The idea for One Day University (ODU) — a Westchester-founded adult-education program that offers one-day lectures from popular academics at US colleges — was conceived and tested over 10 years ago, when Westchester native Steven Schragis dropped off his daughter at college. The professors were giving talks on their course material, says Schragis, making the parents wish they were the ones going to college. Schragis ran with the idea: Today ODU offers live events, a video library, and a podcast, all featuring thought-provoking talks from top academics.
Following a 2008 pilot at Rye Brook’s Doral Arrowwood with five Ivy League professors and a single ad in the New York Times, ODU has added offices in Manhattan and elsewhere, surpassing $6 million in revenue from $300,000 just five years ago. Average attendance is about 700 per class.
The company’s exponential growth is directly related to their newspaper-partnership business model, in which the publisher assists with advertising, promotion, host lecturing, and course review. The successful formula has resulted in 62 national markets for ODU today and partnerships with such prestigious newspapers as the Boston Globe, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Charlotte Observer, and Arizona Republic, among others.
ODU seeks out professors from schools across the US, based on their ability to engage a class. “Sometimes they’re tenured heads of departments; sometimes they’re Pulitzer Prize winners; sometimes they’re in their second or third year teaching and working on an advanced degree,” says Schragis. “If the students say, ‘This is a great professor,’ and [that educator has] won many teaching awards, we want them.”
Schragis adds that One Day University is basically an entertainment company, and with programs that cost under $200 and an enrollee return rate of 70%, it seems Schragis’ “edutainment” marketing strategy has found its niche.