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SOU and OLLI: Strength in Partnership

The relationship between Southern Oregon University and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is an outstanding example of how a partnership strengthens each organization.

They derive benefits through their partnership that they wouldn’t have separately. Both SOU and OLLI are committed to lifelong learning. While SOU primarily engages with younger adults, OLLI delivers on that lifelong learning mission to older (50-plus) adults. As partners, both organizations cover the lifespan of learners. How do SOU and OLLI work together to achieve that mission?

Let’s take a deeper look at one specific case of how their partnership does this. Peg Evans was a music professor at SOU for many years. In 2003 she started partnering with OLLI because she wanted to see larger audiences at SOU musical events. She thought if potential audience members knew a little more about what was involved in making music, they would attend more live performances. She also believes that each SOU faculty member should be able to present for an hour or so on his or her specialty area. So, Peg asked the music faculty members if they each would be willing to do one session in a course during the OLLI term that would feature a different professor and specialty each week.

The professor could present a lecture or performance, or have a student perform. They supported Peg’s idea, and “Spotlight on the SOU Music Faculty” course debuted for the first time in the spring 2003 term. It’s been offered every other spring since then and will be offered again this spring 2021 term.

When Peg retired in 2008, she started teaching her own OLLI courses. Asked why she continues as an OLLI instructor of music courses, she said, “It keeps my brain active and engaged. It’s good for me, and I don’t have to grade papers. No grades, papers or tests.”

When asked what she wants students to take away from her courses, Peg answered, “to appreciate music and performances, to become better informed listeners.” She tries to organize courses around local performances, made more difficult during this pandemic time when we cannot go to live concerts.

Even though Peg has taught and performed music her whole life, either in an academic setting or in church music positions, she also has a strong interest in philanthropy. Believing that we can all help other people and organizations, and having had experience as a donor, she created another successful OLLI course on philanthropy.

Peg continues to try to recruit individuals to propose a topic that they are passionate about for an OLLI course. In fact, if Peg met someone new today and learned that they have a specific passion, she would encourage them to take an OLLI course and then consider becoming an instructor.

Taking it one step further, Peg has become an active, involved OLLI volunteer. After she taught OLLI courses for a while, she was invited to join a committee, then to join the Council of Directors, and then to chair a committee (she’s currently chair of the Communications and Community Outreach Committee). As an enthusiastic volunteer, Peg stated, “It’s a good way to get to know people, even more so than just taking classes. You’ll have more and better interactions.”

SOU and OLLI continue to strengthen their partnership. They encourage adult learners to share their interests and passions with others by proposing a course and becoming an instructor. Or simply start as an OLLI member and take as many courses as your schedule allows. OLLI is currently offering a spring reduced-rate membership. Taking it one step further, if you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, consider volunteering with OLLI. Complete information on membership, submitting a course proposal, or becoming a volunteer can be found at inside.sou.edu/olli.

Laura Simonds, a former marketing and sales professional in the publishing industry, volunteers on the OLLI Communications and Community Outreach Committee.

Courtesy photoThe OLLI “Spotlight on the SOU Music Faculty” course debuted for the first time in the spring 2003 term.