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SUU’s most popular community education class, Southern Utah Chef, lets participants learn favorite recipes from award-winning chefs. Chef Gerardo Reyes, from Chef Alfredo’s Ristorante Italiano tells a joke for the crowd.

Whether it be classes in social dancing, Dutch oven cooking, hiking, or cake decorating, we are never too young or old to learn. Inspired by that, Southern Utah University (SUU) has several new programs designed for those who love to learn something new.

SUU’s Office of Community and Academic Enrichment launched in 2017 under the direction of Melynda Thorpe to revitalize SUU’s Community Education program that had been dormant for several years. SUU wanted to engage residents to take social classes that were not only affordable, but fun.

“Work hard, have fun, and make a difference in your community — that is my motto,” CAE Director Melynda Thorpe said. “SUU has long relied on the strength and support of its local community. We feel that offering new and interesting non-credit courses for members of the community is an important way to give back.”

Thorpe also leads SUU’s Community on the Go program, a new travel option for those who enjoy exploring the world with meaningful travel. Community on the Go takes the work out of traveling by arranging museum tours, travel, lodging, cultural experiences, and authentic meals, all while touring with SUU academic experts who have previously traveled to host destinations.

Community on the Go travelers Amy Thorpe and Cydnee Lee enjoy a day in London despite the weather.

SUU Director of Ethics and Compliance Ann Marie Allen recently made a Community on the Go journey with her father, former Utah House Representative Kay McIff, to retrace the steps of her grandfather, Eldon McIff, who crossed the English Channel on the beaches of Normandy during WWII. The trip was themed “Operation Overlord: The D-Day Experience.”

From the Churchill War Rooms where WWII missions were planned, to the beaches where Allied troops came by sea, and the shops offering French pastries that cannot be found in the U.S., Allen said the best part of the trip was the quality time spent with her father.

“The staff at Community on the Go did an excellent job planning,” she said. “In terms of travel arrangements, transportation, the sites that were selected — it was so seamless that it allowed us to really enjoy each other’s company without the burden of those logistical details.”

Community on the Go has two more excursions planned for 2018, a trip for theatre lovers to New York City in November, and Christmas in the Alps of Germany and Austria in December.

“We are educators, and our expertise in leading excursions lies in the fact that our trip leaders also direct short-term study-abroad trips for SUU students, and many have completed research in foreign countries,” Thorpe said. “We’re finding that our Community on the Go participants really enjoy our trips because of our educational focus.”

SUU also operates Road Creek Inn in Loa, Utah, a historic hotel that now serves as SUU’s “University of the Parks” Field Station near Capitol Reef. Community members and students alike can book the 15-room hotel for a variety of reasons such as family reunions, student field trips, weddings, and vacations to one of the most scenic and remote parts of southern Utah.

After a four-day hike to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, SUU Community on the Go travelers take a break.

Located near Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Road Creek Inn serves as a gateway to several historic Mormon pioneer towns and buildings, national parks, lakes, Native American ruins, and protected forest lands, and is a great environment to escape to many of Utah’s phenomenal outdoor activities.

Thorpe has also been working with Cedar City officials, the Southern Utah Museum of Art, SUU Alumni and Community Relations, the Historic Downtown Economic committee, and local downtown businesses to bring a music festival to Cedar City, also known as the Festival City. As founder of Georgefest, a once a month block party in downtown St. George, she wants to recreate the tradition Utah pioneers once had of coming downtown for a meal, music, and dancing after a hard day’s work.

The inaugural Cedar Music Fest will take place on September 15, at 50 W. University Boulevard from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and plans to stage as many as four festivals a year are in the works by CMF committee members.

For more information on Southern Utah University’s Community Education and Community on the Go programs, call (435) 865-8031. To book your next retreat at Road Creek Inn, email or call (435) 865-8259. To volunteer, sponsor or enter as a vendor to the inaugural Cedar Music Fest, call (435) 586-7759 or email


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