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A special spring for OLLI

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University is offering a spring term special. From now until the term ends in June, the term fee is $75 and is all inclusive.

Once the fee is paid, members may take as many courses out of the 127 available as they wish, according to OLLI Communications Coordinator Anne Bellegia.

A class request enrollment option is available until March 8. Bellegia said some popular classes are very small, for example, a painting class that has only 12 seats. She said participants may enroll in their top three classes ranked by priority and then that information is put into a “computer lottery” in which a computer uses an algorithm to determine randomly who gets into the class to keep it fair.

She recommends anyone wishing to participate in small classes to enroll this way first.

“There’s 2,000 members,” Bellegia said. “What are the odds of getting into a class that has 12 seats?”

Open enrollment begins March 25 and continues throughout the term. It’s based on a first-come, first-served method. The spring term begins April 1 and ends June 7.

There are no grades or tests in OLLI courses.

To register for classes, see inside.sou.edu/olli, call the office at 541-552-6048 or stop by the office at the Campbell Center, 655 Frances Lane, Ashland. Scholarships are available.

Bellegia said course catalogs should be available at all Jackson County libraries beginning the week of Feb. 25.

Most classes are at the Campbell Center, a handful are at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, 101 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and a few are at various other locations in the Rogue Valley, such as a fly-fishing course taught in Phoenix.

Bellegia said some interesting courses offered this spring include “See Like a Geologist: The Landscape Around You,” taught by geologist Karen Grove, who is fond of field trips to local geological sites, and “What’s So Special About Human Language” taught by linguist Tony Davis.

She said a class brought back by popular demand is Peggy Evans’ “Spotlight on the SOU Music Faculty.” Bellegia said the class focuses on the roles of various musical instructors and their expectations of students. She said the class is taught in the SOU Music Recital Hall, which seats about 400.

“It’s quite intergenerational, and people really like it,” Bellegia said.

Executive Director Rob Casserly said this term offers the largest spring term OLLI has ever offered, and 57 of the courses are new. The courses are taught by 122 local people.

“The lineup for OLLI’s spring courses is sure to have something for everyone, with a diverse range of courses being offered in many subject areas, including arts, health, history, languages, literature, movement, nature, personal exploration, social science and (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” Casserly said.

“The OLLI program isn’t just classes,” Bellegia said.

She said apart from the courses, which range from 2 to 10 weeks each, there are various social events, community lectures, shared interest groups and conversation connections that are all free.

“These are sort of facilitated groups,” Bellegia said. “Maybe you took a blues harmonica class and you want to keep practicing.”

The OLLI program, including its instructors, is member-volunteer run, with a couple of full-time staff members.

Members are encouraged to volunteer with the organization and to teach classes.

Casserly said course instructors range from experts with doctorates in the field to just plain, old passionate people.

“Although many of our instructors do have advanced college degrees and teaching experience, many others do not,” Casserly said. “All that is required is a willingness to share your passion with OLLI members who love to learn.”

Anyone interested in teaching a course can submit a proposal to the curriculum committee, Casserly said.

“There are some courses that are very academic taught by people who have taught at various prestigious universities, but also we have things that are very hands-on, and we have personal exploration classes where there’s more discussion,” Bellegia said. “More than anything else, it’s about exploring things that are well out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself.”

She said although anybody is welcome to take OLLI courses, classes are geared for age 50 and older.

OLLI’S mission statement claims, “We offer a diverse repertoire of courses and programs designed to foster lifelong learning, encourage social interaction and provide cultural enrichment,” according to the website.

The normal academic year is from September through June and costs a flat fee of $125 with about 250 to 350 classes to choose from and consists of three terms — fall, winter and spring.

This is the fifth year the spring special has been offered because of its popularity.

“This spring discount is a way for people who are sort of on the fence about OLLI to do a term, and they can decide if they want to come back later,” Bellegia said.

OLLI is a national organization. The Ashland branch was founded 25 years ago, which is why about 70 percent of the classes are offered in Ashland.

Bellegia said there are plans to offer more classes at the Medford location next fall.

The Ashland location is undergoing a renovation to modernize the facility.

Bellegia said Paul Christy, interim executive director at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, was OLLI’s curriculum chair for this term.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we have volunteers in so many different organizations,” she said.

Casserly said out of the 122 OLLI campuses across the country, OLLI at SOU has the lowest all-inclusive membership fee.

“At some OLLIs, you might have to pay hundreds of dollars for just one course,” Casserly said. At OLLI at SOU, though, if you sign up for the $75 spring special membership, you can take as many courses as you wish.”

For more information, see inside.sou.edu/olli/index.html.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Photo by Steve BabuljakLinda Rose gives a presentation to OLLI members in 2012. Rose spent much of her career in the federal government and now aids organizations going through change and experiencing strain because of it.