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2020 Osher Institutes National Conference

Breakout Session Descriptions

2020 Osher Institutes National Conference

Breakout Session Descriptions

Tuesday, 10:30 – 11:45am

Intergenerational Programming – Panel and Discussion (Follow-Up)

This panel discussion expands upon the themes of the earlier plenary session and includes three OLLI leaders from Institutes offering substantive intergenerational programming. Each panelist will present a brief overview of their intergenerational programming, followed by a moderated panel discussion. This session will cover numerous topics including multi-generational class creation, recruitment (members and instructors), fostering campus connections, community service projects, and research. Attendees are encouraged to bring ideas and questions for collaborative brainstorming around successful intergenerational programming. 


Donna M. Butts, President, Generations United, Washington, DC


Susan Hoffman, Executive Director, OLLI @ University of California, Berkeley

Richard Knopf, Director, OLLI @ Arizona State University

Josh Raney, Director, OLLI @ University of Arkansas


Distance Learning Success: Ready, Set, Launch

Many OLLIs are expanding their course offerings into the realm of distance or online learning. In this session, three Osher Institute leaders present their processes, methods, and the types of classes they provide via distance or online modalities. Learn about their methods through the life cycle from class creation to class presentation. The session will also offer discussion of varying systems including video conferencing-based classes, streaming to multisite “live” classes, and hybrid models. This session will provide an opportunity to “workshop” a distance learning class.


Karen Hendrickson, Program Manager, OLLI @ University of Montana 

Tim Meehan, Executive Director, OLLI @ University of Georgia

Ara Rogers, Director, and Catherine Mason, Instructional Support, OLLI @ University of South Florida


Using Creativity and Community to Grow Your Membership

What do creativity and community have in common? Membership growth potential! In this session, participants will learn creative methods for gaining new members and keeping those they have. Presenters will provide sample methodologies and then facilitate discussions on using this creativity to increase campus, community, and new member involvement. This workshop will also examine techniques for growing a program through marketing and developing relationships that position an Osher Institute as a recognized leader in adult learning.


Jill Wagner, Executive Director, OLLI @ California State University, Fresno

Pat Walker, Director of Community Programs, College of Professional Education, OLLI @ Kennesaw State University 


Recruit, Welcome, and Equip Your Instructors for Success

Psychology, neuroscience, and application in teaching are intricately tied together. This session will demonstrate the science behind effective instructor recruitment, retention, and training techniques to optimize the Osher Institute teaching experience. Presenters will discuss the psychological phenomenon of social proof, and demonstrate how to use social proof to recruit instructors and motivate continued participation. This session will offer inspiration and empowerment with the practical application of instructor training to welcome, orient, and engage new instructors. Through these processes, participants will learn to foster an academic model for student-centered, brain-compatible teaching techniques.


Jennifer Disano, Executive Director, OLLI @ George Mason University

Nancy Kennedy, Director, OLLI @ Furman University

Jeanette Toohey, Director, and Rita Brodnax, Volunteer, OLLI @ University of North Florida


Effective Campus and Community Partnerships

The most effective campus and community partnerships are formed and maintained with strategy and care.  In this session, participants will explore the potential of developing productive partnerships with campus programs/organizations, community organizations, and businesses. Learn the benefits of these partnerships, including attraction of new instructors, development of unique courses and venues, and increased community connections. Collaborate and explore with your fellow Osher Institute colleagues on how collaborative partnerships, and cooperative activities can knit your OLLI into the local fabric.


Christine Catanzarite, Director, OLLI @ University of Illinois

Peggy Watson, Director, Osher Institute @ University of Richmond

Megan Whilden, Executive Director, OLLI @ Berkshire Community College


Tuesday, 2:30 – 3:15pm

Distance Learning in the Osher Network: Where Are We, and Where Are We Going?

In 2019, the Osher NRC formed a Distance Learning Committee comprised of Osher Institute staff and volunteers to better understand what is happening with distance and online learning around the Network. In this session, representatives of the committee will present the findings of the Distance Learning Survey, committee research, and distance learning examples from numerous OLLIs. In addition, this session will preview the upcoming plans of the committee, resources, and the current outlook on distance learning within the Osher network.


Kevin Connaughton, Manager of Adult Learning, Osher NRC

Scott Langhorst, Vice-President, Board of Directors, OLLI @ William and Mary

Kirsty Montgomery, PhD, Director, OLLI @ Northwestern University


Innovative Fundraising Techniques

The days of sending a single yearly solicitation letter and waiting for contributions to roll in are coming to an end. Today, comprehensive and integrated fundraising strategies include sophisticated crowdsourcing campaigns, community partnerships in fundraising, and complex donor CRM systems. Nevertheless, personal phone calls and letters still have a place in contemporary fundraising practices with impressive results. Listen to the experiences of three forward-thinking Osher directors as they recount their efforts to innovate in fundraising while maintaining personal touches with their generous donors and members.


Michele Crompton, Program Director, OLLI @ California State University, Monterey Bay

Jennifer Juanitas, Program Director, OLLI @ University of the Pacific

Robert Levrant, Director, OLLI @ University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Fostering Relationships and Collaborations with University Leaders

While Osher Institutes are integrated into a variety of university or college divisions, more than half of OLLIs are programs in Continuing or Professional Education Schools. These community-facing divisions include multiple specializations and programs, often both degree granting and non-credit. University expectations are high, and the deans, vice provosts, and executive directors who lead these divisions have distinct and complex roles among their peers. Their perspectives on balancing the diverse needs of students between childhood and older adulthood are highly valuable to leading an OLLI. Join this varied group of divisional leaders as they discuss their views on running an LLI and on being integral to the missions of the university/college. Discuss how an OLLI can best serve its campus while serving its membership community.


Tracy Jacobs, Director, OLLI @ Towson University


Cynthia DeLuca, Associate Vice President and Assistant Vice Provost, Innovative Education Division, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Thomas F. Gibbons, Dean, Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, Chicago, IL

Julie Golden-Botti, Executive Director for Online and Continuing Education, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL



Prediction models relevant to the older adult population are varied and abundant. The “aging marketplace” is large and actively changing. How can data tools and predictive concepts be used to forecast the future and help OLLIs adapt and thrive in the years ahead? What subtle clues can be used to predict likely changes in the diverse communities that OLLIs serve? Join the discussion with this group of Osher leaders with backgrounds in market research, demographics, and geo mapping to explore the future.


Scott Aldridge, Program Manager, OLLI @ University of Arizona

Connie Osterbaan, Advisory Council President, OLLI @ University of Minnesota

Betsy Reese, Program Manager, OLLI @ Temple University


The More Things Change

New staff, new volunteer leadership, new strategic plan, new campus or class venue, new schedule, new registration system—who knew that change would be such a constant? Change is inevitable and often beyond the control of Osher Institute staff and volunteers. However, preparing for change, making the case for change, supporting everyone who will be affected by the change, communicating the necessity for change, and leading an Institute forward successfully are all things that can be controlled — most of the time. In this session, participants will look at strategies to smooth the way.


Cate O’Hara, Program Director, OLLI @ University of Cincinnati


Wednesday, 10 – 11:15am

Developing a Strategic Plan: A Follow-Up Workshop

In this workshop, participants are given the opportunity to have deeper discussions on effective strategic planning practices while engaging with others in small groups to develop and design plan elements. Rick Seltzer also will offer added observations from his relevant reporting for Inside Higher Ed. Panelists from the prior plenary session will facilitate groups with the perspective of their own recent strategic planning experiences. This session will provide participants immediate practice and tangible elements to bring home to their own Osher Institute strategic planning efforts.  


Rick Seltzer, Senior Writer, Inside Higher Education, Washington, DC


Jim Hermelbracht, Director, OLLI @ University of Massachusetts, Boston

Julie Mitchell, Executive Director for Special Programs and Continuing Education, OLLI @ University of Dayton

Toni Woolfork-Barnes, Director, OLLI @ Western Michigan University


Inspiring and Engaging Osher Institute Donors

What motivates donors to support Osher Institutes? What inspires them about our work and the impact it has on people’s lives? Given the wide array of meaningful educational programming and opportunities for fellowship that Osher Institutes offer, what is it that elicits the wonderful spirit of generosity that moves people to give, not just once, but again and again? In this workshop, two insightful Osher Institute leaders will share their experiences developing compelling, responsive messages to inspire philanthropic support as well as thoughtful ways to continue to enthuse and engage donors once they have made an initial commitment. Participants will then work in groups to develop and share creative, customized ways to inspire charitable giving, engage donors, and encourage loyal, ongoing support.


Lauren Anderson, Director, Osher Institute @ University of Utah

Jane Hense, President, Executive Committee, OLLI @ Bradley University


Playing “Small Ball” in Diversity

“Small Ball” is a baseball strategy to get runners on base, resulting in more total runs. When it comes to diversity efforts, many OLLIs find themselves swinging for a home run—that singular effort, or program, that will radically shift the demographics of their Institute. However, “small ball” is often what wins the game. In this session, representatives of six Osher Institutes present the small ball efforts they employ to get diversity on base. Learn how these movements may result in more total runs and wins in diversity.


Jeffery Alejandro, Program Manager, OLLI @ Emory University

Jennifer Anderson, Director, OLLI @ The University of Alabama

Ed Ford, Board Chair, OLLI @ University of Massachusetts, Boston

Sharon Gretz, Director, OLLI @ University of Pittsburgh

Chris McLeod, Director, OLLI @ Duke University

Magda Vergara, Director, OLLI @ University of Miami


What Makes an OLLI Work?

With numerous factors combining to make each unique Osher Institute program excel, there are four foundational pillars that contribute to the overall success of an OLLI: Practical financial management, engaged volunteerism, constructive university/college relationships, and fruitful community outreach. These efforts are the pillars that hold an OLLI strong and upright. In this session, four Osher Institute directors with demonstrated effectiveness in a particular pillar will examine their methods and successes. Learn about and discuss methods to fortify an OLLI’s pillars from these strong program approaches.


Tony Long, Director, OLLI @ American University

Fiona de Merell, Program Director, OLLI @ University of Connecticut

Ann Nikolai, Program Director, OLLI @ California State University, Chico

Dana Thorp Patterson, Director, Osher Institute @ Boise State University


Controversial Topics

What does an Osher Institute leader do when civil debate spills from the classroom into the greater OLLI membership, or even the community at large? Several Institute directors share their experiences with controversial topics that went beyond the classroom. Examples include controversial events, speakers, and topics from the political arena that caused issues for their members, Institute, and in some cases, their university. Participants will hear how the controversies were handled, how the situations were managed, and the lessons these directors learned from their varied experiences. Attendees will brainstorm methods and skills for managing controversial topics and preparing for the aftermath that potentially can occur. 


Lisa Barton, Director, OLLI @ University of Michigan 

Lynn Provenzano, Executive Director, OLLI @ University of Texas at El Paso