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Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning

I’m about to start one of my periodic courses with the Osher Lifelong Learning Center (OLLI), based largely on Mason’s Fairfax campus. So it seems fitting to return to the topic of the university’s role in lifelong learning and the strength of the collaboration with OLLI.

I should note that Arlington also has a vigorous lifelong learning center using campus facilities there; I’ve also taught in that program with pleasure. And OLLI operates in Reston and on Mason’s Loudoun campus (where it set up a very successful operation), as well as in Fairfax.

Offering courses for OLLI is a volunteer operation, and happily many Mason faculty and some grad students are regularly involved. OLLI also generates its own instruction from the rich and diverse backgrounds of its members.

What one gets with OLLI is a class of varied and experienced adults interested in learning more but also eager to discuss and dispute. There are, of course, no tests or grades, which creates a somewhat different teaching environment from a standard classroom. And one does not expect a lot of homework (though whatever is assigned is usually carried through).

The result is a really enjoyable experience with lots of mutual interaction and, often, some important insights that benefit “instructor” as well as “instructed”.  For a university with an important regional base surrounded by a growing retiree population, the activity is genuinely worthwhile.

And if the rewards are a bit less tangible than we administrators usually think about, it’s important to note that various OLLI participants contribute greatly to university activities in volunteer capacities and as donors. It’s a dynamic relationship, and OLLI’s prosperity, with almost 1000 members, is a tribute both to Mason’s involvement and to the creativity of the group itself.