OLLI OKC Professor Spotlight - Chris Sartorius

Instructor on the OU campus

Chris Sartorius brings a unique perspective to his lectures on the Cold War and intelligence, since he has real world experience serving as an intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force. Not only does Chris have an infectious passion for the history of the Cold War and the espionage practices used by both sides, but his own experiences add depth and tangible know-how that make his lectures come alive. It’s just one of the reasons why his classes are among the most highly attended in the OLLI at OU program and its OKC location. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Chris and ask him a few questions.

Chris Sartorius OLLI professorQ and A with Chris Sartorius

OLLI: What interested/motivated you to lead an OLLI course?

Chris: I love learning about the Cold War and about intelligence. I know others are interested in these topics as well, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my passion with others and hopefully inspire others to learn more about these two fascinating subjects.

OLLI: What do you like most about OLLI at OU?

Chris: I like how the students are genuinely and deeply interested in lifelong learning in general and specifically about the Cold War and intelligence. The OLLI students bring an incredible amount of knowledge and experience into the classroom. They are respectful of others and their sincerity and enthusiasm create a fun learning environment. I always leave our sessions with a fresh new insight and a strong desire to learn more about our discussion topics.

OLLI: How did you become involved with OLLI at OU?

Chris: I had the opportunity to become involved when Dr. Satterthwaite and Chris Elliot asked me in the fall of 2014 to teach a Cold War history course during the spring 2015 semester. I have always thought that teaching for OLLI is a great privilege and it’s been a wonderful experience.

OLLI: Your main line of expertise is history, especially with the wars and armed services. What was it about your experience in the armed forces that contributed to your being a favorite OLLI instructor?

Chris: I was blessed to serve a great career as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer. This allowed me to work with some of the best and brightest young people in our nation. It also provided incredible opportunities to extensively travel and live overseas. During one of my overseas tours, I worked as an instructor and course director at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. That was a great experience and allowed me to work closely and travel with officers from all of our NATO partners. More generally, military service provides one with a very rich and intense life experience. It presents countless challenges, instills a sense of service, and deepens your appreciation for America and our way of life. Time in the service also provides our young people with opportunities not just to read about history but to play a role in making history. All of these experiences have helped me become a better OLLI instructor.

"I am impressed at the incredible life experiences [OLLI students] bring to the classroom. They are all highly accomplished and diverse."

OLLI: What was it like working in U.S. Air Force intelligence?

Chris: Working in Air Force Intelligence gave me the chance to work with people completely dedicated to defending the United States and helping others around the world. I was always so proud of the great men and women who helped keep our senior military and civilian leaders informed of fast-breaking international military and political events using our highly complex, technical intelligence collection systems. We were involved in a broad spectrum of issues ranging from monitoring Soviet forces in Eastern Europe, to keeping an eye on nuclear missile developments in North Korea, to helping restore peace and security in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Haiti and many other places.

OLLI: You are currently teaching not only OLLI classes but traditional college classes as well. How do these two groups of students differ?

Chris: Both groups are impressive. I am always amazed at just how well traveled our younger students are compared with when I was in college. There are so many opportunities to study abroad these days and undergraduate students are taking advantage of these opportunities to explore their wider world. With OLLI students, I am impressed at the incredible life experiences they bring to the classroom. They are all highly accomplished and diverse. It’s very interesting to learn about their experiences as mothers and fathers, teachers and military veterans from all walks of life.

OLLI: Tell us about the class you are teaching for OLLI in OKC this summer.

Chris: This summer we will be running a four-class series on Espionage in the Cold War. It’s going to be a great course and I am really looking forward to it. We had one session in Oklahoma City in February to gauge interest and it was a great success. During the upcoming August course, we will take a case study approach and look at one Soviet and one U.S. espionage case per class. We’ll discuss the motivations for espionage, the intelligence tradecraft involved, how the agents were detected/captured, how their intelligence assisted the other side and, finally, the damage they inflicted on their nation’s security. It will be a fun, informative course!

OLLI: Final thoughts?

Chris: I want to thank all the OLLI students who have made my work with the program so enjoyable and so rewarding. I want to highlight the leadership Chris and Patrick continually demonstrate to make OLLI at OU the best OLLI program in the nation. They are providing an important service to our community and it’s been a real joy to work with them.

Chris Sartorius will be leading his lecture on Espionage and the Cold War at OLLI’s OKC location Mondays and Wednesdays, August 8 – 17 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. His classes always fill up fast, so contact the OLLI at OU office at 405-325-3488 or olli@ou.edu to register today. You can also visit our website and register online for this class and all other classes.

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