Mud U of Cambridge, New York exists to help our community members make it through the muddiest, miserable-est days of winter, while engaging in a new skill, learning about a new topic, or taking part in a community conversation. Mud U offers free classes BY the community, FOR the community on a wide variety of topics.
What's New for 2024?
More classes, more dates, more venues! Mud U 2023 was a great success, and as a result we are adding more classes this year. We are also adding a whole week of programming, and will be adding venues around the community.
Mud U 2024 will take place from February 18, 2024-March 11, 2024. During this time, free classes, meet-ups, and community discussions will be offered on a wide range of topics at different locations throughout the village of Cambridge and its environs, followed by a community-wide "graduation" party.
Take a free class, sign up for a meet-up, or join a discussion
Course registration will open on January 20, 2024; click here to view course descriptions.
Propose a class, meet-up, or discussion
Have a passion you would like to share with the community? Click here for more information and to submit your course proposal. Open call for proposals will occur November 1, 2023 - December 15, 2023.
Mud U needs volunteers! Set up/break down classrooms, help organize graduation, or just spread the word! Click here to volunteer.
Q: How do I sign up to teach or offer a session?
A: Watch this site or check in here. We start accepting course, meet-up, and discussion proposals around November 1st each year. We have a short form for you to fill out with your idea and some basic information. Our organizing team reviews proposals and responds to everyone by the end of December.
Q: Who can teach a course?
A: Anyone with a skill to share, the time to teach, and a connection to Cambridge, NY. You do not need to be a Cambridge resident – if you work in Cambridge, own a business in Cambridge, have a second cousin from Cambridge, or just love Mud U, we invite you to teach. You do not need a college degree or years of experience. Teens and kids are welcome to teach courses as well as adults, and we can help find mentors to help kids develop strong courses.
Q: Who can take a class?
A: Absolutely anyone! You don't have to be from Cambridge; all are welcome! Once class registration opens on January 20, 2024, anyone can sign up. Some of our classes do have a minimum age to participate, as requested by the teachers. And many of our classes have a maximum number of registrants due to size limitations of the host space. Therefore, if you can no longer attend a class, it is VERY IMPORTANT to cancel your registration using Eventbrite.
Q: What happens if I can no longer attend a class that I registered for?
If you can no longer attend a class that you signed up for, it is very important to cancel your registration using Eventbrite. We often have waiting lists for classes. When you sign up but then don't attend a class, you are depriving someone else of the opportunity.
Q: What types of courses or activities can I propose?
A: We now offer three types of sessions: courses, meet-ups, and discussions.
Courses can range from hands-on demonstrations to lectures to interactive sessions. “Professors” should have enough experience with the topic to be able to teach it.
Meet-ups are a chance to meet up with people who share an interest. You don’t need to have any expertise or plan a class, but you should plan how to run the session well.
Discussions are informal (but facilitated) small group conversations on any topic you like. You don’t need to be an expert on the topic, but it is helpful to have experience facilitating group discussions.
Q: Where are courses held?
A: At Mud U, the community is the campus. You can offer to teach or hold a meet-up or discussion at your home or business, or we can match you with a community space. Most people request that we match them to a space, and we’re lucky to have many community partners offering their spaces for the month. Our preference is to use public, accessible places. Community spaces that we often use include:
- Battenkill Kitchen (at the Historic Salem Courthouse)
Cambridge Public Library
Hubbard Hall Center for the Arts (available spaces include a meeting room that holds 20 people, a dance studio, and the Freight Depot with seating for 60, projector, and screen)
Private businesses & studios throughout the community
Q: What topics are most popular?
A: There’s quite a range. Certain topics tend to be very popular… craft courses, exercise or sports, cooking and other creative topics always fill up fast. You may get fewer students for a specialized topic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth offering. Many organizations use Mud U as a way to educate community members, recruit volunteers or advance their missions.
Some requests we've received for 2024 include:
computers/iPhones for seniors
what is/how do I TikTok
pros and cons of AI (artificial intelligence)
online safety for seniors/avoiding scams
Adulting 101 (changing a tire, cooking on a budget)
more cooking class offerings, etc.
Q: When can I schedule a course? How long should it be?
A: All courses will be held between February 18, 2024 and March 11, 2024, with snow days set aside for March 12-March 18, 2024, and classes will be limited to one session each. (We encourage you to self-organize more sessions on your own, if you like.) We will be limiting course times to weekday evenings and weekends, which are the most popular times. Most classes work best at 60-90 minutes, but there are exceptions. We can help you determine the best length. While most classes are held in person, Zoom is an option we can discuss.
Q: What can I teach? Can I teach more than one course?
A: Professors can teach whatever they know and are passionate about. If you’re a small business, think about teaching a course that showcases your business offerings – but make sure to offer lots of content and not just a long infomercial. If you have a hobby or a profession and want to share your expertise, teach a course on those skills. Even if you just have average skills in using your computer or mobile phone, or planting a garden, chances are someone would like to learn about it.
We also now offer a “meet-up” option – you can host an informal gathering on a topic even if you don’t feel you can teach a class on it.
If you need ideas, check out our past course listings to see what’s been offered.
Q: Is there audio/visual equipment available?
Yes, we have one venue that seats 60 that has a projector and screen available. You must provide your own laptop however.
Q: How much does this gig pay?
A: If you’re in this for the money, look elsewhere. Mud U does not pay its "professors" or organizers, and we do not charge students a penny to learn. If you offer to teach a course, you’ll be volunteering your time. If you have a business, this is a great way to introduce more people to your services or get people to your shop. We do have limited funding available to cover essential materials for courses (like books, paint or brushes, or printing). You can request funding when you propose a session.
Q: Do you ever cancel classes?
A: Every once in a while, a class doesn't receive registrations, in which case, we do cancel. Obviously we would be communicating with the teacher if this were to happen. Snow and ice storms happen too, so we have snow dates reserved March 12 - March 18 just in case.
Q: Do you accept all course proposals? How do you decide? When will we hear from you?
A: We accept as many proposals as we can, but we do need to limit the total number of classes due to space, time and volunteer capacity. We may need to turn down some proposals, but we never know until we see how many come in. Our organizing team reviews proposals in the week after the deadline and responds right away.
When reviewing proposals and making decisions, we consider a few things:
Is it safe? Is it inclusive? It’s important that Mud Uclasses are safe, respectful and inclusive experiences for professors, students, and volunteers — physically and emotionally. We know there’s some amount of risk involved in many activities (such as sports, crafts, or cooking). That’s ok, but want to hear that professors have a plan for managing that risk, keeping people safe, and preventing damage to facilities. We do not allow classes that discriminate in any way on the basis of race, religion, gender, country of origin, disability, language, or sexuality.
Is it clear? Is it practical? We’re all about wild and crazy ideas and we welcome niche topics. But we do make sure proposals are clear and we know what the session will do or cover. We are also happy to consider unusual formats or concepts for meet-ups or classes, but need to make sure the idea will work with the Mud U format and our (limited) resources.
Is it legal? Is it appropriate? We’re not looking to censor anyone, and it’s ok for sessions to address adult themes or sensitive topics. But this is a family- and community-oriented program, so please keep it legal and keep our diverse audience in mind.
Is it local? Is it needed? If we have to make hard choices due to space and numbers, we consider a few other factors. While we welcome professors from anywhere in the world, we will prioritize classes led by local professors or that spotlight Cambridge experiences and assets over those from afar. We consider the balance of classes each year; if we have four classes proposed on the same topic, we may turn down one or two or ask professors to consider teaming up. And we consider local needs and requests, prioritizing classes on topics that will benefit the community or address a need we’ve heard.
Q: I’ve never taught a class before. Can you help?
A: Yes! We have a number of ways to help. If you want to teach, please submit an idea and we’ll help you as much as we can.
We often offer advice to prospective teachers on what has worked for classes in the past.
Check out this resource for a program in Bethel, VT that is similar to Mud U: Tips for Teachers and download a short professor’s manual.