After moving to Fort Collins a year ago, Phil Bigsby, 69, and his wife Roxanne, 71, were looking for a way to connect with the community. Thanks to a new CSU program that emphasizes the importance of continuing the learning process, they got the chance to do just that.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, launched this spring, provides members of the Fort Collins community an opportunity to take noncredit courses.
“In general, (learning) is the only thing for a person to do when one is retired,” Phil Bigsby said.
OLLI, a program funded by a grant from The Bernard Osher Foundation, is just one of 90 other similar institutes across the nation. CSU launched its program with the first classes of the spring last Tuesday.
Jean Morganweck, co-director of OLLI, said the program provides an opportunity for people to continue learning, as well as branch out socially.
“They can learn for the pure joy of learning,” Morganweck said. “The goal is not only to teach classes but it is to help people form a social network and become engaged in the community.”
The courses feature noncredit courses in history, creative arts, life’s transitions and global and cultural issues among others.
“I like the whole approach because it aims at keeping people learning but it also brings them into a community of people,” said Tom Micholski, a course instructor.
The Bigsbys, who have participated in similar programs at other universities, decided to take a course titled “Five Plants and a Fish that Changed the World” because of CSU’s historical background.
“We knew agriculture was important at CSU so we would be tying into the community,” Roxanne Bigsby said.
The courses are taught by volunteer community members who are experts in their fields.
After retiring from Rocky Mountain High School two years ago, Micholski missed being in the classroom, which is why he decided to volunteer as an instructor for OLLI. Micholski is teaching a class on American history and perspectives on current issues.
“I thought it would be a lot of fun to get in the classroom with people who have lived through some of that history,” he said.
Robert Zimdahl, a former CSU professor of agriculture, volunteered to teach a course.
“The Osher program is one deserving of support and it’s a good idea,” he said. “So many older people are quite interested in learning and there aren’t similar opportunities around for them to do that.”
Zimdahl said that volunteering for the Osher program is a “new adventure.”
“It gives me the opportunity to try to teach older adults who aren’t interested in credit and just want to learn,” he said.
More than 150 people have already registered for courses and more are expected, as some courses do not start until later this spring.
The Bigsbys plan on continuing with their education with the program as well.
“Sure I will,” Phil Bigsby said. “Learning is forever.”
Staff writer Rebecca Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.