After a successful first semester in Vermillion this winter, administrators of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) are planning to expand the program for the fall term.
Program Director Lori Bonderson, Michelle Laughlin, assistant dean for continuing and distance education at the University of South Dakota, and Ted Muenster of the USD Foundation spent much of Thursday, April 7, meeting with representatives from USD and the city of Vermillion, as well as club members and regular citizens regarding the program.
�I think Vermillion is a wonderful community to have this program,� Bonderson said. �The resources are here, the enthusiasm is here. So I�m very optimistic.�
Muenster agreed, adding that Vermillion �is a natural place for this to take root because of the influence of the university here, and the diversity of expertise on the campus. There are a lot of residents in the community that have a great intellectual curiosity and I think if we bring those two things together it can really enrich life in the community and make Vermillion a more attractive place to be.�
For the past five years, South Dakota senior citizens have been given the opportunity to take college-level non-credit courses as part of the OLLI program.
Laughlin said that most universities have �community education programs,� but OLLI is different.
�This is really taking it one step further,� she said. �This is a much higher level of learning, which is just a great addition (to Vermillion).�
Classes and lectures are offered during winter, spring and fall terms. For a fee, participants join the program, whereupon they can take any number of classes at any location � Brookings, Sioux Falls or Vermillion.
Two multi-session courses and two lectures were offered during Vermillion�s first OLLI term.
�We had great attendance,� Bonderson said. �Whenever you start a new program, you always wonder whether there will be enough people that will come, but we did not cancel any of (the classes). From the reports I got from the students, they were very well-attended and enjoyed. �
�For spring term, we pulled back a little bit to do an assessment to make sure that we were on the right track and that we have the right people involved, with the intent that we would move forward again for fall,� she said.
To this end, a taskforce has been established consisting of OLLI representatives, as well as current and retired teachers and professors.
�At least five or six of them have attended classes, either in Vermillion in the winter or in Sioux Falls,� Bonderson said.
�So it�s nice that they�re helping to get the word out and give ideas on different things, what they think might work. It�s very helpful,� Laughlin added.
Muenster was an attendee of one of the winter term�s courses � �Histories and Mysteries at the National Music Museum,� which was overseen by Dr. Deborah Check Reeves, curator of education at the museum and associate professor of music at USD.
�That was great fun,� Muenster said. �I learned a lot, and I think the others did, as well.�
It is still undetermined as to how many courses will be available during the fall term.
�I have it in my head that we�ll be offering six to eight, depending on the response from the faculty,� Bonderson said. �I think we�ll get there. It may even be more than that. �
�We calculate how many classes our membership will bear, so if we have 15 members in Vermillion, we could easily offer the six or eight � and they would get enough people in them to be able to hold the classes,� she said.
For the most part, classes will be kept small.
�For some things, like writing and literature, we keep them small so that the discussion element can be richer, so that the experience is good for the student and the teacher,� Bonderson said.
However, exceptions are made for some lectures which might be of interest to the community, such as last term�s �Vermillion: Before the Flood of 1881,� which was presented by Judge Arthur Rusch.
Bonderson said she hopes the program will continue to expand into the future.
�We hope to build memberships so that we can continue to offer more and different kinds of programs,� she said. �Most of all, we�re just hoping to offer the same high-quality kinds of programming for the citizens of these communities as we do everywhere else.�
SD OLLI is based at the Sioux Falls University Center under the administration of USD.
For more information, visit www.olliuc.org.