As usual, Dot seniors are lining up to enroll in special UMass classes

Back-to-school fever is hardly just for the young. Scores of Dot seniors who still love to learn are anticipating going to UMass for special classes this fall.

Wichian Rojanawon, PhD, Director of the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute or OLLI Program, conservatively estimates that 10 percent of the 600+ OLLI membership will again come from Dorchester/Mattapan.

The no-pressure courses meet once a week during the day and last anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. Field and theater trips, bring-your-own-lunch special lectures, and social events are other options.

No academic or other credentials are required, only the desire to participate actively in a small course environment with one’s peers, and an open mind about sharing skills and ideas. There are no tests, no papers, and no degrees.

Here’s a sample of the 2009 fall courses, most of which begin in mid or late September: “Writing Stories and Memoirs,” “Tai Chi,” “Working in Watercolors,” “First Ladies,” “Getting to Know How to Look at Paintings,” and one that sums up the whole program, “Stretch Your Body/Stretch Your Mind.”

One-session “brown bag” presentations will include William Bulger on JFK’s legacy, “Keep Control of Your Assets and Your Life,” and a video-conference entitled “Die-Hard Sports Fan’s Guide to Boston.”

Don’t-be-afraid-of-your-computer classes range from “Making Sense of Numbers Using Microsoft Excel” to “How to Build a Simple Website.”

Among the Dot residents in facilitator roles, Judy Planchon returns to teach her popular Intermediate Conversational French. Ashmont Hill’s Jim Buckley, who has directed over 50 plays, will again offer Acting 101 for those who have never been on stage, a mini-course which will culminate in the presentation of a one-act in mid-fall.

This reporter will be teaching the latest installment of his “So You Think You Have Problems?” Shakespeare Appreciation series, this time exploring the ever-enchanting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ( which will be presented by a local theater group this fall) as well as his popular “The History of Mystery” series, focusing on how to find crime novels, movies, and television series that best suit one’s tastes.

Dorchester resident, Diane McCormack, chairs the OLLI Board of Directors. Her husband, Thomas Taranto, heads the Outreach Committee. Savin Hill patriarch John Carney is also a board member.

Living so close to the Harbor Campus, Mattapan/Dorchester residents can most easily make use of other OLLI membership benefits like free access to the UMass Library and the Clark Athletic facilities including an indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Other life-enrichment opportunities include going to local theater productions of “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Carmen,” and August Wilson’s baseball-themed “Fences.” Excursions are planned to Lowell and Hartford. Overseas trips to China and to Thailand are almost filled, at this point, but new ones are being contemplated for Peru and Spain.

View enrollment details and entire fall listings online at, where you can also see a 12-minute testimonial-filled documentary about the UMass OLLI program. Otherwise, call 617-287-7312 to have a free catalog mailed.