At UCSD’s Osher institute, learning is for a lifetime
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego is in the first week of its winter quarter, offering myriad courses to help keep locals learning the rest of their lives.
Osher is a volunteer-run division of UCSD Extension aimed at creating a community of peers older than 50 who want to “enrich their lives through continued learning and engagement,” according to Marlene Scott, an Osher student who recently joined its policy-forming council.
The program is “a combination of some of the best master classes at UCSD and a community of learners,” Scott said. Classes cover a variety of subjects, including a master class on “America’s Gilded Age,” a class on Leo Tolstoy, a class on India’s history and current challenges and a class on the Federalist Papers.
Classes are led by expert lecturers on the topics, Scott said, often including professors from UCSD and other universities.
Osher boasts a full schedule every quarter, running a morning and an afternoon class each day. Some classes are a series; others are a one-time lecture or workshop.
“There’s no pressure, homework, grades,” Scott said. “You pay for your membership and attend as many classes as you want.”
Lectures are an hour each, with a second hour set aside for questions and answers. “You’re interacting with the speaker as well as learning from the members in your class. It’s a double dose of intense learning,” Scott said.
She also highlighted the “Inside Politics” and “Hot Topics” courses, which run without a main speaker. “The moderators will send out a list of questions about current events, and everyone in the class is allowed to give their input” during the session, she said. “That’s really where we’re interacting with each other.”
The real benefit of the Osher program, with its nearly 1,000 members, is its community, Scott said.
“Not only are the speakers engaging and of distinction, but even the students have great distinction, with many years in all fields, from science to law to history,” she said. “You have scholars who used to lecture and are coming back to school to continue expanding their knowledge. It’s such a great and enriching environment to take classes.”
Classes were held on campus before the coronavirus pandemic but switched to a fully online format via Zoom last spring.
But classes were recorded even before the pandemic, Scott said. “[That] is the beauty of Osher. If you happened to not take the class, you can go into the recording library and access it,” she said. “The only downside is you don’t get to ask questions. But you can fully see and hear the lecture. You can go back as many years as they have it recorded.”
Osher also offers ways for members to get involved in various committees and volunteer positions in the organization, such as the council that Scott serves on. It is made up of 21 members and functions as a “governing body.”
Osher membership is paid annually or per quarter. The current annual membership fee is $240; winter quarter membership, which runs through Friday, March 19, is $165.
“Because we have Zoom access now, there’s no reason why it would be difficult for anybody at any stage of their life to enhance their life through learning.” Scott said. “People should know that it’s a safe, friendly, invigorating learning environment. We welcome everybody; we always look forward to new members, and it’s exciting to see our community grow.”
For more information or to register, visit olli.ucsd.edu/membership.
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