It may not look like it but inside a corner unit in a Tucson strip mall along First Avenue is a thriving community of higher learning.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is part of the University of Arizona’s Department of Continuing and Professional Education.
Meg Hovell and her husband joined OLLI the day after they moved to Arizona from Connecticut nine years ago.
“It keeps you alive as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Hovell is now retired after a career at engineering giant, IBM. At OLLI she participates in a poetry class.
“You've got an opportunity to study those things you never studied when you went to school. You also have an opportunity to interact with other people with whom you may or may not share the same opinions or so forth it gets you of your comfort zone. You're dealing with something that is different,” she said.
The Osher Foundation funds this program in cities, typically with major universities, across the country.
Classes are selected by a committee of members and are taught by university faculty, retired faculty, or OLLI members.
“It gives them a sense of community,” says Program Director Scott Aldridge. He says one of the governing theories of the program is lifelong learning keeps people engaged intellectually and socially.
“There are peer leaders and peer groups that get together and bring all kinds of amazing talent to the table from their own experiences and backgrounds to engaging the UA faculty and other community members,” Aldridge explained.
Hovell says the classes can work wonders, “I’ve had things as dramatic as people coming in here and saying ‘OLLI saved my life’ because it got them out of their home, out of concentration on their own issues, it got them into a broader world and it expanded their horizons.”