OLLI Senior Seminars for August 2022

OLLI Senior Seminars for August 2022

August is nearly here, and with it the start of a new academic year of OLLI courses to help you escape the heat of the long, hot summer days. Each of the nine courses starting next month will take place either in person or online via Zoom and will explore a topic in film, health, history, literature, philosophy or political science.

OLLI courses are led by some of OU’s top professors, offering seniors an experience similar to traditional OU courses. Each course gives seniors the chance to engage with fun, educational and inspiring concepts with people of a similar age. Courses typically run for four to six weeks, meeting for about two hours at a time.

OLLI courses tend to fill up quickly, and many are known to sell out, so be sure to sign up soon to reserve your spot. For information about course availability, please contact OLLI directly at (405) 325-3488.


August 2022 Senior Seminars

Invisibility and Hypervisibility: Systemic Indigenous and Black Inequality in the United States and Canada from Foundation to Over-Incarceration

Kelly Tabbutt


Aug. 1–Sept. 12

1:30–3 p.m.

Online (Zoom)

*No class Sept. 5.

Sociologist Evelyn Nakano Glenn described U.S. settler-colonial society as one in which “Redness has been made to disappear, ... Native Americans have become largely invisible in white consciousness. In contrast, blackness has been made hyper-visible, and [B]lack [people] are constantly present as an imagined threat ....” (Of course, the United States is not the only settler-colonial society in North America.)

This seminar will follow from Nakano Glenn’s description of Indigenous and Black inequality with a focus on the United States, including the exploration of its application in Canada. As such, this seminar will examine what settler colonialism is as a societal structure and explore the ways in which Indigenous and Black people in the United States and Canada have been made invisible and/or hyper-visible in settler-colonial society and how this solidifies and perpetuates systemic inequality.

This seminar will provide a brief but meaningful overview of historical and contemporary Indigenous and Black exploitation and subjugation as intertwined within settler-colonial society. Specifically, this seminar will look at Indigenous genocide, cultural erasure and appropriation, enslavement, removal and Black institutionalized slavery, and “Jim Crow” and modern segregation. This seminar will connect these to the “criminalization of Blackness” (and that of Indigenousness) and the modern racial overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people under incarceration in the United States and Canada.


Understanding Contemporary China

Paul Bell


Aug. 2–Sept. 20

9:30–11:30 a.m.

Online (Zoom)

The purpose of this course is to help students better understand contemporary China and its role in the world today. As recent events, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, demonstrate, China is playing an increasingly larger role on the world stage, yet most Americans know almost nothing about China, and what they think they know is mostly wrong. This course will provide students with an improved understanding of how Chinese people think about themselves and their place in the contemporary world and help students think about China more objectively and accurately in the future.

Topics will include:

  • Major themes of China’s history
  • Setting the stage: China’s geography, natural resources and environmental issues
  • Chinese syncretic belief systems
  • Chinese governance and politics
  • China’s economy – successes and challenges
  • Controlling the message – access to and control of information
  • Security – internal security and national defense
  • China’s global engagement – past, present and future


The Real James Herriot

Timothy Jones


Aug. 3-24

3–4:30 p.m.

Online (Zoom)

Attention has been refocused recently on All Creatures Great and Smallby James Herriot through the new adaptation of the book on PBS Masterpiece. Veterinarian Alf Wight was the real James Herriot. His life story is even more interesting than the series. This course will include information about Alf Wight’s eventful real life, some of James Herriot’s Animal Stories, and a bit of veterinary terminology.


Care and Prevention of Chronic Illnesses

Brian Pribble


Aug. 5–26

9:30–11 a.m.


Care and the Prevention of Chronic Illnesses will introduce students to several different types of chronic illnesses and current research on the treatment/prevention of diseases. We will discuss illnesses of all sorts, focusing primarily on those seen in aging populations (hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, sarcopenia dementia, stroke), as well as current treatments for diseases with a primary focus on diet and exercise as medicine.


The Sondheim Revolution, Evolution and Solution

Marvin Beck


Aug. 18–Sept. 22

10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.


*No class Sept. 15.

Stephen Sondheim is widely acknowledged as the most innovative, most influential and most important composer and lyricist in modern Broadway history. For more than 50 years, Sondheim set an unsurpassed standard of brilliance and artistic integrity in musical theatre. His accolades included an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer), including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, multiple Grammy Awards, multiple Drama Desk Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, Kennedy Center Honors, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His achievements include serving as composer and lyricist for 16 musicals and lyrics for four other hit shows. For films and TV, he composed the scores of Stavisky (1974) and co-composed Reds (1981), as well as songs for The Seven Percent Solution (1976) and Dick Tracy (1990). There are dozens of other significant accomplishments that we will touch on as we trace and experience his history.


Writing Chinese Poetry in English

Jonathan Stalling


Aug. 22–Oct. 3

10–11 a.m.

Online (Zoom)

*No class Sept. 5.

If you like crossword puzzles, Sudoku or Haiku, then you will love this course. We will learn how to compose a kind of poetry known as “Jueju” and learn about how and why cultivating this skill was arguably the most important skill for anyone hoping for upward mobility across the last 1,500 years of Chinese history. Students will be able to write and submit poetry to the Newman Prize for English Jueju by the end of the class and pit their poems against those from around the U.S., UK, Europe and Asia! No prior experience with poetry or Chinese is necessary.


Preston Sturges’ Films

Andy Horton


Aug. 24–Sept. 28

1–3:30 p.m.


Ranked as one of American cinema’s most gifted talents, writer-director Preston Sturges employed a razor-sharp wit and astringent dialogue in his emergence from the world of theater into cinema. After almost single- handedly redefining the screwball comedy, Sturges continued to write and direct works until his death in 1959. This course will examine the works of Preston Sturges, such as The Lady Eve, The Great McGinty, Sullivan’s Travels and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.


The Meaning of Human Life

Mark Taylor


Aug. 26–Sept. 23

10:30 a.m.–Noon


*No class Sept. 16.

This seminar explores how different western philosophers throughout history have answered the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Our discussion will begin with the ancient Greeks, who fought over whether true happiness depends on pleasure or joy. Later in the class, we’ll look at the radical shift that occurred when Christian belief burst onto the scene and identified God as the foundation of human flourishing. Though dominant in the West for centuries, the Christian answer would eventually have atheistic challengers. Some of these philosophers would question whether there could be any objective meaning to life at all; others would take up their secular task with more optimism. Through this seminar, participants will be able to see how all of these historical answers to life’s largest question are still alive and influential today. The class does not require or assume any prior knowledge of philosophy.


Major Global Security Topics

Rob Andrew


Aug. 31–Sept. 21

9:30–11:30 a.m.


We will discuss and explore the major global security topics of our time, which will include threats to peace such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effect on global and European/American security, nuclear arms control, cybersecurity issues, and climate change.

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Myk Mahaffey

Michael Mahaffey holds degrees in journalism and psychology. He is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience writing for print and digital publications, including award-winning coverage of the rodeo industry. In his spare time, he writes fiction, in addition to tinkering with graphic design and photography.