Madison Magazine’s annual M List recognizes people who make Madison, Wis., a better place. The 2016 list focuses on mentors and teachers, including Emily Auerbach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. Auerbach is the director of the UW Odyssey Project, which provides a free college course for adults facing adversity.

The magazine notes that Odyssey has transformed many lives.

“We have students who have gone from being homeless to having UW master’s degrees, who were incarcerated and are now working in the community,” Auerbach says.

Each year, the Odyssey Project offers a free two-semester humanities class for 30 people, providing textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner. They earn six credits in English from UW-Madison, as well as gain critical thinking skills and a sense of empowerment.

Auerbach recently launched a related program called Odyssey Junior for the children and grandchildren of Odyssey students. They engage in writing and art exercises that allow the generations to share an educational experience.

Emily Auerbach (right) dresses up as poet Emily Dickinson at last year's Night of the Living Humanities fundraiser.

Emily Auerbach (right) dresses up as poet Emily Dickinson at last year’s Night of the Living Humanities fundraiser. With Odyssey co-founder Jean Feraca as poet Walt Whitman.

“The goal is to break the cycle of poverty right here in Dane County,” Auerbach tells the magazine.

Night of the Living Humanities

Those interested in supporting the Odyssey Project can attend Night of the Living Humanities, a pre-Halloween benefit on Oct. 27, 5-7 p.m., at the University Club, 803 State St. Odyssey students will be in costume, and guests have the option of dressing up themselves.

The fundraiser features complimentary appetizers and arts and crafts by Odyssey students for sale. The minimum per-person donation is $30, $20 of which is tax deductible. See here to RSVP, or contact Auerbach at 608-262-3733, emily.auerbach@wisc.edu.

Odyssey also accepts donations online or by check. Make checks payable to Friends of the Odyssey Project Inc. and mail to 21 N. Park St., Room 7468, Madison, WI 53715.