Lifelong Learning

Millsaps College inspired in Julie Skipper a journey of lasting learning that continues throughout Jackson.

Millsaps College inspired in Julie Skipper a journey of lasting learning that continues throughout Jackson. Photo by Kathleen M. Mitchell.

My friend Brooks and I have a bit of a running joke involving our alma mater, Millsaps College. I love Millsaps dearly and am grateful every day for the education it gave me. That education included making me and my friend--and no doubt countless other alumni—into lifelong learners. We tend to laugh about it: Will we ever figure out what we want to be when we grow up?

For some, it means a lifetime (or near-lifetime) of formal education via one graduate school program after another. Personally, I tapped out after just one graduate degree (a J.D. from Vanderbilt Law School), though I did go back and complete the Else School of Management's Business Advantage Program (a certificate program for professionals) at Millsaps two years ago. I don't care to amass any more education-related debt, and my short attention span means I lack the patience required to pursue, say, 
a doctorate.

My lifelong thirst for knowledge takes a form more akin to curiosity than a desire to accumulate multiple diplomas. Luckily, plenty of opportunities around town can quench that thirst without the pressure of tests, grades and papers.

The perfect place to learn is a library, so it's fitting that one of my favorite new bars is the Library Lounge at the Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com). This small (four seats at the bar, 25 seats total), cozy spot is quickly gaining ground as the place for Belhaven-area residents to stop for a classic cocktail and nibble on a small plate. The bar is literally in the home's library, inviting you to grab a book from the shelf as you sit by the fire. In keeping with the literary theme, the cocktail menu features drinks named for Mississippi authors. And it doesn't stop there.

Bartender John Swanson keeps a stack of books on classic and prohibition-era cocktails on the bar, but rather than perusing them myself, I prefer gleaning from his wisdom on the subject. It's not just cocktails he knows. As a proponent of sustainable farming and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with impressive restaurant experience, Swamson knows well the restaurant world, culinary history and innovation. Chatting him up while you sip means you are guaranteed not only a good cocktail, but some intellectual stimulation as well. He's even planning lectures on topics like classic cocktails and scheduled regular wine tastings on Monday nights at 6 p.m. (Calendar of events available at the Fairview Inn.)

While visiting the Library has become a bit of a Monday night tradition, a girl can't live on booze alone. Thanks to Brooks, I recently discovered another literarily minded way to get some learning. The Eudora Welty Visiting Writer Series at Millsaps brings noted authors to campus to give talks that are free and open to the public. Each event features a guest writer followed by a reading and a question-and-answer session. Most recently, Ann Patchett's lecture about why she wanted to become a writer, the process of writing, and the surprises she's encountered in her career left me feeling creative, inspired and eager to attend the next lecture. (For more information, contact Dr. Steve Kistulentz, 601-974-1305, writers@millsaps.edu.)

Given that Jackson is a college town and our state's capital, full of museums and culture, we have plenty of opportunities to keep learning. Next on my list is an upcoming event featuring free lectures at Jackson State University's Margaret Walker Alexander Center called "Necessary Tension: An Honest Conversation on Race, Art and Identity," with Kiese Laymon (jsums.edu/margaretwalkeralexander).

Lifelong learning: In this college town, why not embark on some yourself?

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