ASU institute provides courses to adults ages 50 and over

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For 10 years, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Arizona State University (ASU) has brought low-cost educational and cultural courses and programs to adults ages 50 and over. ASU’s top professors teach the short, high-level, non-credit courses.

Classes include history, art, music, opera, travel and creative writing, science, current events, literature, geography, religion, physics, space, Shakespeare and more.

On Arizona Horizon, we spoke to Jared Swerzenski, who is the Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Swerzenski said that teaching is flexible. Professors can decide their topic, number of sessions, dates and location. ASU professors are paid $125 per session taught, and emeritus professors receive $150.

“We don’t want to take anything away from their main job of teaching,” he said. “We’re another avenue for them to teach in a passion area.”

Benefits for students and teachers

The OLLI program holds benefits for both students and teachers. Students can sharpen skills and expand their knowledge on a variety of topics.

Meantime, professors who teach courses say the experience allows them to try new things with engaged learners. Kjir Hendrickson, a professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, said teaching in OLLI keeps him sharp.

“Teaching a group of students who are demographically quite different from typical college students challenges me to think about my teaching, and, more than that, to think about my subject in different ways,” Hendrickson said.

“All of the students definitely want to be there, and it’s great because once you have an OLLI cohort, they’ll continue to take your classes no matter what you offer,” said Rosemarie Dombrowski, who has taught more than 25 unique courses in her 10 years as an OLLI instructor, including “Emily Dickinson’s Guide to DIY Publishing” and “Radical Rebellions: The Poetry of Social Revolution America.” Dombrowski, a teaching professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, is also the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix.

OLLI offerings

Previous OLLI offerings have included:

  • “Through Women’s Eyes: 20th-Century U.S. History”
  • “Beginning Watercolor”
  • “Tai Chi for Health & Wellness”
  • “Race to the Moon: Tortoise, Hare, NASA & China”
  • Analyses of the films “Casablanca” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Damn the Constitution, Full Speed Ahead” and “The Two Elizabeths: How Jewels & Fashion Defined Their Monarchies”

New programs

New programs in the spring of 2023 included:

  • A partnership with the Salt River Brass Band that featured two interactive classes on conducting, jazz and the brass band tradition. The cost included a discounted ticket to a Salt River Brass Band concert.
  • A four-day, behind-the-scenes experience at the 29th Annual Sedona International Film Festival in February.

About OLLI

OLLI is housed in the School of Community Resources and Development and is part of the Learning Enterprise at ASU. ASU’s program is one of 125 at universities nationwide. The institute is now trying to recruit more professors to teach courses.

OLLI membership costs $20 per semester and courses typically cost $14 per session. Classes are held at four locations around the Valley, and several are offered on Zoom.

For more information, visit their website here.

Jared Swerzenski, Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU

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