A Learning Community

A Learning Community

September 1, 2012
Director Jane Dowrick reflects - The Osher Institute is a learning community

By Jane Dowrick (Photo by Tim Hanger)

When the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Richmond offered its first classes in Summer 2004, we began from scratch with lots of interest and zero members. From the beginning we set our sights on becoming a community of lifelong learners. On the completion of our eighth year, I’d like to reflect on some of the characteristics of our vibrant group of Osher members.

There is a sense of ownership and pride. As Carl Booberg says so well in his “Council Corner” article in this issue, the Osher Institute belongs to the Osher members. We aim to be member-driven so that all of our programs hold meaning for our members. Our guiding philosophy is that seasoned adults are peers and partners in one another’s learning. Osher members care about the quality of the Institute’s offerings and provide essential input for the creation of Osher programs and feedback about their classroom experiences.

We have a desire to learn for the joy of it. There is lots of laughter in Osher classrooms. Osher members’ enthusiasm spills out of the classroom and into visits over coffee , lunch and member-led interest groups.

Strong bonds have formed between Osher members. This is especially evident when there is illness or loss, and members reach out to one another to offer help and understanding.

There is a spirit of generosity. This year we’ve had more than 100 Osher members serving as volunteers in various capacities. As you probably know, all of our Osher course leaders and lecturers are volunteers, and many of them are Osher members.  People sometimes ask if it’s hard to find people who will volunteer to lead Osher programs. Thankfully, our Osher course leaders are highly motivated by a passion for their topic and zeal for sharing what they know with others. Finding these special people is simply a matter of getting the word out about opportunities to share ones love of learning with other lifelong learners. Supporting the course leaders are a host of Osher members who serve as class assistants to help with details like taking roll and making sure class evaluations are completed. And, there is tremendous support behind the scenes from the Osher members who serve on our Leadership Council and on our five project teams for Curriculum, Development, Leader Support, Marketing and Membership (which includes the hard working Newsletter Team).

Our community continues to grow and evolve—it’s a great ride!