand our own world.”
For more information about Serendipity, contact Patti Blaxton in the Office of Corporate and Community Education at 870-248-4181, or Jessica McFadden in the Office of Development at 870-248-4189.