Category Archives: Uncategorized

April 15 to 19 – Office closed

Courses, clubs and events continue as scheduled. Our office is closed during the Arlington Public Schools’ spring break, April 15 to 19. Staff will return on Monday, April 22.

Community Advisory Council Profile: Jay Fisette

Our Community Advisory Council, established in 2006, serves as a sounding board and network of support for Encore Learning’s Board of Directors. The Council, comprised of community leaders and representatives from our affiliates, advises the organization on topics which range from acquisition of classroom and office space, to membership levels and diversity, to recruitment of instructors and additional affiliations. The broad, deep and diverse experience they bring to the discussion is invaluable.

We continue our series on current Council members with this interview of Jay Fisette, Managing Partner, DMV Strategic Partners, LLC. Jay has served on Encore Learning’s Community Advisory Council since 2013 and has been frequently in the public eye since the early 90’s.

Jay, I love hearing arrival stories. Tell me yours.

Between college at Bucknell University and grad school at University of Pittsburgh, I spent a year in California and a year in Europe. Lots of self-discovery, exploring different cultures, and writing journals. I arrived in Arlington immediately after finishing my graduate degree in public and international affairs in 1983. I was aiming for Washington, DC (Adams Morgan to be specific), yet landed in Arlington.

Lucky us! We are glad for that little mishap. A quick review of your official resume includes many honors gathered along the way. Tell me about your career.

I have had three significant “careers” prior to starting DMV Strategic Advisors.  First, I worked in the federal government as an investigator/auditor with the Government Accountability Office and as a consultant on Sen. Kennedy’s Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Second, I worked in the non-profit sector as the Director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia. And the third and longest tenure was as an elected member of the Arlington County Board, where I served as Chair or Vice-Chair for 10 of my 20 years and was very active in regional and statewide work as well.

That is how you ended up splashed across the regional newspapers. You were very active on state and regional boards and commissions as well. How does your present position follow from this?

 My new firm is an effort to help businesses, non-profits and governments to connect across borders and sectors to further their goals as long as they are aligned with the regional plans and goals. I am especially interested in advancing the region’s efforts to address climate change and protect the environment.

Sounds familiar and very timely. Speaking of timely, haven’t you been busy with Encore Learning on this front?

After graduating from Al Gore’s Climate Reality training, I did a presentation on Climate Change for Encore Learning last fall. And on April 9, I will be doing a presentation of the latest Gore slides as well as an update of Arlington’s energy plans at the GMU/Arlington Campus auditorium.

We love it when people share their knowledge with the community. When did you first hear about Encore Learning?

I think it was John McCracken – one of Arlington’s finest – who first introduced me to his newest passion at that time, the Arlington Learning in Retirement Institute (rebranded as Encore Learning in 2013). I happily agreed to serve on the Community Advisory Council and have never left. Lifelong learning is healthy for an individual and for a community. Encore Learning seems to be a vintage Arlington creation. It has been created by engaged citizens, it is funded and run by engaged citizens, and our smart, talented and engaged citizens share their skills and knowledge by serving as instructors. I admire the organizational efficiency coupled with programming quality.

And we admire you in return for lending us your expertise in the conference room and lecture hall.

I have attempted to provide some strategic advice to Encore Learning leaders over the years – and can continue to do that. I have also been tapped to facilitate programs and give guest lectures.

Yes! You served as moderator last May for our panel discussing “The Changing Face of Arlington” with Katie Cristol, County Board Chair; Adrian Stanton, Vice President for marketing, VA Hospital center; and Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber. Let’s change gears: what do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working hard at your job? Where would we find you on the weekend or on vacation?

My husband Bob and I have been together for 36 years (though only legally married for 6!).  We have always loved to travel and continue to find new places in the world to explore. Having lived in Paris in the early 1980’s, it remains my favorite city. I am also a health nut, so you’ll find me at the gym or in the pool, and often bicycling to get around town. We love spending time with our friends and family, and I am especially invested in yard and garden work. As with my dad, I like having some dirt under my fingernails! At night, we often watch Netflix or a favorite TV show like Blue Bloods or Law and Order. And we do go to quite a few shows – catching almost everything at Signature Theatre.

And then there’s $64,000 question as we wrap up: which of our course categories will you choose when you start taking courses at Encore Learning?

There are interesting topics in ALL of these areas!  As I get older, my interest in history, culture and the arts seems to grow.  Though I admit that I still devour the Washington Post, so add in public policy and politics.

The same dilemma all our members face. My solution? Take them all.

— Marjorie Varner

All photos courtesy Jay Fisette.

Instructor Profile: Dr. James Giordano

Jim feels honored to have been teaching in Encore Learning’s academic program for the past decade. A full professor in the Departments of Neurology and Biochemistry, and Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at Georgetown University since 2005, he calls Encore Learning members “some of the best [students] I have; they bring career and life experiences and perspectives to the class conversations,” and through their questions and insights are “at the same time engaged and engaging, and interested and interesting.” It’s in this spirit that Jim embraces and enjoys his work at Encore Learning: “Of course, I’m here to teach; but I learn much from my students. For me, every class is a reciprocal exchange of experience and wisdom, with a fair bit of humor, and a sheer joy.” 

CHANTILLY, VA – JULY 22 James Giordano, a Georgetown professor. (Photo by Greg Kahn/GRAIN for The Washington Post)

A former Fulbright Professor of Neuroscience and Neuroethics at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Jim currently is Distinguished Visiting Professor of Brain Science, Health Promotions, and Ethics at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, and was awarded the University Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement and Service in December 2018. The author of seven books in print (with two more forthcoming), fifteen governmental whitepapers, and more than 290 published articles, much of his work has focused upon the use and misuse of brain science in warfare, intelligence and global security operations. He is now Senior Fellow for Biowarfare and Biosecurity of the Donovan Group of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and through 2016 was Senior Science Advisory Fellow to the Joint Staff of the Pentagon. Jim has served as an appointed member of the Neuroethics, Legal and Social Issues Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and was Senior Research Fellow and Task Leader of the EU-Human Brain Project’s Sub-Project on Dual-Use Brain Science.  

Admitting that work is almost always on his mind in one way or another, he notes that piloting airplanes – a skill that he honed while flying for the US Navy and Marine Corps – is the one hobby that demands his concentration solely on the task at hand. But the logistics of work, international travel, and the time needed to maintain both his airplane (a restored 1948 L-17B warplane) and his piloting skills forced him to sell his plane. “The precision skills get rusty pretty fast, although the basics never really go away.” He laments: “But neither does the absolute joy of flying a plane; I miss it almost every day.” 

Photo courtesy Dr. James Giordano.

A lifelong athlete, the one thing he will not abandon is his commitment to exercise. A high school and collegiate wrestler, Jim earned a black belt in judo by the time he was eighteen, competed on the varsity team of St. Peter’s College, and instructed the college judo club as well as judo classes at the local YMCA in his native New York City. A former lifeguard, he was also a competitive swimmer and swimming instructor. “I’ve always felt – and received great humility, benefit and reward from the fact – that learning and teaching are mutual and complementary experiences.” He is fond of the adage that ‘minds are not vessels merely to be filled, but rather are muscles to be exercised.’  And, Jim knows a bit about exercise: a former nationally ranked power-lifter and bodybuilder, he still lifts weights 4-5 times a week, and is currently training for a competitive weight lifting tournament this summer. He notes: “After all, whether it’s knowledge, a language, flying, a martial art, or physical conditioning – if you don’t use it, chances are you’re going to lose it.”

Jim believes that “in many ways, Encore Learning is like music for the mind: it lets you learn new verses to melodies that are familiar, and provides opportunities for acquiring new tunes at whatever rhythm one desires.” And speaking of music, you might be surprised to learn that this instructor is also a blues and jazz pianist who “…used to earn a quick buck or two playing piano in jazz bars.”  When asked about that experience, he simply smiled and said: “Same tune, different beat: whether it’s playing with some great musicians, training on the judo mat, or being in the lecture hall, it’s all about what you learn and what you teach, and how you give back what you’ve been lucky enough to get.” Encore Learning members are lucky indeed.

March 1, 2019 – Office Closed

Arlington Public Schools are closed so our office is closed today.

Instructor Profile: David Rehr

He remembers back in 1986, “I told my mother I was going to be the Chief House lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. She asked me, ‘Have you thought about law school? At least I could tell the neighbors what you do.’”

Photo courtesy David Rehr.

Law school had been a possibility when David went to St. John’s University in Minnesota in 1977. His mother worked for an attorney who had graduated from the university in the 1930s. David earned a B.S. in Business Administration in 1981, but his volunteer work with Vin Weber’s successful congressional campaign sent him to Washington. There David worked with the House Small Business Committee where he was introduced to lobbying. His next job took him from being lobbied in the House to lobbying the House and the dismay of his mother.

Of course, David saw lobbying differently. He said, “The Federation worked for small business people. It was created to protect and advance their ability to succeed.”

It was also the start of a career in lobbying. “Each job taught me something different about the lobbying tool,” he said. “I learned the importance of numbers working with independent businesses. There were thousands of members in every congressional district.”

This semester, David is teaching a class on lobbying for Encore Learning. He prefers the term “advocacy,” knowing that the word “lobbying” sometimes prompts a negative reaction.

His next lobbying job in 1992 was with the National Beer Wholesalers Association who had only about 15 to 20 members in every congressional district. “They were a smaller group, but they were involved in politics and campaigns,” he said. “They knew the importance of personal connections.”

In 2005, he became President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, the same year Congress declared that analog television would be replaced by digital television in 2009. David wrote a book, From Analog to Digital Television about the experience.

He wrote, “This is a story about the largest marketing campaign in the history of television. It did not focus on a product or service. It did not focus on a company or industry. Instead it was a campaign to educate all Americans about the transition from analog television to digital television.”

That campaign had many parts. For example, two TV-shaped “DTV Trekker” vehicles travelled across the country visiting fairs, parades, museums and malls. A speaker’s bureau of local broadcasters took the digital message to organizations, schools and worship houses.

David’s wife, Ashley, emailed parents of children attending local public schools about the transition. This inspired a “DTV email chain” starting with an email to the association’s 270,000 email addresses asking recipients to forward that email to five to ten of their friends. When David received an email from a friend not in the broadcast business, he knew the chain was working.

It was lobbying that brought David and Ashley together. Ashley had been working for Rep. Cass Ballenger. David went to lobby the congressman for small business. Ballenger wasn’t there, but Ashley was. David remembered, “When I met Ashley, I knew I had to marry her.” So, he lobbied her. “I got friends to take her out to lunch and tell her how nice I was.”

That campaign worked and they did marry, but lobbying almost got David in trouble with Ashley. David was at a photo shoot with Fortune magazine. Ashley was going to a doctor’s appointment before the birth of their first child. The photo shoot ran three hours and when it ended, David realized he had 19 missed calls. He rushed to the hospital only to find that Ashley was waiting for him at home. Everything went well and they went on to have four children.

Meanwhile, David’s career took another turn – this time to teaching. He had stayed in school during his career, earning a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. In 2010, he became an Adjunct Professor in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management teaching advocacy, leadership and enterprise management. In 2014, he became Program Director of their new Master’s program, Advocacy in the Global Environment.

In 2016, he moved to George Mason University where he was the Senior Associate Dean and Professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School. In the fall of 2018, he became a Professor of Public Policy at GMU’s Schar School where he teaches advocacy and lobbying. In January of this year, David launched the Center for Business Civic Engagement ( to foster transparency, accountability, stewardship, and civility. David believes performance metrics used in business should help drive government performance at all level of government.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera (R) and David Rehr (L)
at the Antonin Scalia Law School Dedication.
Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

At GMU, he was introduced to Encore Learning when he met Marjorie Varner, Encore Learning’s Executive Director, at a GMU Arlington Campus meeting. She encouraged him to teach an Encore Learning class.

This semester David is teaching both his youngest and oldest students: Mason undergraduates and Encore Learning members. His course “Lobbying Congress: Drain or Expand “The Swamp”? sold out quickly on the first day of our course registration.

Who does he anticipate will take his class? “I expect people who want to know how to make themselves heard as one person or as part of a coalition,” he said. “Also, someone might want to ask, ‘How can you defend what you do?’ We could have a dialog.” And he can thank his mother for preparing him for that.

written by member Laura Paul

Wed. Feb. 20, 2019 Snow Closure Information

All Arlington Public Schools and offices are closed, so our office will be closed. Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities are also closed, so the Mindfulness Club and Current Issues Discussion Group will not meet. Breakfast Club members should look for an email from Club Coordinator Ron Wise.

Inclement Weather Reminder

Here is a reminder of our weather policy:


  1. If Mason cancels its classes, our classes at their Arlington campus are cancelled. If Mason announces a delayed opening, our classes scheduled to begin after the campus reopens will take place as scheduled. Mason usually treats all its locations as one.
  2. If Arlington Public Schools (APS) cancels classes, our office is closed and our classes at Fairlington and Arlington Mill Community Centers are cancelled. If they announce a delayed opening, our classes scheduled to begin after APS reopens will take place as scheduled.
  3. If Arlington Central Library is closed, any special event scheduled there is cancelled,
  4. Activities such as special events which meet outside of our host institutions and our clubs do not have hard and fast rules. When in doubt, contact the activity coordinator.
Most institutions make their daily closure/delay decision between 5:00 and 6:oo A.M. and post their decision in bold letters on their home page. To learn the most up-to-date info on the host institutions’ decisions regarding delays and closings:


It is always best to use common sense. And keep in mind, if our offices are closed, we won’t be there to take your call or your email. If you have an issue, call our main phone line 703-228-2144 and leave us a message. We will contact you as soon as we can.


Save the Date: Spring Course Preview Sat. Feb 2, 2019


Saturday, February 2, 2019
Doors open at 8:30 a.m.
Program begins at 9:00 a.m.
and ends at Noon

200 S Carlin Springs Rd, Arlington, Virginia 22204

Open to current and prospective members.
Bring friends, relatives and neighbors!
Encore Learning’s instructors give brief
presentations about their academic courses.

Members often tell us that the instructors’ presentations at the
Course Preview influence their registrations.

Get the latest news on our clubs, special events and volunteer
possibilities along with a quick bite and hot drink.

Call the Encore Learning office at 703-228-2144 for specific directions or any questions.

To become a member or to renew membership, we recommend our website, where you can pay securely with your credit card. If you wish to purchase or renew your membership at the course preview, only personal checks can be accepted.

New Tech Hobbyist Club off to a Great Start

Our newest club, Tech Hobbyist, is now meeting weekly on Mondays from 2-4 P.M. at the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center.

The Tech Hobbyist Club and friends in the lab on December 3, 2018.

The Club Coordinator is Steve Shapiro. Club members are often assisted by interns and our sponsor, Jim Egenrieder. So far they have learned how to use Arduino, how to program in Scratch and how to use the 3D printer. Here’s a sample of their handiwork:

Encore Learning Name Plate made by Tech Hobbyist Club using 3D printer.

Newcomers are welcome. If you’d like to join, please send an email request to with your name and contact information. Information about all of our clubs can be found on the Clubs page of this site.



Dr. Chip Beck: Soldier, Sailor, Artist, Spy

As part of our ongoing Encore Learning Presents series, we were proud to welcome Dr. Chip Beck to Arlington’s Central Library. 

Dr. Chip Beck, before his talk in the audtorium of Arlington’s Central Library.

Dr. Beck is a retired Navy Commander and frogman, former CIA and State Department consultant and NCIS Agent, as well as a U.S. Army combat artist and editorial cartoonist. With more than 45 years working on international affairs and direct involvement in many crises around the globe, Dr. Beck shared his insights and behind-the-scenes tales of some of recent history’s most intriguing events.

His free-wheeling talk delved into his many adventures in Asia, Africa, and Central America, including Cambodia and Cuba, during war and peacetime, as well as many amusing interludes in between. Dr. Beck also shared details about his life as a combat artist, including in Desert Storm and as Artist in Residence at Gettysburg National Cemetery.

View Dr. Beck’s work online.

Encore Learning Presents is jointly sponsored by Encore Learning and Arlington Public Library. Check our online calendar for upcoming presentations. Unless otherwise noted, all presentations are open to the public, no registration required.