Fall lifelong learning classes feature fun and diverse topics
Volunteer instructors at the center of OLLI learning cooperative
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program in spring of 2020, program members faced a difficult decision: forego attending the classes and participating in the activities they loved so much or continue their passions by entering a brave new world of online OLLI programming. Choosing to stay engaged with friends and instructors via online learning, UD’s OLLI members unexpectedly created the largest online OLLI program in the nation.
As a volunteer-driven learning cooperative for adults age 50-plus, UD’s OLLI program has nearly 2,000 active members and offers about 300 classes via virtual classrooms and through their in-person locations in Dover, Lewes, Ocean View and Wilmington. With volunteer instructors at the heart of the program, the expertise from their professional careers, educational backgrounds, avocations and passions provide the source material for the breadth and depth of OLLI’s class offerings.
In the fall of 2022, classes will be offered in art, literature, history, film appreciation, languages, finance and investing, the sciences, wellness (yoga, tai chi, dementia caregivers support group), dance (English country dance, Pacific Island, folk), music ensembles (rock band, chorus, orchestra, Native American flute) and more.
Featured instructors include UD Medal of Distinction recipient Bebe Coker, retired CNN journalist Ralph Begleiter, dance teacher Cezarina Cornejo Alzona, and OLLI instructor Joan Mansperger, who is presenting a class on her early career experience as a Navy air traffic controller.
Beatrice “Bebe” Coker, 2021 recipient of UD’s Medal of Distinction, will lead Legalized Racism, a discussion class covering the roots and social context of racism in America and focusing on the legalized racially discriminatory policies and practices that disenfranchised African Americans. A lifelong activist and education leader, Coker has served on boards of education, community service, civil rights, drama and the performing arts. She has also led or co-taught the OLLI discussion classes, “Racism: Can We Talk?” and “Dialogue-to-Action Group on Racism.” Coker’s upcoming class will take place at OLLI’s Arsht Hall location in Wilmington.
UD’s Ralph Begleiter, former CNN journalist and founding director of UD’s Center for Political Communication, regularly teaches classes online and at OLLI’s Lewes and Ocean View locations, drawing hundreds of attendees. During the fall semester, Begleiter is presenting “Media and Public Opinion in the 2022 Elections” online and at OLLI’s Lewes classroom location and at Bayside Clubhouse in Selbyville. Begleiter’s classes have included “Media and Public Opinion in the 2020 Elections,” as well as “Propaganda and Public Diplomacy” and “Future of the American Political Parties.” Also available in OLLI’s fall semester will be an on-demand style online offering of Begleiter’s popular class, “Adventures of a Global Journalist,” relating experiences from his journalism career.
With a background in the life sciences, volunteer instructor Joan Mansperger has taught OLLI courses on green living, sea level rise, tree identification, weather and beachcombing. But this is her first time presenting an OLLI class about her time as an air traffic controller at Naval Air Station Miramar in California, home to the Naval Fighter Weapons School, otherwise known in the Navy and to many movie watchers as “Top Gun.” Said Mansperger, “Imagine being a young person, new to the military, trying to learn a complex new job in a hectic, challenging environment. It was quite a gig with some great stories to share.” Mansperger will present the class at OLLI’s Lewes location, with an online option also available.
OLLI volunteer instructor Cezarina Cornejo Alzona first learned Pacific Island dances at age 5 from her mother and later performed with a semi-professional South Sea Island dance group for many years. She’s taught her children, grandchildren, and students of her church-based Filipino/Asian cultural weekend school, and now she’s leading a new Pacific Island dance class for the OLLI program at Ocean View Community Center in Ocean View, Del. The OLLI class covers Pacific Island culture and heritage and introduces the dances of Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and the Philippines. This course is for beginners and will focus on having fun while exercising, says Alzona.
Course offerings reflect instructor expertise, member interest
Since volunteer instructors develop and teach OLLI classes each semester, offerings reflect a wide variety of interests and expertise.
Subjects offered at OLLI’s Dover location this fall include Broadway songs, genealogy, computer workshop, American Revolution, Hemingway, Helen Keller and more.
In Lewes, offerings include woodworking, forensic science, Robert Frost, geology and a class on marine-centered alternative energy guest-led by graduate students from UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.
Civil War history, Pacific island dance and beginning watercolor are among the classes offered at OLLI’s Ocean View location.
In Wilmington, the many offerings include archaeology, aviation history, international folk dance, desktop publishing, banned books, Tom Hanks films, and an art appreciation class led by two OLLI instructors who are senior guides at the Delaware Art Museum.
Online classes include African American art history, photography, ukulele, electric vehicles, Thomas Jefferson, memoir writing, smartphone apps and investment topics. OLLI’s online classes take place via live Zoom videoconferencing, with free Zoom training provided for OLLI participants.
Fall classes start Sept. 6
For fall 2022, OLLI offerings include over 300 in-person or online classes, including many examples of the hybrid or combined offerings, allowing flexible attendance options.
Classes start Sept. 6 in 13-week, 11-week and five-week sessions, with a second five-week session that starts Oct. 18.
Registration for fall semester is available Aug. 3-18, with another registration period available Aug. 24-Sept. 20. For details, including a full course listing, visit the OLLI home page at https://www.olli.udel.edu/.
OLLI’s newly revised membership structure consists of one flat membership fee of $250 for the semester, after which members sign up for unlimited classes and activities at all UD OLLI locations and online. Need-based partial financial assistance is available; for details contact the OLLI office at 302-573-4417.
About OLLI at UD
UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are volunteer-based learning cooperatives for adults age 50-plus to take and teach classes together with no grades, exams or educational prerequisites. OLLI programs are located across Delaware.
In Delaware and across the country, OLLI is affiliated with and receives partial support from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on higher education, lifelong learning and the arts.
Photo credits (clockwise from top left): Steven Dombchik, Evan Krape, Kevin Quinlan, Sally Cole