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Lifelong Learning Program Brings Classroom to the Community

September 7, 2005

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members Betty Bannor and Gil Klapper take part in a spring class called Poetry for Pleasure.

Levy Senior Center members take advantage of an array of classes on topics such as computers, arts and wellness. And now, as a result of a recent agreement with Northwestern, the University's popular lifelong learning program has been added to the center's menu of offerings.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), formerly the Institute for Learning in Retirement, kicked off the fall semester by holding its first study group at the center. "Cuba: Up Close" is a 15-week course that explores the history and culture of Cuba. The study group meets each Thursday and plans to travel in February to the country on a humanitarian mission.

"This partnership is a win-win," said OLLI Director Barbara Reinish. "We gain access to a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility in Evanston with free parking. And the Levy Center gets exposure to more than 300 retired and semi-retired adults who might not otherwise know about the center and its offerings."

OLLI will continue to explore potential relationships with other Evanston institutions, according to Reinish.

Institute members, more than one third of whom reside in Evanston, are expanding their education this fall by taking group courses  through OLLI on Northwestern's Evanston and Chicago campuses or in select off-campus locations.

Fall topics include James Joyce's Ulysses, the philosophy of Eastern religion, film as art, U.S. presidential campaigns, women in literature, reforming the United Nations and innovators who made America.

“‘Curiosity Never Retires’ is our motto,” said Reinish. “Our mission is to create a highly participatory, lifelong-learning community. Our varied study groups appeal to a wide range of inquiring minds. OLLI members study, discuss, argue, challenge and support each other in a very caring manner.”

OLLI is a non-credit, daytime program for mature adults in Northwestern's School of Continuing Studies. Instead of faculty or lecturers, OLLI is a peer-learning, member-driven program. Members pursue their academic goals in seminar-style discussion groups where they explore topics in literature, history, politics, science, philosophy, current affairs and the arts.

Evanston campus group courses are held at the University’s Norris University Center, Annenberg Hall, Ryan Field and Engelhart Hall, as well as off campus at Mather Place at The Georgian, and the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center. Chicago OLLI course members meet at the University’s Wieboldt Hall.

Besides being able to register for up to three groups per semester from more than 70 choices on both of the University’s campuses, or the camaraderie, an Institute membership offers other benefits. Members enjoy borrowing privileges at all University libraries. They can attend OLLI social and cultural events, receive affiliate rates at the University athletic facilities, audit School of Continuing Studies courses at a reduced rate and ride the free campus and inter-campus shuttles. They also have access to computer labs, their computer user group and the OLLI listserv.

For those who create their own literature, poetry and artwork, OLLI publishes a literary journal. Submissions from OLLI members are evaluated by a jury and selected by an editorial board.

“Anyone who has the time during the day, and the interest and energy, is welcome to become an OLLI member,” said Reinish. “Currently our students range in age from 50 to 95.”

Launched 17 years ago, the lifelong learning program continues to be enhanced. It recently received a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation to transform it to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, making it one of 61 such institutes in 23 states. The grant will support and strengthen the entire program in the future.

A full-year membership is $500 and a trial membership (for one semester only) is $125.

Since OLLI seeks diversity in its membership, there are no academic or age prerequisites.

For more information or to register, go to www.scs.northwestern.edu/nuilr, or contact Barbara Reinish at (847) 491-7724 or Lisa Kupferberg at (847) 467-3021.

Topics: University News