For the Love of Learning - Sierra College The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Offers Courses Designed for People 50 and Better

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OLLI offers courses in creative writing, personal investment, music, fitness, humanities, politics, and science, among other subjects. Courses for special interests include book discussion groups and field trips

"With a wealth of life experiences to share," said Shari Smith, the Sierra OLLI program coordinator, "they learn not only from the instructor but from each other."

Over lunch at Panera Bread in Rocklin, Gretchen Cypin is looking over a catalog of courses at Sierra College. "Everything that interests me is here," she says. "I'd love to take this Tai Chi class for the exercise. Maybe I can after Benjamin starts Kindergarten."

Remarkably active in retirement, Gretchen looks after two grandchildren three days a week and "gets out to do things" whenever she can. After moving from the Bay Area to Roseville several years ago, she discovered the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Sierra College. Since then she's taken one or two courses each semester. “There are no tests or homework,” she says. "It’s learning for the love of it.” Her favorite classes have been the variety of film courses that are offered each semester.

"My courses are like a book club," said OLLI film instructor Linda Derosier. "Students come and watch a movie and we discuss it." Her love of movies began at an early age when her mother took her in 1966 to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In high school she organized a film club and later earned her college degree in history.

In her popular classes Linda shows movies of a wide variety from the Golden Age until today. In discussions after the showings, Linda puts each film viewed into historical perspective--what was happening in the culture when the film was made and how it affected people at the time.

While many OLLI teachers are professors, others are community members like Linda who possess great knowledge of a subject and whose proposals to teach a class are approved by the OLLI curriculum committee.

OLLI offers courses in creative writing, personal investment, music, fitness, humanities, politics, and science, among other subjects. Courses for special interests include book discussion groups and field trips. One recent trip was a visit to the tiny town of Volcano, California, south of Placerville, to see nature's underground wonders including the stalactites at nearby Black Chasm Cavern.

Sierra Emeritus College began providing courses for seasoned adults in 2001. Through a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation in 2004, the program became the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). It grew rapidly and thrived. In response to its success, the program was selected to receive a $1 million endowment.  Today, the Osher program supports 122 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country—only four at community colleges, and Sierra College is the only community college in California to have an OLLI program.

Courses are designed for learners 50 years and older who are known to participate more actively in their studies than younger students. "With a wealth of life experiences to share," said Shari Smith, the Sierra OLLI program coordinator, "they learn not only from the instructor but from each other."

Students come to learn something new or something they didn't have the time to learn during their lives. And Shari, who has been with OLLI since its days as the Emeritus College, said she can’t count the number of people who’ve told her how thankful they are to have OLLI in their community.  She’s met a number of students who've lost a spouse and are wondering…now what? "They've been isolated for a year or so,” she added. "They say 'Oh my gosh, I wish I'd known about OLLI before.’ They've stepped out to take some courses and to meet people.”

OLLI offers two six-week sessions in the fall and spring semesters, and one six-week session in the summer semester. OLLI offers two ways of taking courses, Club OLLI and Tuition Free OLLI. Club OLLI requires an annual membership fee of $20. Then, for each course taken, there's a fee of $5 to $40 based on the number of course meetings which can be from one to six.

The Tuition Free OLLI program offers students the opportunity to take a limited number of short-term courses in Drama, English and Music with no membership or course fees required. These are taught through the college system but with no tests, grades or credits.

Courses are held at the Sierra College Roseville Center (Vernon Street); the Sierra College Nevada County Campus in Grass Valley; the Sierra College Rocklin Campus and at the Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln.

The OLLI office is located at 316 Vernon Street, Suite 220 in Roseville, CA telephone (916) 781-6290.

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