Claire McGurn
LLI Spotlight:  Karen Rice, Director, Shepherd University Lifelong Learning Program, Shepherdstown, W.Va.

By Peter Spiers

The Shepherd University Lifelong Learning Program was conceived in 2009 when members of a group called Shepherdstown Area Independent Living approached university officials about forming a lifelong learning program similar to those at other colleges and universities in North America.  The then-university president, who had come from a university with a lifelong learning program, strongly supported the idea and put together an advisory committee of staff, faculty, and people from the community to explore the idea.  The committee discovered strong interest in the community, and the first programs were offered in the fall term of 2011.  Karen Rice, a graduate business student at Shepherd and an intern in the university’s advancement office at the time, was offered a part-time job directing the lifelong learning program and a year later hired full-time to also direct Shepherd’s continuing education program.

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 LLI Spotlight:  Avi Bernstein, Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI) at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. 

By Peter Spiers

BOLLI at Brandeis University was founded in 2000 by Dr. Bernard Reisman, then a professor emeritus at Brandeis, as the Brandeis Adult Learning Institute.  Conceived from the beginning as “a small liberal arts college within a research university,” the Institute grew quickly and applied for and received an Osher endowment grant in 2006.  BOLLI is one of four programs that make up Brandeis’s Raab School of Continuing Studies, which also offers online Master’s Degree, Summer School, and Continuing Studies programs to non-traditional students.  Membership fluctuates seasonally between 500 and 600, and members choose from five membership levels, ranging in cost from $675 for the “Annual Comprehensive” plan to $265 for the “Snowbird” plan.  All members receive free parking, access to a distinguished lunch and learn speakers series, special interest groups, an exercise class, and discounted tickets to Brandeis faculty led intensive seminars.  BOLLI is managed by a full-time staff of three—a director, an assistant director, and a program coordinator—and governed informally by an Advisory Council comprised of standing committee chairs and member liaisons.  About a quarter of members have an affiliation with Brandeis, as alumni, retired faculty or staff, or the parent or grandparent of a current Brandeis student.  Avi Bernstein, in his sixth year as Director, says that during his tenure he’s watched the organization “explode in terms of diversity,” an accomplishment he’s very proud of.

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LLI Spotlight:  Marilyn Schorin, President, Veritas Society, Bellarmine University, Louisville, Ky.

By Peter Spiers

The Veritas Society at Bellarmine University was founded in 1995 by a group of Bellarmine alumni who wanted to bring the lifelong learning experience into their community.  They approached the university about the idea and found a receptive ear — Bellarmine strongly supported continuing education for people 55 and older.  Today Veritas has 400 members and reaches well beyond Bellarmine into the broader Louisville community and is non-denominational despite the university’s status as a Catholic institution.  Members pay dues of $40 per six-week semester ($20 for the shorter summer term) and $10 for each class they take.  Privileges of membership include on-campus parking, access to the library and the gym, and a weekly lunch and learn program featuring speakers from Louisville’s civic as well as academic communities.  Marilyn Schorin works as a corporate consultant and her role as president is a volunteer one, supported by two half-time administrative staff in the Bellarmine School of Continuing and Professional Studies.  Oversight at Veritas is provided by a Board of Directors with a president, vice president, secretary and representatives from standing committees that include Curriculum, Field Trips, Special Events, Volunteers, Lunch and Learn, Finance and Newsletter.

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LLI Spotlight: Jerilyn Logue, Program Manager, OLLI at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

By Peter Spiers

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LLI Spotlight:  Rosemary Reinhardt, Executive Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho

By Peter Spiers

Background:  The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Boise State University was founded 15 years ago by a small group of curious intellectuals committed to establishing a learning organization like those they’d seen at their alma maters back East and elsewhere.  The organization, originally called the Renaissance Institute, began with the support of then dean of the Division of Extended Studies Joyce Harvey Morgan. Classes were initially held in living rooms, theaters and anywhere else space could be found until dedicated space on campus could be arranged. In 2006 the Institute received its first grant from the Osher Foundation and became an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  Since then it has received two $1 million endowments that have been instrumental in its growth. The OLLI is now home to over 1,400 members, drawn from retired university faculty and staff, alumni, longtime community residents, and retirees drawn to Boise’s growing stature as a desirable retirement destination.  Volunteers play a big part in the organization, providing council to the executive director through a 15-member advisory board, and serving on four subject-specific curriculum committees and other committees.  Members pay $70 for a full-year or $35 for a half-year membership which includes attendance at all lectures for no additional cost, a parking pass, and attendance at two seasonal events, but does not include short courses or special trips, for which varying fees apply.  Executive Director Rosemary Reinhardt directs an office that includes three other paid staff—a coordinator and an administrative assistant—and a part-time student office assistant.

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 LLI Spotlight:  Katie Compton, Director, Lifelong Learning Institute, Washington University in St. Louis

By Peter Spiers

The Lifelong Learning Institute at Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1995 by a remarkable and dedicated group inspired by the LLI at Northwestern University and dedicated to the idea of peer learning.  With the strong backing of Mark Wrighton, the newly-appointed Washington University chancellor, the program began with three classes and about 20 participants and within five years, according to Director Katie Compton, was “cooking with gas.”  In 2002 the university granted the LLI dedicated classroom space in a campus building with adjacent covered parking, another spur to growth.  Today the LLI boasts 1,400 members, including 900 active in 2016-17.  Some members choose to pay an annual membership fee of $665, entitling them to enroll in three classes every semester, while others pay “a la carte.”  (More limited membership options are also available.)  The LLI’s calendar includes eight-week semesters in the fall, winter and spring, and a four-week summer semester; all classes have an academic focus and the majority of classes adhere to the founders’ vision of peer learning.  Under the wing of the university’s professional and continuing education division, the LLI is managed by Compton with the support of volunteers organized into an executive committee and other functional committees.  Perhaps the busiest group is the curriculum committee, comprising chairs of nine subject-specific subcommittees, which is constantly working to create new courses and mentor new facilitators.

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LLI Spotlight:  Sarah Anderson, Director, OLLI at Penn State, University Park

By Peter Spiers

The Community Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) at The Pennsylvania State University was founded in 1996 after the University’s College of Health and Human Development received a small grant to benefit the education of older people in the community. The college’s dean asked staff members to study ways the grantor’s purpose might be implemented, and they learned about the Lifelong Learning Institute movement. Coincidentally, the director of Continuing Education was exploring the potential for bringing a Lifelong Learning Institute to Penn State, and out of these parallel efforts a task force came together that included local retirees with university connections.

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