They may not be buying princess backpacks or safety scissors at back-to-school sales, but many Dorchester senior citizens are eager to return to UMass Boston (UMB) where they will resume a busy schedule of attending and, in many cases, teaching classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).
Part of a national network of 120 similar organizations in every state, the UMB OLLI program enriches the intellectual, social, and cultural lives of those 50 or older without the pressures of the typical university environment.
Over 1,000 seniors study at the Columbia Point campus each semester with Dorchester ranking second only to Quincy as the neighborhood with the most OLLI members. At least 10 Dot residents will be volunteering this fall as “course facilitators.”
No academic or other credentials are required. There are no tests, no papers, and no degrees. Daytime classes meet once a week for up to 2 hours and last anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. OLLI also sponsors theater outings (including “Romeo and Juliet” at the Strand), day trips to New England museums, even exotic overseas adventures like a Northern European cruise, ¡Bienvenidos a Cuba! and Morocco Sahara Odyssey.
Fall 2013 on-campus offerings range from entry-level like “How to Use Google” to more specialized classes like “Human Genetics and Epigenetics” and “The Turkish Alphabet Revolution.”
Among the veteran Dot facilitators is Helena Zurbin, who continues her Monday morning “Working with Watercolor” series. Dot’s Diane McCormack, past chair of the OLLI board of directors, will co-lead a Wednesday series called “Let’s Talk About Three Elephants in the Room: Ageism, Ableism, and Heterosexism.”
Other Dot residents teach popular language courses. Judy Planchon continues her “Intermediate French Conversation through Cinema” series and Jones Hill’s Dr. Irene L. Roman, recently elected to the OLLI board, has a strong following for both her “Basic Italian II” and “Introduction to Italy and Italian Culture” offerings, the latter of which will be a videoconference series shared with students in Plymouth and Hingham.
Another Jones Hill resident, cable TV host John Joseph Fahey, will do a Saturday series on “Two American Authors: John Steinbeck and Willa Cather,” exploring five great US novels and their depictions of immigrants to the Midwest and West.
Also in a literary vein, Ocean Street resident James Buckley (chair of the OLLI by-law committee) will coax attendees into “Reading Aloud and Discussing Your Favorite Short Story.” Cedar Grove’s Robert P. Dunford, a 38-year veteran of the Boston Police force and former commanding officer of the Boston Police Academy will teach a Wednesday series on “The Police, the Constitution and Citizens’ Rights.”
Finally, this reporter will present on alternate Wednesday afternoons “Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ ” and “The History of Mystery 8: The Private Investigator” (an ongoing appreciation of detective/crime books, TV series, and movies).
In addition, each semester there are about 40 one-shot lunchtime lectures known as Brown Bag presentations covering topics as diverse as Elder Economic Security, US Presidents, Postage Stamps, and Christmas Traditions.
Among the upcoming Dot-led Brown Bags scheduled for the fall is “History via HERStory: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” taught by Dr. Marieta Joyner. And Cedar Grove’s Dorothy Dunford will do two Brown Bags: “Louisa May Alcott: Not Just a Little ‘Woman’ ” (exploring the beloved author’s involvement in the early Women’s Rights Movement) and “What is Education in Prison and Who Benefits?”
To enroll in courses, which start in mid September or early October, visit OLLI.umb.edu, or call 617- 287-7312 to request a catalog. Full or partial scholarships may be available on request.