The Education Vacation: Mini University

 Each year, hundreds of individuals flock to Bloomington to attend what Fromer’s Travel Magazine has consistently referred to as one of the best learning vacations in the United States. With record setting attendance over the last few years, Indiana University’s widely popular Mini University now consistently sells out. However, the program came from much more modest beginnings.
Founded in 1972 as a result of a partnership between the Indiana University Alumni Association and the Bloomington Office of Continuing Studies, the first program hosted approximately 75 participants and functioned more as a family summer camp for both children and adults. Spanning the course of a week, participants brought their families to campus, lived in the dormitories and attended a variety of lectures and courses while their children attended their own programs. Adults chose from an option of 25 course listings taught by some of the most distinguished members of the university faculty. Courses were divided into six different categories: compelling issues of the ’70s on topics such as “China in the ’70s”, international issues, the family in contemporary society such as “After Spock, What?”, women’s changing role in society, creative participation in arts and the humanities, and preparing for retirement.
Mini University, ca. 1978-1981
Picnic, ca. 1978-1981
Children (over the age of five), on the other hand, were loaded each day onto a London double-decker bus for transport to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building (HPER) for recreation, games, and swimming. Children under the age of five could attend a day nursery. Evening entertainment options for the whole family included rap sessions, visits to the Brown County Playhouse, the IU Fun Frolic as well as a picnic and beach party with campfire along the shores of Lake Lemon. By 1978, the program had expanded to include nearly 60 course options covering topics on the humanities, domestic issues, human growth and development, business, international affairs, science and the arts.
Today, the program is significantly different – there is no longer a children’s program and attendees now stay primarily in the Indiana Memorial Union where the majority of courses are taught.  Open to all adults, not just Indiana University alumni, including qualified teachers seeking continuing renewal credits, the program has now expanded to include more than 100 course selections ranging in topics from business and technology, domestic issues, fine arts, health and fitness, international issues, humanities, music, theater and science. Mini alums receive a newsletter called Mini Happy Returns to keep them abreast of upcoming events. Each year the professors are chosen based upon recommendations from the chairs of their department or other faculty for being outstanding teachers. The 2016 Mini University program reads much like a who’s who of the university faculty and administration such as Lee Hamilton (Center on Congress), and James Madison (History) whose personal papers are all included in the University Library collections, as well as several of our esteemed library colleagues such as Dina Kellams (IU Archives), Carey Beam (Wylie House Museum), and Lori Dekydtspotter, Cherry Williams, Craig Simpson, Rebecca Bauman, and Andrew Rhoda (all Lilly Library).
The University Archives also holds the Mini University records as well as those of the School of Continuing Studies.
For those interested in registering for next year’s program, you can request a brochure here – just remember Mini U sells out QUICKLY!

Author- Carrie Schwier

Public Services and Outreach Archivist, Indiana University Archives.

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