Celebrating 15 Years of The Odyssey Project

In 2021–22, the Odyssey Project in Champaign-Urbana celebrated 15 years of learning, engagement, and community support. More than 150 students—and counting—have successfully completed the program.

Odyssey circular icon with text reading ODYSSEY at 15

Established as a Bard Clemente Course in the Humanities in 2006 in partnership with Illinois Humanities, the Odyssey Project provides low-income adults in East Central Illinois with access to free credit-bearing humanities courses taught by instructors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Read more about the history of this program in our community. During the 2021–22 academic year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary.

Humanities-Based Adult Education

In fall 2019, the Odyssey Project became a credit-bearing program at the University of Illinois, with courses provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) and program enhancements—such as funding for interns and opportunities to learn from an artist and writer-in-residence— thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Odyssey Project students can earn up to eight transferable college credits in foundational humanities courses in Literature, Philosophy, Art History, and U.S. History, all in a collaborative, reflective space designed to support historically underrepresented, non-traditional adult learners.

Odyssey is truly a community: students, alumni, faculty, and staff all have a shared commitment to supporting each other’s learning and development. Through conversations with fellow students and faculty members, Odyssey students build and reinforce their critical thinking, writing, and public speaking skills.

Connecting key humanities values and practices to their lived experiences, Odyssey students develop a rich understanding of how to communicate about—and ultimately transform—their lives.

Access to Transformative Experiences

Odyssey alumni go on to pursue additional higher education, civic engagement, and workforce opportunities. They have confidence in their ability to be leaders and agents of change, illustrating that access to higher education is a pathway to building the strength and resilience of communities.

Impact: Student Outcomes

Group of Odyssey Project students

From surveyed Odyssey alumni:

  • 50% of students report that the Odyssey Project helped them improve their financial stability
  • 96% of students believe they improved their writing skills
  • 87% of students increased civic engagement
  • 88% of students reported improved feelings of empowerment and hope

In their own words

“I truly believe Odyssey can be a pipeline to a larger scale of change. I want to continue to be a part of this. I want to continue to be engaged.”

"The Odyssey Project changed my views on how smart I thought I was.”

“In my work, I got an increase in my position, a raise, and more power. I think that comes from more affirmation and learning to speak for myself.”

Make a Difference With Us

Odyssey student raising hand in class.


Gifts to the Odyssey Project make a tangible difference, providing books and classroom technology, and supporting events, field trips, and hands-on activities. Together, we can work to increase access to higher education through a quality humanities-based life-changing learning experience.

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