Students prove learning lasts a lifetime

Walking into class on the first day of school is intimidating for anyone – especially when it’s been decades since you’ve seen the inside of one.

One group on campus, however, is looking to ease that anxiety.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute held an open house Thursday to kick off the new spring session of classes especially designed for adult students aged 50 and older. OLLI has been offering non-credit courses in conjunction with SF State’s College of Extended Learning since 2003. Recently, they began offering classes on SF State’s main campus through the College of Creative Arts in spring 2010.

“It’s so nice to teach adults,” said Dean of the College of Creative Arts Kurt Daw. “It’s really nice to teach Romeo and Juliet to someone who is not Romeo or Juliet.”

Dean Daw is an instructor and member of OLLI. He has been praised by students for his Shakespeare Plays Introduction class and will be teaching a course on the comic opera Barber of Seville in the spring session.

“This is not just an educational group, but it’s a social group,” Daw said. “It’s far beyond ‘can I get a degree for this or can I get a credential for that?'”

OLLI member of five years Judith Sandoval said she takes every class that she can get into. Along with several others at the informational meeting, Sandoval is an alumnus of SF State. Her experience at OLLI has been just as exciting as her first experience at SF State as a student in the 60s, she said.

“There is all sorts of stuff to take,” Sandoval said. “At 73, I took a ballet class and it was just a blast.”

Courses for the new spring session range from Walking the Neighborhoods, a course focusing on the history and evolution of San Francisco areas, A History of Sicily and A Greener Indigo, in which students learn how to examine and produce indigo dyes. Among the most popular courses, said Director Debra Varner, are the creative writing courses.

There are currently more than 120 chapters of OLLI throughout the United States funded in part by the Bernard Osher foundation. A nine-member volunteer council of OLLI participants assists in developing the curriculum and managing the program.

“OLLI is a self-run, self-managed organization,” said volunteer Barry Walner, who is reaching his first anniversary as an OLLI member.

Walner and other volunteers recently created an orientation committee in order to provide a welcoming experience to new OLLI participants.

“It can be intimidating when you haven’t been in a classroom for so long,” Walner said. “We also wanted to concentrate on what OLLI is all about outside of the classroom.”

Marilyn Hayward has been an OLLI participant for three years. The classes offered at OLLI can improve one’s everyday life, she said.

“You have the opportunity to make friends,” Hayward said. “You will find people (with) similar interests and the opportunity to explore those interests together.”

Hayward also said that many OLLI members develop friendships outside of classrooms, but students also develop a certain independence from the courses they take.

“I think it also keeps you interested,” Hayward said. “It keeps your mind vibrant and alive.”

presentation of the first session of spring courses will take place at the College of Extended Learning’s downtown campus on Thursday.

Varner said the transition to the main campus has been a wonderful and beneficial experience.

“Our program is dynamic. We have new programs every session,” Varner said. “We are here for our enrichment in life.”

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