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Sharing the wealth of knowledge

February 17, 2011
by Paul Miller

Imagine attending classes that have no prerequisites, no tests, no stress, and no degree requirements, and you're imagining reality at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Dozens of compelling classes

Established at CSU in 2006, the Institute offers dozens of classes throughout the academic year and during the summer in topics ranging from comparative religion to the future of journalism to everything you’ve always wanted to know about human genetics.

“One of the most popular classes was ‘Silk Road,’” says Jean Morgenweck, who co-directs the institute with Kevin Oltjenbruns. “Our classes are filled with people who love history, current affairs, learning about the environment – one of our new offerings is a class on climate change.”

Following initial investments totaling $400,000 over four years, the Bernard Osher Foundation in April 2010 awarded CSU a $1 million endowment, which will keep the institute operating in perpetuity.

Increasing membership base

“Our next challenge is to reach a 1,000-member base, which means we’ll be able to apply for a second $1 million endowment,” Morgenweck says. The institute now has 650 members.

Osher’s classes are powered by emeritus professors, community experts, and a variety of people who have the skills, talents, and interest to share their knowledge with others, Morgenweck says.  

“The institute’s overall success has been dependent on many factors, including the expertise of an outstanding group of faculty offering courses over a wide array of themes and the enthusiasm of hundreds of individuals, many of whom helped recruit new members,” Oltjenbruns says.

All ages welcome

Although the institute targets people aged 50 and better, Morgenweck says that all ages are welcome to join. Annual $35 memberships include perks such as tuition-free lectures, book groups, and local tours to places such as CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Lab and the Human Performance/Clinical Research Lab.

“A minimal tuition fee is charged for most classes, which equates to less than $7.50 per contact hour,” Morgenweck says. “That’s the cost of a cup of coffee or two.”

Members and participants come from Wyoming, Livermore, Estes Park, Greeley, Loveland, and other areas. “We get retired engineers, chemists, patent attorneys, and many others who are curious about topics they never had a chance to explore while they were building their careers and raising families,” Morgenweck says.

It's just pure joy

“The exciting thing about the classes is they’re offered for the pure joy of learning. Osher brings together people who truly want to learn and grow, be engaged in their community, stay current with the world, and meet new people.”

Curious minds of all ages are welcome to join the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is housed within the Division of Continuing Education. Institute offices and classrooms are located in Routt Hall on the northeast corner of campus, with some classes taking place at the Colorado Welcome Center off I-25 and community rooms throughout Fort Collins. The institute recently expanded classes into Loveland.  

Call (970) 491-7753 or visit the Web for more details.