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OLLI at Northwestern

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions we are often asked:

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 more than 90 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 1,600 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 if I just want to try OLLI out?
The Trial Membership is for you! This special membership is for first timers only and may be purchased only once. If purchased in the fall it gives you one study group in fall semester and one in winter session (with no benefits). If purchased in the spring it gives you one study group on the spring semester and one in the summer session (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 the fall and spring semesters are 14 weeks long. A 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.

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. You can also browse our current study groups and special events online on the OLLI Online Registration System – click here. You do not need to create an account or be a member to view our catalog online.

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 we can find a study group for you to visit 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.  Click here to learn about public transportation options and the Northwestern University 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 for a special, discounted rate at Huron-Superior Self- Park (222 E. Huron). Vouchers for discounted parking are available for pick up from the Chicago OLLI office Monday through Thursday from noon to 1:30pm. Call the Chicago OLLI office (312-503-7881) for the most current rate information.

If you drive to class in Evanston, the options are on-street parking, City of Evanston public parking garages, and parking in the 500 Davis Center garage. For more information on parking in Evanston, including rates and time limits, click here.

More information on getting to both campuses can be found on the Contact Us page.

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. 

 

 

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