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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Expanding, Growing

A class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)

Throughout the coming months, we will be highlighting our diverse programs. This feature is the first in a series of department profiles.

Recent growth and expansion of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Oklahoma has kept director Chris Elliott on his toes and in demand.

OLLI at OU is a program dedicated to promoting lifelong learning and personal growth of older adults, age 50+, through a variety of noncredit courses and special programs. In the past year, OLLI has expanded from the Norman campus to offer classes at the Samis Education Center on the OU Health Sciences campus in Oklahoma City. In addition, OLLI’s membership has grown by 300 members within the past fiscal year, and the new programs and course offerings dotting OLLI’s lineup each semester are sure to entice more to join.

Elliott insists the success of the program lies in the diversity of OLLI’s courses.

“You see a lot of the same people, day in and day out,” said Elliott. “I think the bottom line is the faculty. When participants get a good faculty member and they really learn something, that is the top seller. These professors aren’t just talking heads, these classes aren’t just lectures—they are discussions.”

OLLI’s expansion into Oklahoma City has made more programs accessible to more people. This growth in membership could translate into an even larger expansion of OLLI’s programs through an additional endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation. As of now, OU OLLI’s membership boasts 900 members. OU OLLI will be eligible for an additional $1 million endowment after reaching 1,000 members.

Elliott hopes to someday spread OLLI’s influence across the state and around the globe. In the future, Elliott hopes to expand OLLI into the Tulsa market and plans to take OLLI classes abroad to the United Kingdom and eventually to OU’s campus in Arezzo, Italy.

Stateside, Elliott hopes to bring back previously successful programs to usher in the presidential election next year. He hopes to have popular professor Shad Satterthwaite renew his class The Road to the White House.

“He teaches it every four years,” Elliott said, “every time we have a general election. He’ll analyze each candidate’s political career and campaign strategy in the spring of 2016, and then right after the election, he’ll have a follow-up session to analyze how it went, who won and why, the whole thing.”

Elliott also hopes to have Honors College Dean David Ray revitalize an Intergenerational Politics course, a class that brings OLLI participants and undergraduate Honors College students together for political discussion. Other popular classes, such as the how-to class for iPhone and classes offered on world religions, are sure to remain main staples of the program. Elliott maintains that OLLI’s true success lies in the simple fact that there is a class to fit the many interests of OLLI’s participants.

“There’s something for everyone,” Elliott says.

Between the diverse course offerings, special events and numerous programs, he’s sure to be right. Visit the OU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute website for more information.

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Kendall Burchard

Kendall Burchard contributed to college marketing efforts while working as a student writer.