Cartoon of a futuristic classroom; a woman stands at a floating board in the center of the room, with students seated around her in a circle

Credit: dalbert Vilarino

Alums go to the head of the Class

When the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association inherited the Odyssey lifelong learning program in summer 2021, pandemic restrictions had moved the courses into virtual mode. This allowed people from all over to participate, and, as a result, the alumni team welcomed the opportunity to attract JHU alumni worldwide to sign on as instructors.

With an increased focus on alums, the Alumni Association also designed a new boutique option, the Alumni Academy, offering courses exclusively for and taught by alumni. It will start this spring, initially with five classes. "We wanted to showcase the breadth and depth of the alumni experience and then pair that with alumni connecting with one another," says Erin Jakowski, senior associate director of Alumni Relations and Lifelong Learning.

But the more than three dozen other Odyssey classes remain open to everyone, she says. "We don't want to lose that energy or history. We just wanted to open the door to young new instructors."

John Lim, Bus '13 (MBA), consultant, entrepreneur, and author, first took several online courses himself, then learned through an alumni email that he could teach, too. His course is a step-by-step blueprint on how to write and publish your own book. "Several students have contacted me to tell me how excited they are to start or finish their book because of the course. That's extremely gratifying," he says.

Patricia Benesh's course, AI for Creative Writers, based on her new book, is among the inaugural Alumni Academy courses and already is sold out. Her earlier Odyssey classes include a course on how to write your own obituary. "The coolest outcome: As students reflect on their lives, they have time to make changes to their legacies," says Benesh, Ed '75 (Cert), '77 (EdD), '80 (MA), '83 (MA), writing coach and founder of and She's thrilled the new academy will offer her class: "I'm excited to introduce AI since it has become such a hot button among creative writers."

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