By Liz Trudel, Staff Writer
For inquisitive individuals ages 50 plus with a passion for the joy of learning, there is a close-knit community of 2,000 plus like-minded senior learners who are students of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at USM. The OLLI is located in the Wishcamper building on the Portland campus at 34 Bedford Street.
The OLLI at USM is one of 17 Senior Colleges throughout Maine and participates in the Maine Senior College, a network which contains approximately 6,500 members from across the state. Several counties in Maine have colleges that support this non-profit program including Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Lincoln and Knox, Oxford, Waldo, York, Washington and Penobscot.
To take part in the institute there are no entrance requirements, grades or tests. Student experience and love of learning are what count. The program is a self-sustaining, self-governing organization supported through an annual membership fee of $25. The membership fee covers the fiscal year July 1 to June 30. The yearly membership allows students to participate in all OLLI at USM courses and special interest groups at OLLI.
With a membership also comes an abundance of perks. Students receive an OLLI-designated USM ID card, the ability to add Husky Bucks to the ID card for tax free use at any of the USM dining facilities and vending machines on campus. They also get access to the USM library, the computer store, wireless Internet, and access to the USM bookstore. Members can attend the Maine Senior College Network statewide conference, receive support for disabilities, and have access to assistive listening equipment available through the OLLI office. Last, but not least, they get USM student discounts on sporting events, theater and music performances, dining and selected local services.
Courses are offered in the fall and spring terms for eight weeks, and in the winter and summer terms for six weeks. The classes meet for two hours, once a week. Course subjects are extensive, from music and art, to history and science.
One example of a class held this spring is titled, “Domestic Policy: Is American Democracy in a Death Spiral? Any Grounds for Optimism?” taught by Professor Bob Goettel. The course explores the topics of, “American lack of trust in government and other institutions, extreme political polarization, congressional inability to address key issues and govern, weakened political parties, and a presidency like no other in our lifetime,”stated Gottel.
Another course held on Wednesdays from 12:45 pm to 2:45 p.m. this semester is “Gospel Music Comes Alive!” Terry Foster teaches this course. It explores songs, spirituals, and hymns from the Gospel.
On Thursdays from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., Jack Lynch and Jennifer Frick co-teach the course “Line Dancing: A cross-cultural perspective.” It is a dance class that combines the teachings of a multitude of cultures. In the class, students learn traditional American Country/Western, Greek Circle dances, Brazilian samba, Tango, Rumba, Spanish cha-cha, and the sham jazz line dance from Harlem. The class welcomes all skill levels, and no prior dance experience is necessary.
Offered on Fridays, is Art Studio taught by Dona Sherburne. This class is a two-hour block of time from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. where like-minded individuals can come together to work at their own pace on their artwork in a relaxed environment while collaborating, encouraging, and sharing ideas with fellow artists.
Just like any traditional college, the OLLI offers “special interest groups” for individuals to express their interests and mingle with like-minded peers. Some existing special interest groups include; wine tasting club, ski club, science reading club, photography club, outdoor/walking club, OLLI singers, history book club, book club, bridge club and the arts and crafts club.
To further enhance student-educational opportunities, the OLLI goes on three to four local excursions throughout the year to local points of interest. These take place generally in Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts. They also go on one international trip a year, often in November.
The OLLI international trip for 2018 is a Viking river cruise of the Danube River, on November 10 through 18. The journey will begin in Nuremberg, Germany, and travel down the Danube through Austria to Budapest, Hungary, stopping at six ports along the way. There will be an included tour at each port, with free time to explore in most ports. Viking enhances the cruise by offering “Culture Curriculum,” which brings local history to life with lectures on history and art, tasting of vintage wines, restaurant menus inspired by local cuisine, informative port talks and performances. They also have an onboard library, with a carefully curated collection of educational and inspirational books.
OLLI at USM operates on five core values; joy of learning, community, accessibility, excellence, and volunteerism. Jeanie Hirokane, the corporate secretary and program director states, “We believe that continuing to grow and to learn new things is a deeply fulfilling life-long priority. We recognize the importance of interaction with other members to have knowledge and experiences, to expand our perspectives, and to make new friends in an atmosphere of inclusiveness, respect, and openness. We strive to make classes, workshops, seminars, and activities affordable and accessible to all members. We strive for excellence by committing our intelligence, creativity, and energy to achieving quality in our curriculum, faculty, facilities, operations, and relationships within our community. We recognize the crucial importance of volunteers to the success of our programs. These core values support our vision, shape our culture, and reflect what we value.”
For more information about joining OLLI at USM, please call 780-4406 or 1-800-800-4876, email [email protected], or visit usm.maine.edu/olli.