The Osher Institute at SDSU offers access to educational resources for adults 50 and older, without having to enroll as a formal student at the university. It’s a great opportunity for adults who want to be lifelong learners and it’s available right here in the College Area. Designed for personal enrichment, there are no educational prerequisites, no entrance exams, no homework, no tests and no grades.
Osher SDSU is one of a network of 124 locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The national program was founded in 2001 by The Bernard Osher Foundation to help develop and support resources for lifelong learning and purposeful aging. Other Osher Liflong Learning Insitutes in San Diego County include sites at UCSD and CSU, San Marcos.
With goals such as enrichment, social interaction, civic engagement and personal development, taking part has many benefits. Osher participants say the program helps them connect with others, learn new things, develop skills and keep their mind sharp.
Participants get to experience the joy of learning by exploring interesting topics related to history, science, literature, the arts, humanities, health, business, law, international relations and current issues in society, among others. A course, lecture or activity might be led by current faculty, retired professors, distinguished experts, or community leaders. In addition to college-level learning, Osher programs can offer non-academic options designed to serve the interests of a given community, such as master gardening and culinary classes, and museum visits.
Michelle Joyce, who lives in nearby Alvarado Estates, enjoyed an art history class on Modernism in Europe so much, that she has attended more classes on the SDSU campus.
“I have taken a few art history courses from the Osher Center and think they are possibly the best amenity in the area,” she said. “They differ from any other continuing education instruction that I have taken, in that they are a very short commitment and instead of taking an aerial view they tend to take a deep dive on a very specific topic.”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Osher has now turned to online programming to better ensure the safety of participants and instructors. Like many educational settings, the Osher Institute at SDSU is currently using Zoom-conferencing to connect participants to an off-campus remote learning experience. The delivery method has changed from in-person classes to online live webinars, but the commitment to providing engaging educational opportunities hasn’t.
As dean of SDSU Global Campus, Radhika Seshan overseas the Osher Institute at SDSU. Working with her team to carry-out this necessary new approach, she states, “We look forward to strengthening and enriching this program format, so that we can grow our community and assure ourselves of a responsible and rich experience as the Osher program moves forward.“
The most recent Zoom webinar on Jan. 6 was entitled, “Dismantling Racism One Insight at a Time.” The session consisted of a 60-minute presentation by Peter Bolland, a philosophy and humanities professor, followed by 30 minutes of questions and answers.
Nancy Miller took part in that webinar and enthusiastically expressed, “This was one of the best presentations on dismantling racism I’ve ever heard. It was explanatory, non-judgemental, and informative as to why there is bias and what we can do to address it, in all arenas, including ourselves.”
According to Jennifer Ederer, a program coordinator, about 100 people took part in that webinar. She believes the interactive Zoom session proved to be a successful new way of engaging with the Osher community until in-person participation is allowed.
Prior to the pandemic, membership was required to access Osher courses. Some Osher host sites have an all-inclusive fee structure, while others charge separately for courses and activities. Typically, Osher SDSU charged a membership fee of $30 per term. Benefits extend beyond classes, and include Love Library priveledges, discounted event rates and even a student Amazon Prime rate. While public health measures are still in effect, the Institute is currently offering free access to its online monthly webinars without membership, but will clarify its fee structure when traditional programming resumes. Now, is a great time to get familiar with the College area Osher community, as staff work to generate more online programming opportunities.
The next webinar is scheduled on Feb. 15, 1:30-3 p.m. Oliva M. Espin, Ph.D., will make a presentation based on her recently published memoir, “My Native Land is Memory: Stories of a Cuban Childhood.” She will illuminate the pre-revolutionary Cuba of the 1940s and 1950s, based on history, family photos, stories, analysis and memories. Those wanting to learn more about Cuban history without reading historical treatises, will enjoy this presentation and Q&A discussion.
Dr. Espen is a native of Cuba. She received her Ph.D. in Florida, did post-doctoral work at Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Austria. She is Professor Emerita in the Department of Women’s Studies at SDSU. It is not necessary to have read the memoir in advance, but for those who would like to, it can be found online and through local or national booksellers.
Monthly webinars can be accessed on the organization’s website. To receive information and a Zoom link, complete their form to request email updates. Go to ces.sdsu.edu/osher-lifelong-learning-institute-sdsu or email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.