You learn something new every day

University for Seniors provides a place for continuing education

There is a part of our school not many know about.  Many people have passed this area, but probably don't know that it even exists.  Tucked away in a tiny corner right across the hall from the Dining Center is Kirby Student Center 335.  It is also known as the office of the University for Seniors program.

Carole Schweiger, a supervisor of sorts for the program, explains that it is about twenty-four years old.  She explains that the idea was started by a group of thirty women who met in a church.  It is a program for people ages 50 and older, but they're not the only ones the program is for.

"I thought it was kind of a cool opportunity to get involved," said Ross Cody Burns, one of the student volunteers in the program.

The program is focused on student involvement with the elders in the community.  Carole says that it allows both the students and the elders to learn from each other.

"Students have to be able to teach technology," said Schweiger.

Gerry Ralph is one of the elders in the program.  He functions primarily as a guest speaker for classes.  He describes himself as a spokesperson.  He is very proud of the program, and has said that he had one student approach him and say that it was the high point of the year.

The program has been mutually beneficial for both students and the elders.  Lukas Lundgren, one of the younger students who participates in the program, explains that it is quite a unique experience.

"You do experience a form of culture shock," said Lukas.

The program offers a wide range of courses.  The classes range from stretching and film classes all the way to classes about world issues and religion.  There are even panel discussions in the vein of these world issue classes, where students and older people can come together and offer perspective on different problems and events.

Gerry Ralph says they even offer "mock" interviews, which he describes as helping students "to prepare for the real world of interviewing".

One of the more interesting events is called "World Quest", which is sponsored by the Alworth Institute for International Studies.  It is a trivia contest that the University for Seniors participates in and is focused on different countries around the globe.  It takes place in the Kirby Ballroom every year, and is a highlight for students within the program.

In the end what counts is people.  Carole herself stressed that it is important for students to learn from these older gentlemen, to share an understanding with this sort of "living history" as she called them.

"Respect is a two-way street," said Schweiger.



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