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Lifelong Learning at Swarthmore

Photo of Professor Hansjakob Werlen

A Message from the Director

First, my sincerest thanks to all those who signed up for our fall Lifelong Learning Swarthmore classes, "Ulysses" and "Why We Need Stories in Troubled Times."   Your  engaged participation this past semester made those classes a great pleasure for professors and "students" alike.

I'm happy to announce another free online LLS class for spring 2021 that begins on February 18. The title is "Towards an Economy of Distributive Justice."  Please read the course details and registration instructions below.  I'm very excited about this class and its relevance today. I'm grateful to my colleagues here at Swarthmore for enabling me to present this class to you.

In addition, this class is made possible by the generous support of the Swarthmore Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility and the Turock Family Foundation. Your donations also make this class a reality. My thanks to those who have already donated to the LLS program. While the classes are free and open to everyone, a gift to LLS is very helpful (see donation information below). Thank you and I hope to see you in class.

Hansjakob Werlen
Director, Lifelong Learning Swarthmore

In recent years, income and wealth inequality in the U.S. has increased drastically to levels that are not only damaging to the economy but also threaten democracy itself. While a tiny fraction of the population has seen a soaring increase in wealth, adjusted income for most Americans has decreased since 1973. These wealth disparities are especially pronounced along racial and ethnic lines, and the average wealth gap between white families and families of color has steadily increased. At the same time, globalization has exacerbated economic injustice world-wide to the point where 1% of the rich control over half of the wealth. The current COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified these developments.

Addressing such urgent issues as inequality, poverty, and wage discrimination, as well as envisioning future economic and social policy that includes social, ecological, political, and ethical considerations, a group of experts will present their work and lead discussions.

At the end of each class discussion, there will be extra time for those interested to discuss opportunities of activism and voluntarism in the areas presented in the lectures.  For our first class, Cory Long, founder of the "Making A Change" group in Chester, Pennsylvania, will be joining us to discuss opportunities for involvement. 

Suggested readings for the class are "Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy" by Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver, and "The Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley Robinson.

 In this online LLS class, our experts and their topics are:

  • Feb. 18: John Caskey, Joseph Wharton Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College:  "Why is Chester, Pennsylvania, So Poor? The Role of Housing in the Concentration of Poverty"

  • Feb. 25: Ellen Magenheim, Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College:  "Towards Equity in Health and Healthcare"

  • March 4: Stephen O'Connell, Gil and Frank Mustin Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College:  "Can Cash Transfers End Global Poverty?"

  • March 11: Amanda Bayer, Franklin and Betty Barr Chair of Economics, Swarthmore College:  "Race, Gender, and Economics"

  • March 18: Robert Manduca '10, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan:  "The Consequences of Rising Inequality for U.S. Society"

  • March 25: Denise Crossan, Lang Visiting Professor, Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, Swarthmore College: "Social Entrepreneurship as a Distributive Justice Process: Pathways and Pitfalls"

  • April 1: Nina Johnson, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Black Studies, Swarthmore College:  "Resistance, Redress, and Retrenchment: How and Why Racial Inequality Persists and What We Can Do About It"

  • April 8: Warren Gifford '67, Engineer and Entrepreneur:  "What's Next: A Systems Approach" 

When: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time) for eight weeks on Feb. 18, Feb. 25, March 4, March 11, March 18, March 25, April 1, and April 8.

All classes will be recorded for participants. This class is offered to everyone free of charge, though participants will need to download Zoom to their computers to participate. A link to enter the class will be emailed several days prior to the first class to all registrants.

To Register   


We sincerely appreciate donations to allow us to continue these free offerings while we are not able to meet in person due to the pandemic. All donations help.

To Donate Online: Please go to our secure online site at  Make a Gift Here   Make sure to write "LLS Current Fund" in the designation box.

To Donate By Check: Please send your gift by writing a check to Swarthmore College. Add a note on the memo line of the check stating that it is for "LLS Current Fund."

Send your check to: Swarthmore College Attn: Gift Records, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA  19081 

Thank you for your support.

Program Details

  • A link will be emailed to registrants several days before class in order to participate.

  • Courses taught by senior or emeriti members of Swarthmore College faculty and other experts.

  • Courses offered in each of the divisions of the College: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences/engineering.

  • No grades, no academic credit, just learning for learning's sake.

  • Open to everyone: alumni, their adult family, friends, Swarthmore College staff, and all friends of the College are welcome.

  •  Virtual classes are not limited. In-person classes have limited enrollment, and classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • At this time, classes are free and online. When it is possible to gather safely again, classes will be held in-person in small, seminar-style form in Center City Philadelphia, on Swarthmore campus, in Boston, and in New York City.

Questions? For questions about course material, contact Professor Hansjakob Werlen at For all other questions, contact Marty at

For other Swarthmore College virtual offerings, please check out the SwatTalks page.  

SwatTalks is an Alumni Council initiative to engage the broader Swarthmore community in free, virtual seminars featuring professors, students, and alumni excelling in their fields and sharing their knowledge and experience. Each seminar lasts one hour and is available to Swarthmore alumni and current parents around the world through Zoom webinar technology