The Boy Scout motto and a tour of Italy

Merikay Payne

Merikay Payne

by Merikay Payne who recently trav­eled with an Edu­ca­tional Travel Sem­i­nar to Italy per­son­ally led by travel pro­gram direc­tor Doug Whit­tle of Con­tin­u­ing Studies.


Those incor­ri­gi­ble Boy Scouts and their “Be Pre­pared” motto.

Founder Robert Baden-Powell prob­a­bly chose the phrase after vis­it­ing Italy, some­time after it became a coun­try in 1861. Orga­niz­ing the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica in 1910 just made it pos­si­ble for Baden-Powell to per­pet­u­ate the value of being pre­pared in mind and body.

Our two-week stay in Italy took us on a route from cen­trally located Rome, to the lemon-growing area of Sor­rento, past the cliffs of Amalfi, on to the arts and leather cen­ter of Flo­rence, and a return to Rome by way of the Tus­cany and Umbria regions.

Our trav­els allowed us the good for­tune to:

• Cruise the Amalfi coast on the way Paes­tum.
Be pre­pared for cliffs meet­ing the sea and explo­ration of an ancient Greek city.

• Immerse our­selves in the his­tory of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum.
Be pre­pared to wit­ness the destruc­tion of Mt. Vesu­vius on rich and poor, but not their structures.

• View Michelangelo’s David.
Be pre­pared to see three David’s, even though there is only one Michelangelo.

• Take note of the Medici fam­ily intrigue.
Be pre­pared to con­nect Medici, Michelan­gelo, and popes in unex­pected ways.

• Wit­ness first-hand that Rome really wasn’t built in a day.
Be pre­pared for lasagna-layered build­ings and roads.

• Find a UNESCO World Her­itage Site that was saved by extreme poverty, the Black Plague, and a bypass.
Be pre­pared for San Gimignano.

• Visit the church or Duomo of Siena and Rome’s Pan­theon.
Be pre­pared for the beauty of archi­tec­tural overload.

• Ver­ify that the unreal land­scape of Ital­ian Renais­sance paint­ing is real.
Be pre­pared for Piero Della Francesca’s mas­ter­piece at the Uffizi.

View the mas­ter­piece:www​.uffizi​.org/​a​r​t​w​o​r​k​s​/​p​o​r​t​r​a​i​t​s​-​o​f​-​t​h​e​-​d​u​k​e​-​a​n​d​-​d​u​c​h​e​s​s​-​o​f​-​u​r​b​i​n​o​-​b​y​-​p​i​e​r​o​-​d​e​l​l​a​-​f​r​a​n​c​e​s​ca/

Even though both Baden-Powell and I extol the value of being pre­pared, I must say I was not ready for every­thing that I saw or learned. For now, my next trip will be to the library.

For now, you can enjoy three of Merikay’s pho­tos from her travels:

Paestum. Athena, An Ancient ruin in Italy.

Paes­tum, an ancient Greek city in Italy.

Amalfi coast region in Italy.

Her­cu­la­neum, destroyed by the erup­tion of Mt. Vesuvius

Her­cu­la­neum, destroyed by the erup­tion of

Mt. Vesuvius.

What’s your dream des­ti­na­tion? Africa, to see the ele­phants and zebras? India, to tour the Taj Mahal and other exotic tem­ples? Read about our future travel tours on the web:  con​tin​u​ingstud​ies​.wisc​.edu/​t​r​a​v​e​l​/​i​n​d​e​x​.​h​tml

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adult students should apply for summer grants by May 1

Bascom Hill with tulips
May 1 is the dead­line for adults to apply for Con­tin­u­ing Edu­ca­tion Grants for sum­mer 2014. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Do you know any adults inter­ested in return­ing to cam­pus this sum­mer as an under­grad­u­ate, grad­u­ate or Spe­cial Stu­dent at UW-Madison?

Adults may be eli­gi­ble for receiv­ing finan­cial assis­tance to get started with one class for this sum­mer. The sum­mer dead­line is May 1. Dead­lines for the two semes­ters vary.

UW-Madison Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies offers Con­tin­u­ing Edu­ca­tion grants that pro­vide in-state tuition for one three-credit course three times a year: fall and spring semes­ters and for Sum­mer Term. Dead­lines for the two semes­ter grants differ.

For this round of grants, appli­cants must have a sig­nif­i­cant break (usu­ally five years or more) in their educations–a require­ment for all the grants–and plan to enroll in one course dur­ing Sum­mer Term.

Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies awards from four to 20 grants dur­ing each semes­ter and Sum­mer Term.
Details about cri­te­ria and apply­ing can be found at con​tin​u​ingstud​ies​.wisc​.edu/​a​d​v​i​s​i​n​g​/​c​e​-​g​r​a​n​t​.​htm.

For more infor­ma­tion, call grant coör­di­na­tor Jane Schim­mel of Adult Career and Spe­cial Stu­dent Ser­vices at 608–263-6960 or email her at Jane Schim­mel.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Campus honors Christine DeSmet for her career
of coaching writers, in the state and around the world

Christine DeSmet, founder of Writers' Institute
Chris­tine DeSmet, founder of Writ­ers’ Insti­tute and recip­i­ent of a UW-Madison Award for Pub­lic Ser­vice
UW Photo by Bryce Richter.

Chris­tine DeSmet, a fac­ulty asso­ciate in Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies and founder of the well-respected Writ­ers’ Insti­tute, has been named the recip­i­ent of the UW-Madison Robert and Car­roll Hei­de­man Award for Excel­lence in Pub­lic Ser­vice and Out­reach for 2014.

DeSmet was rec­og­nized for her many years of ded­i­cated instruc­tion and sup­port of writ­ers in Wis­con­sin, the U.S. and other coun­tries. She cre­ated Writ­ers’ Insti­tute, an award-winning and nation­ally rec­og­nized con­fer­ence now in its 25th year and is a founder and direc­tor of the sum­mer Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Work­shop & Retreat. This pro­gram, in its 16th year, draws par­tic­i­pants from across the coun­try and offers credit through the UW-Madison Depart­ment of English.

Her online courses take the UW-Madison cam­pus around the world, help­ing writ­ers in coun­tries includ­ing Arme­nia, Canada, Eng­land, Guatemala, Ire­land, Italy, Malta, Mex­ico, and Norway.

Hav­ing touched the work of thou­sands of adult stu­dents in Wis­con­sin and beyond, DeSmet says her stu­dents have pub­lished books and optioned scripts, or enjoyed suc­cesses in national contests.

She is a grad­u­ate of UW-Madison’s School of Jour­nal­ism hold­ing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.


Chris­tine agreed to share some back­ground and high­lights of her career:

What was your inspi­ra­tion for writing?

My inspi­ra­tion was my high school teach­ers who were enter­tained by my writ­ing and enter­tained in a good way. I remem­ber read­ing aloud a funny piece about our school librar­ian and every­body lov­ing it. What a feel­ing that is for a kid when some­body “in the know” val­ues what she writes. That stuck with me for­ever and is part of my teach­ing philosophy.

What was your favorite book as a teen or child?

I read all the clas­sic stuff. I read Tarzan adven­tures, Huck Finn, Lit­tle Women, and Alfred Hitch­cock mag­a­zine mys­ter­ies all in the same week. I was eclec­tic. Then came books like the entire Lord of the Rings tril­ogy in fifth or sixth grade, and Civil War books galore. I devoured the news­pa­per the moment it came to the mail­box on our farm. My Dad and I had friendly tug-of-wars over who got what news­pa­per sec­tion first on Sun­day mornings.

Did you have a fam­ily member/teacher who encouraged/inspired you?

I’m both a screen­writer and novel author and teacher of both. My screen­writ­ing inspi­ra­tion came from the adult stu­dents and instruc­tor, Larry Edger­ton, in a 1980s UW-Extension scriptwrit­ing class. I was writ­ing a fea­ture arti­cle about the class and got sucked in!

About that same time I was inspired by Mar­shall J. Cook, Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor, who pretty much said, “Go for it” every time I talked about a novel project. I was a col­lege stu­dent doing pub­lic­ity for Marshall’s pro­grams when I began writ­ing both nov­els and screen­plays. It should be noted that because of Marshall’s encour­age­ment I wrote my very first novel man­u­script and it went on to win a national award from Romance Writ­ers of America.

What keeps you going as a writer now?

My adult stu­dents! They are so filled with excite­ment at dis­cov­er­ing the magic of words and how to cre­ate a career from mere words. Pure joy erupts in our class­rooms and online exchanges. Writ­ers are magi­cians. There’s truly magic in the process of cre­ativ­ity and putting words together in var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions that move read­ers emo­tion­ally and intel­lec­tu­ally. It’s an end­less puz­zle that intrigues me.

Who are your favorite authors?

My stu­dents when they publish.

How do you describe your teach­ing style?

It’s a coach­ing style. I’m pretty well known for being prac­ti­cal and help­ing adults save time, heartache, and money. I find the very best advice and bring that to my stu­dents. I cut to the chase on dif­fi­cult ques­tions. As a men­tor, I also try to stick with writ­ing stu­dents all the way through the process which includes sev­eral revi­sions, get­ting an agent or mar­ket­ing on their own, then revis­ing again for the agent until an edi­tor pays atten­tion or the writer self-publishes. That process can take a year or two or three and I’m there for them through that entire time. Help­ing them real­ize their dream is really impor­tant for me.

What’s your favorite topic to teach?

Prob­a­bly story struc­ture because it’s the back­bone of any novel or screen­play or story.

Is there an anec­dote about an adult writ­ing student/client you’d like to share?

I’ve seen many, many suc­cesses over the years with the writ­ers who have come through my Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies classes or have used our Cri­tique Ser­vices. We post many of these suc­cess sto­ries on the writ­ing page of the Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies web site.

Teri Woods, here in Madi­son, is some­body who was on last year’s suc­cess panel at Writ­ers’ Insti­tute. Teri attended Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Work­shop & Retreat a few years ago. She was start­ing her first sus­pense novel and needed some­body to nudge her to fix a few things. I nudged; she revised. From there she met with an agent at our con­fer­ence, then self-published to build her audi­ence for a sus­pense book. Next the agent got her a three-book deal with a New York pub­lisher. Help­ing to launch her career, and wit­ness­ing Teri’s gra­cious­ness all along the way, is the best reward I could ever receive. When her sus­pense book is finally published—now for the sec­ond time—I’ll have tears in my eyes. And I’ll be first in line to buy her book.

Chris­tine DeSmet’s other accomplishments:

DeSmet devel­oped the Wis­con­sin Screen­writ­ers Forum (WSF) from a local group of adult writ­ing stu­dents in the 1980s to an asso­ci­a­tion for scriptwrit­ing pro­fes­sion­als who reside in many states and in Hol­ly­wood. She served as WSF pres­i­dent for 10 years. DeSmet also cre­ated UW-Madison con­fer­ences to help found and develop the Wis­con­sin Chap­ter of Romance Writ­ers of Amer­ica; RWA is the largest writ­ers’ orga­ni­za­tion in the world.

She is a pro­fes­sional scriptwriter and author of nov­els and short sto­ries. Her cred­its include win­ning Slam­dance Film Fes­ti­val in Park City, Utah, and option­ing that screen­play to New Line Cin­ema. Her nov­els include a best­selling mys­tery series set in Door County, pub­lished by Pen­guin Ran­dom House, New York.

Join us in con­grat­u­lat­ing Chris­tine on her award and her many successes!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counselor delights in work with older adults

Danielle Pollex-Rabl works as a coun­selor for peo­ple from all walks of life and of all ages in Portage—a job she absolutely loves. But she admits that work­ing with indi­vid­u­als over the age of 60 is espe­cially rewarding.

Danielle Pollex-Rabl

Danielle Pollex-Rabl

Older peo­ple have so much wis­dom to share, because they’ve had so many expe­ri­ences,” Danielle explains. Because of these rich expe­ri­ences, Danielle has spent many years learn­ing about men­tal health con­cerns of the older gen­er­a­tion, includ­ing recently earn­ing a Cer­tifi­cate in Men­tal Health and the Older Adult from UW-Madison Con­tin­u­ing Studies.

From all her study­ing and pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence, she wants every­one to remem­ber one key point:

Depres­sion and other men­tal health issues are not a nor­mal part of aging.”

She says: “I want chil­dren who are car­ing for their older par­ents to know this; I want older men and women who meet with their friends to under­stand this and to be watch­ful for their friends’ moods. All of us need to encour­age older adults to seek help if they are struggling.”

Danielle is one of those peo­ple with a heart of gold that we all hope will work with our moms and dads, other fam­ily mem­bers, or friends if they need coun­sel­ing. Dur­ing her career she has worked in sev­eral Wis­con­sin coun­ties, and now her office is located in Colum­bia County.

But Danielle wasn’t always on the coun­sel­ing career path.

When Danielle started as a fresh­man at UW-Whitewater, she declared account­ing in the busi­ness school as her major. But an extra-credit vol­un­teer expe­ri­ence at a nurs­ing home changed every­thing. “I real­ized how much it meant to help oth­ers; that it was my calling.”

The Portage pro­fes­sional recalls: “Spend­ing time with older peo­ple turned out to be a very rich expe­ri­ence. Some have trav­eled the world and oth­ers are World War II vets.”

Because of those few vol­un­teer hours, Danielle changed the focus of her degree. “I decided cred­its and deb­its would not rule my life,” she explained, and began social work geron­tol­ogy stud­ies, even­tu­ally com­plet­ing grad­u­ate school at UW-Madison with a con­cen­tra­tion in men­tal health.

I love UW-Madison,” she says. “Through my entire edu­ca­tion, I’ve been impressed with the qual­ity of instruc­tion on that campus.”

That’s why when Danielle found infor­ma­tion about a UW-Madison Cer­tifi­cate in Men­tal Health and the Older Adult, she didn’t hes­i­tate to reg­is­ter. The pro­gram con­sists of five required sem­i­nars, three elec­tive sem­i­nars, and the bian­nual Sum­mer Insti­tute, sched­uled this sum­mer for July 31-Aug. 1.

In the cer­tifi­cate sem­i­nars, Danielle learned from lead­ing experts about cur­rent research in depres­sion, anx­i­ety, sleep dis­or­ders in late-life; man­age­ment of psy­chotropic med­ica­tions, and com­mon geri­atric con­di­tions and men­tal health.

Cer­tifi­cate pro­gram direc­tor Dr. Suzanna Waters-Castillo says she devel­oped this non­credit pro­gram to pre­pare indi­vid­u­als like Danielle for the com­ing increase in clients who are older adults. Social work­ers and other health care pro­fes­sion­als may also be inter­ested in this program.

For more infor­ma­tion, call 608–265-3517 or visit the web­site .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment