Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Northwestern University

Rethink Learning

OLLI FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does OLLI stand for?
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is one of 119 prestigious lifelong learning institutes in the United States that are funded in part by the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco. Formerly Northwestern University's Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR, founded in 1987), OLLI was renamed in 2005 after a generous grant from the foundation.

What does peer learning mean?
OLLI at Northwestern is one of only a handful of peer-led, lifelong learning programs in the country, which includes programs at Harvard, Brandeis, and the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) at The New School in New York City. Peer learning means that groups convene in seminar-style discussion groups, without an instructor. Peer learning allows you to learn with and from each other. Subjects for study are conceived by members who are called coordinators.

What background do coordinators need to have?
The coordinators are not required to have expertise in the subjects they suggest. Anyone with a passion for a subject can become a great coordinator. A committee of members reviews proposals from the coordinators and those that meet their criteria are included in the catalog. Coordinators create a syllabus and select the text for the study group, and they facilitate study groups, but they do not teach.

What topics are offered?
Each semester, OLLI offers about 70 diverse study groups in the following disciplines and others: Literature, Creative Arts, History and Government, Philosophy and Theology, Science and Tech, and Contemporary/Sociological Issues. Most study groups range in size from 10 to 25 members.

Do you have prerequisites or exams?
No, there are no prerequisites, no exams and no grades. There is no degree granted, just the joy of learning for pure pleasure — and the spirit of friendship and shared learning.

How many members does OLLI have and what is their average age?
We have over 1,000 members, between the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Our members range in age from about 50 to 90 years old. The average member is in their 70s.

What are the benefits of All Inclusive and Basic memberships?
So many! All Inclusive members take up to three study groups in the fall, winter, spring and summer sessions — that's up to 12 study groups per year! Basic members take one study group in the fall and spring semesters. Both levels receive the Northwestern WildCARD ID, which entitles them to:

  • Full access to seven libraries with over four million books
  • Free campus and inter-campus shuttles
  • Free access to campus computer labs
  • Reduced rates to audit up to two School of Professional Studies courses per academic year after one full year of active OLLI membership (as determined by the OLLI director)
  • Affiliate rates to join the University campus athletic facilities
  • Other student discounts that can be found here

I still work part-time. What would be right for me?
The Basic Annual membership might be for you: One study group in the fall, one in the spring, with WildCARD and benefits (see above).

I travel in the winter. How can I enjoy OLLI?
You can enjoy OLLI with the new Single Semester Rate, which allows you to take three study groups in either the fall or spring semester only - whenever you are here (with no benefits).

What if I just want to try OLLI out?
The Trial Membership is for you! This special membership is for first timers only: one study group in fall and one in winter "intersession" (with no benefits). If you like OLLI, you can upgrade your membership later.

What is different about the summer and winter sessions?
These are shorter sessions with an eclectic roster of offerings. The winter and summer sessions are 4 weeks long and semesters are 14 weeks long. An winter or summer session group might also offer atypical studies such as docent-led visits to museums or city sculptures or playing in a chamber music quartet.

Can I join for just the summer or the winter?
Yes, OLLI summer and winter sessions are open to new members.

How can I get a catalog that further explains the different levels of membership and the schedule of study groups?
It's easy! Just call 312-503-7881 or 847-492-8204 and ask for one. Or click here to request a catalog in the mail.

May I visit an OLLI study group to see if OLLI is the right fit for me?
Yes. Call the OLLI office at 312-503-7881 or 847-492-8204 and a study group will be found that is tailored to your interests. The office will make the arrangements.

Are scholarships available?
Yes, financial assistance is available and awards are strictly confidential. Please contact OLLI Director Kirsty Montgomery at 847-492-8068 to learn more about our scholarships and to fill in an application form.. 

What about a Gift Membership? (Great for Father's or Mother's Day!)
Of course! Call the Chicago office at 312-503-7881 or the Evanston office at 847-492-8204 to make arrangements.

What if I cannot attend one or more sessions? Does that alter my ability to register?
Most members of OLLI have reasons that come up during the year for having to miss sessions. In such cases as this, you should look closely at the study group descriptions and pick subjects that are more "by-the-week," such as Short Stories, film groups, or The New Yorker, if you are going to be out a lot.

What about transportation to OLLI classes?
There is plentiful public transportation, which you can learn about here. On the site, you will learn about public transportation — plus the Evanston to Chicago/Chicago to Evanston shuttle system. If you are a full OLLI member with a WildCARD, you can ride the shuttles free!

And if I drive?
If you are driving to class in Chicago, you can park at a special, discounted rate at the Northwestern parking lot at the Erie-Ontario Self Park (321 E. Erie). Vouchers for discounted parking are available from the Chicago office. Call the Chicago OLLI office (312-503-7881) for the most current rate.

If you drive in Evanston, you can look for nearby street parking, park in the 500 Davis Center garage, or park in the nearby public garage. For the current price of the NU Parking Permit contact the Evanston OLLI office.

Whom do I contact if I have other questions?
Please contact OLLI in Chicago at 312-503-7881 or in Evanston at 847-492-8204.