UW Today

August 31, 2011

Million-dollar endowment, bright future for Osher Institute at the UW

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington has received a $1 million endowment from the Bernard Osher Foundation. The endowment will provide stable funding for the institute, which offers courses and other programs for adults who are 50 and older.

Launched in 2006, the UW program is one of 117 institutes supported by the Osher Foundation, all located at universities around the country.

The foundation provides startup money to a new institute for several years; then the institute can apply for an endowment. The foundation bases its decision about awarding the endowment on the quality and breadth of programming, the size of the membership, the involvement of member volunteers and the support of its host university.

“Its not a sure thing that you get the endowment, so were excited and happy,” said Chaya Siegelbaum, program management director in Educational Outreach, where the program is housed. “The Osher Foundation only funds institutes at universities, and it wants them to offer college level material.”

The UW institute is a membership organization, currently with 500 members.  Each pays $85 per year, and is then eligible to take courses for $35 each.  The institute always welcomes new members. Its now possible to join and to register for courses at the website.

The courses are typically three to five weeks long, two hours per session, and are noncredit. No tests to take or papers to write, and no grades given. However, the courses are high quality. All Instructors and syllabi must be approved by an academic department. Several of the fall courses are, in fact, being taught by UW faculty and graduate students. Others are taught by experts in the community.

Siegelbaum said the institute is interested in recruiting university faculty — both active and retired — to teach courses. Anyone interested in teaching  should email OLLI-UW-Staff@pce.uw.edu.

This fall the UW institute will offer 18 courses at three locations — Seattle, Redmond and Everett.  Five of the Seattle classes will be held on the UW campus. Courses range from The Energy Crisis: New Developments, to Clarence Darrow: Labor and Terrorism in the Early 20th Century. Members can take a course at any location.

In addition to the courses, the institute will offer two new programs this fall. Lunch and Learn programs feature a speaker and are held at a place where members can bring or buy their lunch. UW Communication Professor David Domke will kick off the series with “Visions of America: Barack Obama vs. the Tea Party in 2012,” slated for Sept. 16 on campus. Other lectures will be at Trilogy, a retirement community on Redmond Ridge. All are free with membership.

Also new are study groups led by members, and these too are free. Essentially, someone comes forward and offers to lead a study group on a topic of his or her choice. Study groups can meet for a specific amount of time or indefinitely. Siegelbaum said that 49 people had come forward with study group ideas. Final selections have not yet been made.

Members have the opportunity to get as involved as they like. Volunteer committees plan social events, assist in programming, create newsletters, act as course liaisons and serve on a speakers’ bureau for membership recruitment.

For more information about the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW, go to the website.