Newswise — Two St. Mary’s College of Maryland professors, Jennifer Cognard-Black (English) and Carrie Patterson (art) had courses released today through The Great Courses program.

The Great Courses are a series of educational classes delivered in video and audio formats offered to “surround the world’s greatest teachers with a team of experts who collaborate on crafting a customized and entertaining educational journey.”

The courses are available on DVD, streaming, or video download at

According to information provided by The Great Courses, this is the first time two professors from the same college or university have had courses released through the program at the same time. 

Cognard-Black’s “Great American Short Stories: A Guide for Writers and Readers” considers the history, the craft, and the art of this distinctive national genre for book lovers and writers alike.

Cognard-Black’s course traces the American short story from early examples of supernatural, mythic, and whimsical work by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe to more realistic and experimental stories by modern masters Ernest Hemingway, Donald Barthelme, Jhumpa Lahiri, ZZ Packer, and others. 

"Short stories distill our lives into powerful pieces of literature that allow us to re-experience what it means to be human, in all of its complexity, difficulty, and miracle,” Cognard-Black said.

“This particular lecture series on Great American Short Stories introduces readers to new voices — as well as discussing oldies but goodies — and it teaches writers all about what Stephen King calls the ‘toolbox’ of good storytelling.” 

In addition to traditional pieces, the course also covers postmodern and graphic works.  

Patterson’s course, “Visual Literacy Skills: How to See,” takes a deep look at the principles and skills of visual literacy, and how these visual skills directly inform one's experience. The course teaches the vocabulary of art — line, shape, space, texture, color, and more — as well as how to understand and use the principles of visual design; how visual language operates in art, design, and media; and how to communicate visually. Patterson also discusses how to cultivate powers of deep observation and alternative ways of seeing, how to generate original thought, and how to become a creator of one’s own art or design, in exploring the ways we benefit.

Patterson said the most important job she has as a professor is to “draw attention to the power of the visual and its impact on our lives.”

This is Patterson’s first course released through Great Courses.

“To teach art at St. Mary's College of Maryland has been an honor and every year I look forward to meeting new students. Creating this course with The Teaching Company has made it possible for me to reach more life long learners, and draw even more attention to how everyday objects and visual phenomena can impact our daily lives,” she said. 

Cognard-Black is making a second appearance with The Great Courses and said she is proud to represent St. Mary’s College to a “wide and diverse audience of lifelong learners.”

“Learning isn't limited to brick-and-mortar schools, nor does it stop once someone's done with college. What I appreciate about The Great Courses is that they take seriously what it means to learn from engaging and qualified experts in the field, regardless of subject. Their goal is teaching excellence, which translates into potent and compelling lectures on an array of topics,” she said. 

Her first lecture series, “Becoming a Great Essayist,” was released in 2016. 

In addition to Cognard-Black and Patterson’s courses, David Kung, professor of mathematics, has also represented the National Public Honors College through The Great Courses program, with two courses, “How Music and Mathematics Relate,” released in 2013, and “Mind-Bending Math: Riddles and Paradoxes,” released in 2015. 

St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the National Public Honors College, is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education through 2024-2025. St. Mary’s College is ranked one of the best public liberal arts schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Approximately 1,600 students attend the college, nestled on the St. Mary’s River in Southern Maryland. Learn more.   

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