Lifelong Learning: What is it All About?
By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: January 20, 2011
Residents of the Shenandoah Valley who have never enrolled at JMU still have the opportunity to learn new things in the classroom through the social work department's Lifelong Learning Institute. "People that come to the Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) classes have an appreciation for learning and to grow and to be active," Nancy Owens, director of the LLI said. "These people are role models for students." The James Madison University Lifelong Learning Institute offers a variety of classes to students and nonstudents of the Harrisonburg community, as well as residents from surrounding areas. The goal of the LLI is to have learners of all ages expand their horizons.
Many of the LLI instructors are university professors and put together these ten-hour courses as a hobby. "It's a mutually satisfying arrangement," Nancy Owens said,"the instructors get just as much out of teaching as they put into it." Owens has been the director of the LLI for the past 12 years. With that experience, she has seen many courses and instructors come through the institute. She particularly enjoys the history courses, "I thoroughly enjoyed Dorothy Boyd-Bragg teaching [about] the English monarchs," Owens said, "it's like getting to know Henry VIII and his life."
A great quality about the LLI is that there is a course for everyone. Courses include the "high arts" of literature, music and theater, as well as offerings in foreign language, history, philosophy and religion. Members can also take courses in computers, politics, government, and several sciences. Subjects such as food & wine, hobbies & crafts, and self-help are available for enrollment as well. The Curriculum Committee is constantly looking for the new course offerings for the members. The LLI Social Committee plans an assortment of field trips and Brown Bag Lunches, with subject matters varying from "Volcanic Rocks of Mole Hill" to "Genealogy."
Terry and Dick Bueker teach the "Wine—Uncorked and Demystified" course for the LLI. "You learn something every time," Terry Bueker said, "you meet a lot of people, so you learn a lot of things that don't have anything to do with wine." The Buekers are wine experts with over 40 years of experience in the field. Terry has also been an instructor for over 30 years, so teaching is second nature for her.
Jerry Coulter teaches "Art: Looking is Harder Than it Looks!" For Coulter, learning about art "gives you insights you wouldn't have had before." In his class of over 40 members, Coulter believes that what made his class enjoyable was that "[the members] were all adults with lifelong experiences," the professor said, "you get more back from their experiences."
But what exactly do these instructors and administrators of the LLI think "lifelong learning" is? Terry Bueker related her response back to her love of wine. "You don't ever stop learning. Being is becoming, like the existentialists say." Mrs. Bueker replied, "you have to keep changing. Wine changes. Wine has a life." Jerry Coulter put it in short, yet sweet terms; lifelong learning to him is "keeping engaged in the world and finding new things to explore." Phyllis Coulter serves on the Curriculum Committee of the LLI. She thinks that the institute is a gift; "We've all been through school, but it's a time to try something new," Phyllis Coulter said, "it's a time to grow in a way that you could never do because you were confined by your job."
The courses keep the brain stimulated and give members a break from their daily routine once a week. Dick Bueker said, "you have to continue to learn." However, what many people don't know is that with the Lifelong Learning Institute, enrollment is open to all ages. JMU students can take courses if they wish. Surrounding community members can enroll for any course that the LLI offers. An important facet of the LLI program is that they encourage "intergenerational co-learning," where members of all ages can enroll in these courses to learn and grow together.
The Lifelong Learning Institute is continuously looking for new members to join their community. By becoming a member for an annual fee of $15, LLI publications will be sent to your home. Most courses are $35, with exceptions. The LLI also has Common Interest Groups that vary from music, theater, and art to classic books. There always is something for everyone to learn at the James Madison University Lifelong Learning Institute.