The idea of “adult education” is not new. But the whole concept has been taken to a new level through a locally-available program that rolls out its latest course offerings in a few weeks.
The program is called the “Osher Lifelong Learning Institute” or “OLLI” for short. In Tallahassee, the institute is in the Claude Pepper Center on the Florida State University campus. For OLLI Member President Frank Alarcon, it’s the hottest ticket in town.
“Well we’re the organization that anybody 50 years or older wants to belong to. We’ve grown to about 1200 members now and we offer things for older adults that you can’t find in many communities in this country,” Alarcon said.
In fact, nationwide right now, there are only 120 OLLIs, most affiliated with large universities, like FSU. Just as those schools do for undergrad and graduate students, Alarcon said the idea is to provide courses for adults.
“We offer classes in every subject matter you can imagine. We have three different semesters a year: fall semester, spring semester – those are 6 weeks in length – and then we do what we call ‘Maymester’ in May with three-week classes. All the classes are generally two or three hours in length so you’re getting 12 hours roughly of instruction per class.”
But these are classes with a difference, Alarcan insisted, because there are no pop quizzes, mid-terms, final papers or even grades. It’s all for the fun and love of learning. And OLLI Board Member Fran Conaway added there are other benefits, too.
“Lifelong learning is very much a part of successful aging and longevity, that if you keep your brain and body active, keep your social life going, you’re going to feel and live better and hopefully live for a nice long time,” Conaway explained.
As to the kinds of classes taught at OLLI, Frank Alarcan said the subjects are generally a vast departure from typical college-type courses.
“’The Music of Paul Simon’, we’re doing a ‘Conversation with History in Jefferson County,’” he began, ticking off just a few examples of this year’s class list. “We’ve got ‘Preparing Your Family Legacy for Future Generations’, we’ve got a class on ‘Dreams’ this fall semester that’s being taught by Elizabeth Stein who’s professor emeritus of Humanities at TCC, who’s going to explore all we currently know about dreams, both historically and the latest contemporary evidence about the impact of dreams on our lives.”
And Fran Conaway said Professor Stein isn’t the only outstanding instructor teaching OLLI courses.
“Our professors, our faculty, many of them are from FSU and FAMU; they’re experts from all over the area. They really love to teach OLLI members because we’re enthusiastic and have a certain amount of wisdom built over the ages, we’re not afraid to ask questions and we’re not worried about our grades.”
That’s because, as already noted, OLLI courses have no grades. But, as Conaway further explained, there are trips outside the classroom.
“(There are) Segway tours of Tallahassee, so anyone who has wanted to ride on a Segway can go with OLLI and that sounds like a lot of fun. There’s a ‘25th Art in Gadsden Regional Exhibition’, there’s ‘Guys & Dolls’ here in town at FSU, Tallahassee Community Chorus fall concert, a visit to the Challenger Learning Center and then more science, the Aero Propulsion Megatronics and Energy Center at FSU.”
There’s far more to know than can be explained here, so Conaway suggested anyone who wants to find out more should visit OLLI’s Fall 2017 Showcase, Tuesday, September 12th starting at 1 p.m. at FSU’s Turnbull Center on West Pensacola Street.
“Most of our instructors will be giving 90-second previews of their classes, so it’s very interesting to hear the previews and get to know their style. Because sometimes you think, ‘I wouldn’t be interested in this class,’ if you’re just reading about it and then you get a few minutes of the instructor and you think, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s exactly what I’m interested in!’”
One thing’s for sure, it’ll truly be a ‘learning’ experience.