Ann Simanis

LLI Spotlight: Julie Martenson, Ph.D., OLLI Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of Texas at Austin

By Peter Spiers

Julie Martenson joined OLLI at The University of Texas in 2015. The OLLI @ UT has 1,914 total members and uniquely among OLLIs and LLIs has five separate and distinct programs —each with its own membership — under the larger OLLI umbrella.
What do you consider your top 3-5 responsibilities at OLLI? The advantage of our decentralized program structure is that our members can find more intimate social engagement and make strong friendships in a small group that would be more difficult if we were one large program with nearly 2,000 members. Each of our five programs not only has its own membership but also its own personality and culture, and members are so fiercely loyal to their program that there’s even a little competition between them. From an administrative point of view it’s unwieldy, and so far I’ve been focusing on working to introduce more universal processes that go beyond just encouraging each program to follow a set of best practices. We’ve pulled together volunteer leadership from each program to draft a “foundation document” containing rules for the governance and use of each program’s Excellence Fund — member-raised funds for expenses not covered by regular operational funds like grants awarded to university departments or buying wine for guests at social events. That document has been completed and submitted to the membership for comment.

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LLI Spotlight: Heather Jasmin, Program Coordinator, Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire

By Peter Spiers

The Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) was founded in 1994 at Keene State College in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire. (Keene State was one of the five college campuses in New Hampshire that hosted Elderhostel programs during its founding summer in 1975.) Unlike many LLIs, CALL is administered and run by the college from its Office of Continuing Education rather than by a cadre of volunteer members. Heather Jasmin has served as CALL’s program coordinator for 11 years and has additional responsibilities for children’s programming, summer conferencing, and assists with teacher professional development programming. About half of CALL’s 450 members were drawn to southwest New Hampshire in retirement, in part because of the state’s favorable tax environment for retirees, while other members are longtime residents. With the exception of a small satellite location offering Thursday programs in a neighboring town, all programs are offered on Fridays, on campus.

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LLI Spotlight: Susan Hoffman, Director, OLLI, University of California, Berkeley 

By Peter Spiers

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, was founded twice. Funded initially by the Osher Foundation in 2003, the OLLI’s first life lasted until 2005, when the University suspended operations to consider more thoroughly which lifelong learning model was best aligned with university objectives and principles, and how it could take a leadership role in lifelong learning. The two-year hiatus involved deliberations at the highest levels of university leadership and, as a result of this process, when relaunched in 2007 the OLLI had both a solid plan and the emotional investment of the University Academic Senate, the body that represents faculty in University governance. Membership grew to 600 in the first year of renewed operations, and has since grown to 2,000. Susan Hoffman has been OLLI at Berkeley’s director since 2007.

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LLI Spotlight: Cate O’Hara, Program Director, OLLI, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

By Peter Spiers

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Cincinnati was founded in 1990, offering fewer than 20 courses to 130 founding members that year; twenty-five years later, 1,700 learners chose from 400 courses. The OLLI is just one of the ways host University of Cincinnati OLLI supports community learning. The OLLI’s sister organization—Communiversity—offers learning programs to Cincinnatians of all ages, with an abundance of vocational programs in test preparation, job skills, and certificate programs for professional development, as well as a wide range of courses for hobbyists and more. Cate O’Hara has served as the OLLI’s Program Director since January, 2013. 

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LLI Spotlight: Jeff Shinaman, Executive Director, Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL), SUNY Empire State College

By Peter Spiers

The Academy for Lifelong Learning at SUNY Empire State College was founded by volunteers in 1992 and has since grown to 375 members, with a 40% spike in membership in the last year alone. Jeff Shinaman, ALL’s Executive Director, attributes the recent growth to a change in membership dues and the class fee structure. Formerly a flat annual fee of $250 for all the courses you wanted at no extra charge, the model now combines $50 annual membership dues with a per-semester fee of $50 for the first course and $25 for each additional course. Each spring and fall eight-week term features about 30 classes (or “study groups” as they’re called at this lifelong learning institute) led by volunteer facilitators who are a mix of ALL members and local community representatives. In addition to multi-week classes, ALL offers several one-time lectures each semester, free to members and their guests, featuring speakers such as Memory Athlete Brad Zupp. ALL is located in Saratoga Springs, NY, home to the famous Saratoga Race Course and close to prime vacation destinations Lake George and Adirondack Park. Saratoga Springs has become a retirement destination with a growing 60+ population.

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LLI Spotlight: Julie Vidotto, Director, OLLI at Clemson University, Clemson, SC

By Peter Spiers

Founded in 2002, the OLLI at Clemson University serves more than 1,000 older adults in the Upstate region of South Carolina, a popular retirement destination for both Clemson alumni and others drawn to the low taxes, mild climate, natural beauty and thousands of miles of lakeshore in this corner of the state.  Julie Vidotto has been the OLLI at Clemson Director since early in 2014.

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LLI Spotlight: Liz Tiley, Manager, Five College Learning in Retirement

By Peter Spiers 

Five College Learning in Retirement was formed in 1988 and is sponsored by Five Colleges, Inc., a consortium of four colleges and one university in Western Massachusetts—Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Liz Tiley as been the organization’s Manager since 2013.

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