Late every Thursday afternoon, students meet with Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway to discuss small problems.
Ending world poverty. Harnessing the rising level of pollution. Ensuring human rights for all.
You know, basic, minor issues.
The 14 students are part of a class in the Chancellor's Learning Community: The End of Global Poverty. The upper-level students in the university's Honors Program meet at the chancellor's residence and are enrolled in two other courses on the same topic. Hemenway elected to have students read Jeffrey Sachs' "The End of Poverty" in his seminar course.
"I love the audacity of the book," Hemenway said. "That we can end poverty by the second decade of the century. That's something students can really identify with."
Students munch on pretzels and sip sodas - provided by the chancellor - as they sit on antique-style furniture.
But don't get the wrong idea. They're not taking this class lightly.
"Look at this class. Anyone at KU would be fortunate to have a class with these students," Hemenway said. "I'm very impressed with the students and what these (learning communities) offer them."
Hemenway teaches a class every year, usually in the fall. Historically, it's been an early-morning English class, but this year he decided to teach a late-afternoon course in a learning community.
"We have to be involved with the educational effort," he said. "Teaching is an important aspect of what we do."
The learning community program is a grouping of similar classes that can give students a more complete look at one specific topic.
In the case of Hemenway, he's focusing on poverty, particularly as it relates to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Hemenway wrote on that subject in an address he included in the university's 2006 annual report.
"I pledge that KU will do its part to prepare its graduates to contribute toward meeting the millennium goals, to being proud Jayhawks around the world working to eliminate poverty and to promote economic justice," he wrote. "They know their KU degree is a passport to a better world, a powerful force for good in a world full of anger, violence and death."
The millennium goals include eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, gender equality, maternal health, lower child mortality, elimination of certain diseases, environmental sustainability and global development.
On a recent Thursday, students spent a great deal of time discussing whether sweat shops in poorer countries were any worse than conditions endured by American and European workers during the Industrial Revolution.
Jessica Bergman, a senior from Louisburg, enrolled in the chancellor's class after an internship with the United Nations.
"My mentor assigned this book to read," she said. "I also read the U.N. development goals. Before you can address the individual problem with poverty, you have to address the big picture. These goals address everything I have a problem with in the world."
Bergman says learning from the chancellor has been relatively easy because he's been extremely friendly.
"But the free food and drinks help," she joked.
Ryan Good, the chancellor's learning-community peer leader, acts as a bit of a teaching assistant for the chancellor and helps steer discussions. Good said it was a conscious decision to have the class meet at the chancellor's house, instead of a traditional classroom.
"I think students have taken to it really well," the Lawrence graduate student said. "There was some hesitance at first, but there's incredible openness among the students now."