A Lifetime of Learning Opportunities

Benjamin Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." As a lifelong learner, Franklin knew that it doesn’t matter if the investment is made when you're 8, 18 or 80 because the dividends are the same: your world becomes broader, your life becomes richer and your wisdom becomes deeper. What does matter, however, is that you keep learning.

Lifelong University participantsWith that same mindset and commitment to lifelong education, the University of Northern Iowa launched its Lifelong University (LLU) in 2005 to offer short-term, noncredit courses to adults age 55 and above. Participants gather in a relaxed, supportive atmosphere to discover new things about the world and themselves.

"We offer courses on a broad range of topics, such as art and culture, history, religion, and current events,” said Stacey Christensen, public relations manager at UNI. “Our classes are targeted toward retirees, but we’ve also had younger people attend as well. Anyone who wants to continue to learn is welcome at the Lifelong University."

The LLU offers five classes in the fall and four classes in the spring. The one-, two- and four-week classes are held during the day on the UNI campus and at University Book & Supply, which is adjacent to campus. Courses range from 90 minutes to two hours, once per week, which gives participants a chance to learn something new or deepen their knowledge in a particular subject area without investing hours and hours of time.

A nominal fee of $15 to $40 is charged for each course, which covers the cost of course materials and an on-campus parking pass. Each class is limited to 30 students, which affords a great deal of interaction among participants and instructors.

"Our Lifelong University gives people a chance to see our programs and get to know UNI professors on a different level," said Christensen. "There are no prerequisites or assignments in the Lifelong University, and there’s no homework or pressure. The atmosphere is very conversational and relaxed."

Over the years, participants have listened to and discussed Beethoven’s musical masterpieces; learned to preserve photos, quilts and other family treasures; and traced the development of the American cemetery from pioneer graveyards to contemporary memorial parks.

This September, which is when the next LLU session begins, the courses are just as varied and include a campus walking tour to view and learn about UNI’s indoor and outdoor artwork; view films that explore and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings; and explore French culture and cuisine without leaving the comfort of their chairs, among others.

LLU courses are taught by current and retired UNI faculty and staff who love to teach and share their knowledge and interests with others. Roughly 1,600 students have enrolled in nearly 55 courses since the LLU began in 2005.

"'Lifelong University' is an apt name and one I find especially appealing," said Shirley Cropper, who enrolled in the first LLU and who typically takes between one and four courses per semester.

"There is so much to learn that one doesn’t know, and the courses are always timely, informative and interesting."

Cropper, who is especially fond of the LLU American history courses, has taken 23 courses over the years and will come back for more this fall.   

"I enjoy being on campus and find the classroom atmosphere extremely stimulating because there’s quite a lot of discussion,” said Cropper. “Older people are not shy about asking questions or raising points that may not be in agreement with others."

Carol Gilgen and her husband, Al, are also longtime LLU participants. They began taking courses in 2005 and continue to take one or two courses each semester.

"We enjoy the classes on history, religion and art," said Gilgen. "It gives us a chance to get out together and expand our horizons as a couple. Taking classes is a nice way to stay intellectually active and to sample an area of study we may not have studied before."

To learn how you can remain intellectually active and expand your horizons, contact Kelli McCarthy at kelli.mccarthy@uni.edu, 319-273-5141 or visit www.uni.edu/llu.