By Ann Williams, Photo by Tim Hanger

What is meant by “member driven” when describing the Osher Institute? And why do we use the word “team” rather than “committee?” These are questions sometimes asked of us on the Leadership Council.

The Osher Institute is member driven in that we, the members of Osher, help develop ideas for courses and course leaders through the Curriculum Team. We support those course leaders through the Leader Support Team. The Marketing Team works to increase membership through its speakers’ bureau, the online newsletter and activities to attract new people. The Membership Team then tries to be sure that members maintain their membership through calls to welcome new members, teaching the orientation sessions, and working events both on and off campus. The Development Team works hand-in-glove with the University to help raise money, not only for the Osher Institute, but also for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

These teams not only develop ideas for the Osher Institute, but they also flesh them out and bring them to reality. For some, the difference between a committee and a team is that of a working agenda with a focus and action items. The term “committee” has developed a negative connotation in the minds of some people of just meeting, listening, developing a report, but not actually accomplishing anything.

There are two very capable staff members of the Osher Institute, Jane Dowrick and Debra Guild, but, if all ideas went to them to be developed and put into place, they would collapse under the weight of the work. They need for us Osher members not only to develop good ideas but also to put them into practice.

This year, the teams have been developing terms of service for their members. This helps those who are asked (or who volunteer!) to serve on a team to understand the length of such a commitment. Additionally, terms of service lead to turnover on the teams so that new ideas and people are encouraged. Additionally, “ownership” of teams is avoided.   When members of any group become entrenched, this can lead to wanting to exclude new members and ideas and believing that “our way” is the only way.

Member driven means using lots of volunteers. If you are an Osher member and have not yet volunteered to serve in some capacity, please feel free to contact me (Ann Williams or Jane Dowrick ( We would welcome an opportunity to explain the various ways in which you might become involved and help make the Osher Institute even better than it is!