Civic Knowledge Project

Division of the Humanities | The University of Chicago

Skip to: main content | site navigation


Odyssey Project and Educating Community

The Odyssey Project, which is offered in Chicago and other cities in Illinois by the Illinois Humanities Council in partnership with Bard College's National Clemente Course in the Humanities and several Illinois universities, was founded on the premise that engagement with the humanities can offer a way out of poverty. It provides a free yearlong course in five humanities subjects (literature, U.S. history, critical thinking and writing, philosophy, and art history) for adults at or below 150% of the poverty level. Both the Clemente Course itself and its founder Earl Shorris won the National Humanities Medal for their work, which the Civic Knowledge Project is proud to support. See

On the South Side of Chicago, where classes are supported by the Civic Knowledge Project and hosted by the Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island, UChicago scholars create an intellectually engaging classroom similar to what students at elite universities experience. Transportation, books, materials, and childcare are provided free-of-charge for Odyssey students. If students complete the course satisfactorily, they receive six credits from Bard College. A second year “Bridge Course” is available to advanced students who want to continue. Additionally, Spanish language courses in history and literature are offered in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Working in collaboration with the Odyssey Project/Clemente Course, the Civic Knowledge Project has expanded the range of opportunities for the students and alumni of these programs. As part of the CKP's Educating Community program, a rich variety of arts and humanities discussions, lectures, tours, exhibitions, and courses are available, as well as internship and docent opportunities. Odyssey Project graduates have been placed at the Hyde Park Art Center and the Smart Museum of Art, and additional opportunities, including more paid docent positions, are always being pursued. Also, the Progressive Conversations series offers these adult learners regular engagement with leading arts organizations on the South Side, and the NonProfit Board Leadership Certificate Program has been made available to the Odyssey community free of charge.

For more information about the Odyssey Project/Clemente Course and the Educating Community, please contact the CKP's Senior Program Manager Erika Dudley, at, or CKP Executive Director Bart Schultz, at

Additional Resources:

Click here for free access to the Odyssey Project literary magazine In Medias Res: PDF

Click here to visit the Illinois Humanities Council website,

And click here for more about Earl Shorris and the Clemente Course, winners of the National Humanities Medal,

Earl Shorris was a great supporter of the Civic Knowledge Project, which hosted a number of events featuring him. See the CKP Media Page, and