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OLLI Senior Seminars for October 2022

OLLI Senior Seminars for October 2022

OLLI continues to deliver the goods as we enter the heart of the fall semester, with eight new Senior Seminars starting in October designed to let participants dig deep into a wide array of topics in history, philosophy, political science and science.

Each OLLI course takes place either in person or online via Zoom, typically running for four to six weeks and meeting for about two hours at a time. Courses are led by some of OU’s top professors, offering seniors an experience like those of traditional OU courses while engaging with fun, educational and inspiring concepts with people of a similar age.

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.


October 2022 Senior Seminars


Fascinating Islands (Part 4): Greenland, Caribbean Islands, Malta and Ireland

Ken Johnson


Oct. 3–24

10–11:30 a.m.

Online (Zoom)

Islands range in size from Greenland, the largest island (823,000 sq. miles), to small, unmapped rocky islets that barely jut out of the water.

Islands can:

1) Be parts of continents that have been rifted or raised up by tectonic activity (such as Greenland, Malta and Ireland)

2) Result from volcanic activity (Hawaii and many Caribbean Islands)

3) Be built up from reefs (Bermuda and Pacific atolls)

4) Result from glacial activity (Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard)

5) Be barrier islands along the edge of a continent (Cape Hatteras and Padre Island).

Islands appear or disappear with the rise or fall of sea level. Islands appear or enlarge as sea level drops, and they become smaller or may even disappear as sea level rises. Following a brief discussion of the origin of islands, we will explore in-depth the origin, history and culture of four fascinating islands:

  • Greenland (“The Land of Inuits, Vikings and Ice”) is the world’s largest island, and it is almost entirely covered by glacial ice.
  • Caribbean Islands (“Islands in the Sun”) are favored for vacations, but many of them are subject to hazards from volcanism, earthquakes and/or hurricanes.
  • Malta (“Crossroads of the Mediterranean”) is one of the most historic, yet little-known, islands in the world that helped save western Europe twice in its history.
  • Ireland (“The Emerald Isle”) has an intriguing history relating to Christianity and to conflicts with the Vikings and Great Britain.


The Art of the Shortcut

Michael Jablonski


Oct. 3–24

9–10:30 a.m.


Mathematics provide a diverse assortment of tools and techniques for finding shortcuts, from efficient encryption algorithms to toy problems like mapping out the optimal path at the grocery store. (These toy problems very often actually help to inform serious problems that arise “in the wild.”)

In this course, we will explore various ideas for creating shortcuts. Patterns in numbers can help us to avoid cumbersome arithmetic, and simple observations on the shape of an object can guarantee a solution to a geometric problem that avoids checking countless cases. The text for the course will be Marcus du Sautoy’s recent book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life. Four or so chapters will be selected for the class to work through together. The course can be considered a guided journey. Along the way, we will explore whatever tangential questions arise.

The approach of the class will be geared toward the mathematical layman who appreciates and enjoys the power of math, who is not an expert, but who wants to explore and have fun with math. Pictures and examples will be used to illustrate ideas and help avoid burdensome computations.


The 2022 American Elections: The Sequel

Cal Hobson


Oct. 3–24

1–3:30 p.m.

In-person (Norman)



Oct. 6–27

1–3:30 p.m.

In-person (OKC)

By late August, we will know the names of the finalists from all parties that will appear on voters’ ballots in early November. What we may not know is much about the candidates themselves.

Therefore, if you want to meet them in person or via Zoom, enroll in this class, Cal’s second 2022 OLLI offering that will bring the finalists to our classroom in the Forum building or to your computers in the comfort of your own homes via the magic of the internet.

In the spring seminar, we heard from two statewide candidates, plus other speakers, one the Republican incumbent Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn and the other, a newly minted Democrat, Joy Hofmeister, the leading candidate to replace Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) of Broken Arrow, or Oklahoma City, or Edmond, depending upon which address he is using that particular day.

There are also a number of other secondary offices to evaluate, and we have the very rare opportunity to elect, or re-elect in James Lankford’s case, both of our senators in 2022.

Intrigue, a bit of double dealing, a lot of campaign money, and candidates with quirks and curiosities will all be a part of the course, and Cal will have some new insights from insiders on the candidates’ roadmaps to victory.

After all, nobody plans to lose, do they?


Practice of Diplomacy

Rob Andrew


Oct. 5–26

9:30–11:30 a.m.


We will explore how a U.S. Embassy and a U.S. Department of State is organized and how a typical foreign service officer operates on a daily basis. We will also discuss issues such as the state of world order, focusing on European and American approaches to diplomatic order.


Splendor and Squalor at Versailles

Dane McDowell


Oct. 5–Nov. 9

10:30 a.m.–Noon


French kings reigned according to divine right. However, godliness was not always next to cleanliness at Versailles! The Sun King and his courtiers rarely took a bath, leading to the fashionable use of perfumes. In addition to the lack of hygiene, the palace of Versailles was the scene of scandals that eventually led to the fall of the monarchy. Adulteries, betrayals, swindling, murders, attacks, executions and poisonings stained the dazzling lifestyle of the Royals.

In this six-week course, explosive historical documents going from Louis XIV to Hitler will shed light on the “inside story” of Versailles.


Introduction to Buddhism

Ralph Doty


Oct. 7–28

10–11:30 a.m.


Although it may be the fastest-growing spiritual movement in this country, Buddhism remains a mystery to most Americans. Not entirely a religion, a philosophy or a form of therapy, it is in some sense all three.

This course will examine the basic teachings of Buddhism, the differences between the main schools — including a brief look at Zen — and how Buddhism is adapting to America (and vice versa).


Religion and Society in the Ancient Middle East, Part II

Gershon Lewental


Oct. 12–Nov. 16

1–2:30 p.m.

Online and In-person (Hybrid)

Critical to understanding the modern Middle East is an appreciation of the role that religion has played in the societies of the region since Antiquity. In this course, we will examine the way religion has functioned in the medieval Middle East, beginning with the rise of Islam and continuing through the tumult of the Mongol and Tīmūrid conquests to the age of the Ottoman and Safavid ‘gun-powder empires.’

We will identify common features between the different states and societies that emerged across the Islamic world in the span of a millennium, paying particular attention to the interplay between religion and political rule, and conclude by drawing attention to ideas that are still present in the Middle East and the concepts of administration and just rule that persist today.

This is the second part of a three-part series that has covered the ancient Near East and will next survey the modern Middle East.


Current Issues in International Security

Chris Sartorius


Oct. 19–Nov. 9

1:30–3:30 p.m.

In-person (Norman)



Oct. 18–Nov. 8

1:30–3:30 p.m.

In-person (OKC)

The world is becoming increasingly complex, and the many challenges facing our nation require greater fluency in global affairs. This course is designed to improve our awareness, understanding and informed opinion on international issues affecting U.S. and allied national security.

We will use material from the Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions 2022 series to guide our discussion of four key issues. We will focus on the following topics over this four-week series:

1) President Biden’s agenda

2) Russia and the United States

3) Outer space

4) The Quad Alliance (U.S., Australia, Japan and India) designed to counter a rising China

Please join us for a discussion concerning major shifts in the global security landscape in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, economic disruption and the rise of China.

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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.