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October 10, 2007
Friday Center offers a range of educational programs
Guest column
Tyler Ritter


What programs does the Friday Center offer for local community members?

This year, volunteers will deliver "welcome bags" containing information any new neighbor could use, including garbage collection and recycling dates, Chapel Hill's noise ordinance, alcohol laws, voter registration forms, bus schedules and maps of downtown and the neighborhoods.

UNC's Friday Center for Continuing Education offers all sorts of programs for lifelong learners. The main areas of the Friday Center's operation are credit programs for part-time students, professional development and enrichment programs, and management of the continuing education conference center.

If someone wanted to earn academic credit through UNC, wouldn't they contact the University registrar?

If you are not a full-time degree-seeking student, then you are considered a part-time student, and part-time students work through the Friday Center to enroll in UNC-Chapel Hill courses. Academic credit instruction for part-time learners is one of the fastest-growing program areas at the Friday Center. Many North Carolinians have educational goals that they have not yet met because life's circumstances prevent them from attending school full-time. Through the Friday Center, part-time learners have the option of taking courses online, in the evening or during the day on campus. Some courses can even be completed outside of the semester schedule, at a pace that works best for the student.

What about people who aren't seeking credit, but just want to take courses for personal enjoyment?

Many area residents are interested in expanding their knowledge and connecting with other lifelong learners. The Friday Center's noncredit professional development and enrichment programs are designed with these interests in mind. UNC faculty and staff enjoy engaging with community members and sharing research and opinions. Students find the lectures and discussions invigorating and tell us that this kind of learning is an important part of their lives. Every spring and fall, new courses are developed to cover current topics.

What's going on right now at the Friday Center?

The center has a terrific new line-up of enrichment course offerings this fall. These include the Community Classroom Series -- a collection of evening courses taught primarily by UNC faculty and staff -- and a relatively new lecture series program called "What's the Big Idea?" The Community Classroom Series was introduced a few years ago and has become one of our most popular programs. We keep the class sizes fairly small so that participants really have a chance to interact with their instructors, and each series includes new course topics of particular interest to our local community. Last year, we were able to reduce the fee for each course to just $50. Most courses meet for two-hour sessions once a week for four consecutive weeks. Some of the courses begin the first week in October; others will start later in the month.

What is "What's the Big Idea?"

With some of our country's leading scientists and researchers right here in our midst, we have a unique opportunity to hear first-hand about research being conducted at the university. The "What's the Big Idea?" lecture series gives people in the community a chance to meet these scientists and hear about the fascinating work they are doing. Each lecture series looks at one big issue through the eyes of a number of different UNC researchers currently exploring it.

What's the big idea this fall?

This fall's series, The Science of Evolution, explores how the evolution of science has raised new questions about evolution. Each participating researcher will speak to a different aspect of evolutionary science. Topics include: "What's the Big Deal about Evolution?" "Becoming Human: The Pleistocene Emergence of the Human Species," "Evolution and Human Health," and "Imagining Extinctions: Evolution and Ethics." Lectures are on Thursday evenings beginning Oct. 25. There is a small fee for each lecture, and advance registration is required.

Where are these programs held?

With the exception of the academic credit courses, most of our educational programs are held at the Friday Center just off N.C. 54. The facility is easily accessible by bus and by car and has a large parking lot.

How do you register or get information?

You can visit our Web site at for a complete listing of the Friday Center's continuing education courses and services, e-mail a request for information to, or call us at 962-3000.

Tyler Ritter is a marketing specialist and instructional designer at UNC's William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education. More information about The Friday Center is available at

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