Exponent Explains: Wonderlust, classes for those who desire to learn

Wonderlust, a lifelong learning course affiliated with MSU’s Extension University has grown significantly since it was launched in 2002. The courses aim to provide intellectually stimulating classes for the adult Bozeman community. With the effort of retired university faculty and other professionals, the program started by offering four affordable, non-credit classes. The MSU sponsored program has since grown, now providing its 309 members with eight different class options per semester.

Wonderlust classes differ from courses in which MSU students are typically enrolled. The classes, as outlined in the 2015 Winter/Spring Course Catalog, have “no requirements and no grades … The classes are simply learning for the sake of learning.”

A membership is $35 a year, with classes costing roughly $12 per session for members and $16 for non-members. Members sign up for classes that fall into one of three categories: courses, clubs or side trips. Courses will generally run from four to six weeks, and follow a familiar small lecture style. Clubs meet with similar frequency and are led by an expert, but are much more member interactive. For those that can’t invest a long period of time, side trips are a shorter alternative, usually only lasting a day or two and are most likely held off-site.

Wonderlust also holds a free public forum at the Bozeman Public Library the second Friday of each month where speakers discuss relevant social and political topics. At the next forum on Feb. 13, at 12 p.m., MSU political science professor Franke Wilmer will be speaking on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for Montanans. Aside from being a university professor, Dr. Wilmer also served as speaker pro tempore of the Montana Legislature in 2009, as chair of State Administration and Veterans Affairs (Interim) from 2008-2010, on the Environmental Quality Council and as legislative liaison to the Montana Board of Investments.

The teachers of the courses are chosen based on their expertise in the specific field, either by professional involvement or first hand experience. Instructors range from authors, explorers and many current and former MSU faculty. Local legend and university professor Eric Funk frequently teaches music classes for the program.

Nicole Soll, program manager for the MSU Extended University, said that “[Wonderlust] has become incredibly popular over the past years, especially their public forum at the library.” Soll is in charge of overseeing the different programs and organizations that are sponsored by MSU, but that MSU does not directly run. According to her the music and art classes have received the most attention from recent members, though many other topics are covered in classes such as Jewish Mysticism and the side trip Buffalo Bill’s West and Even Wilder Far East.

With no grades and no pressure, Wonderlust is a program that holds learning above all else. The organization accepts membership applications year-round and is always encouraging others to join. There are only two requirements to be a member of Wonderlust: a $35 registration and a passion for knowledge.