More than 1100 students over the age of fifty are members of the Osher Lifeline Learning Institute (OLLI) at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. They come from varied educational backgrounds and professional experiences. What they have is common is a self-motivated love of learning and the acknowledgement of the benefits it brings to their social and personal lives.
Again this spring, OLLI members can choose from a myriad of learning opportunities and styles. From lunchtime brown bag seminars to more lengthy weekly courses to video conference classes, they are pursuing lifelong learning at UMass Boston’s campus or at satellite locations at Cordage Park in Plymouth and at the Hingham Public Library.
Topics for brown bag seminars this semester include American art in Boston, the origins of baseball, and John Adams and the Boston Massacre. There is a wide variety of subject matters for the courses as well. OLLI members can enroll in short courses on opera, America’s financial crisis, tai chi, intermediate French conversation, watercolor painting, or iPad for beginners – just to name a few. Of course, a number of the courses are geared to the target age group. For example, spring offerings include courses on the aging eye, the brain/balance connection, and changes in memory.
Some courses can transport these students to new “destinations” in their quest for lifelong learning. Literature course offerings include Mexican short stories while film enthusiasts can enjoy a six-week course on modern Chinese films or theatre aficionados can participate in a discussion-based course on African American theatre. Culinary offerings introduce students to the flavors of the Mediterranean.
Cultural and travel excursions are also available to members. Trips to local theatrical performances are always popular; transportation and discounted tickets allow members to enjoy “Clybourne Park” at the Speakeasy Stage, “M” at the Huntington Theatre, or “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” at the Lyric Stage. Also, this semester, seniors can choose from local trips to museums, a multi-day trip to our nation’s capital, or international travel to South America, the ancient kingdoms of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, or cruises along the Mediterranean or Black Seas.
Many of the facilitators are either retired UMass Boston faculty or current faculty, staff, students, and alumni at the McCormack Graduate School (MGS). The following MGS community members will facilitate brown bags or courses this semester:
• The Turkish Alphabet Revolution
offered by Ruth Miller, a faculty affiliate at the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters
• Disability in Society
offered by Kimberley Johnson, a PhD student in gerontology
• Why Pigs Getting the Flu Might Matter to You: An Introduction to Public Health
offered by Theresa Sommers, a PhD student in global governance and human security
• King Leopold’s Host: Colonialism and the Tragedy of the Congo
offered by Michael Keating, director of operations at the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development
• Getting To Know Your Aging Brain
offered by Maryann Nguyen, a PhD student in gerontology
• Exercising, Thinking, Planning, and Building Confidence to Prevent Falls
offered by Patricia Huffman-Oh, a PhD student in gerontology
• Exploring the Boston Harbor Islands
offered by Suzanne Gail March, an alumna of the Women in Politics and Public Policy Program
According to Ira A. Jackson, dean of the McCormack Graduate School, “I’m so proud of the success of our OLLI programs. Our faculty, staff, students and alumni are rich sources of knowledge on so many topics and it thrills me to see more than a thousand seniors enjoying the scholarship and social activities we offer.” Chuckling, he added, “I just wish I had the time to join them!”
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is part of the Gerontology Institute at the McCormack School. The institute also houses a Pension Action Center and the new Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging. Along with faculty of the Department of Gerontology, institute fellows provide timely and cutting-edge research on aging issues that influence public policy and make a difference in the lives of seniors.