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2020 Virtual Osher Institutes National Conference

Plenary Session Descriptions

2020 Virtual Osher Institutes National Conference

Plenary Session Descriptions

Monday, October 19, 11 – 11:45am Central

Welcome to the 2020 Osher Institutes Virtual Conference

The opening plenary session provides a general orientation of the conference agenda, staff introductions, and some inspiring words from our Bernard Osher Foundation colleagues. This session also will include an overview of the “State of the OLLI Network.”


Mary Bitterman, President, The Bernard Osher Foundation

Kevin Connaughton, Manager of Adult Learning, National Resource Center for Osher Institutes

Bernard Osher, Founder and Treasurer, The Bernard Osher Foundation

Kelly Jane Rosenblatt, Program Director, The Bernard Osher Foundation

Steve Thaxton, Executive Director, National Resource Center for Osher Institutes


Monday, October 19, 1 – 1:45pm Central

Welcome Reception

Let's get to know each other! For this session, attendees will break out into randomized small groups where everyone will have the opportunity to introduce themselves, say hello, chat about what they are hoping to learn at the conference, and how life is going during these interesting times.


Wednesday, October 21, 11am – 12pm Central

Telling Our Stories Now (and why it’s more important than ever)

Since the beginning of speech, stories have connected people, and never more than today, when everyone is living through the same, life-altering narrative. As we learn more about how our minds work, we have discovered that stories are intrinsic to decision-making and play a critical role in shaping an individual’s view of the world. They influence how people think and behave in ways both large and small. In this session, internationally-recognized storytelling expert Andy Goodman returns to the Osher Network to explain why storytelling remains your single most powerful communication tool. He will outline three specific categories of stories you need to tell to engage your audience and motivate them to act in this extraordinary time.


Andy Goodman, Co-Founder and Director, The Goodman Center


Thursday, October 22, 11am – 12:15pm Central

Teaching About Systemic Racism

The pervasive and lethal impact of systemic racism and oppression was forevermore laid bare by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day 2020. For years, Osher Institute members have been intent on understanding the history, causes, and effects of these deleterious issues on their local communities and the world. These members throughout the 124 OLLIs have participated in classes that have facilitated meaning and guidance from dual perspectives: from those who aim to find meaning and guidance through events they have never experienced personally, and from those who confront these damaging issues on a daily basis. This session will begin with an overview of the issues of systemic racism and oppression by an expert sociologist, activist, and scholar of African American Studies who for 34 years has served as a professor at the University of Minnesota, just three miles from the site of Floyd’s death. It will continue with a panel discussion including three Osher Institute directors whose perspectives on coordinating and teaching content on these topics will contrast past work with the critical work there is yet to do in Osher Institutes.


Rose Brewer, PhD, Professor, African-American and African Studies @ University of Minnesota


Catherine Frank, PhD, Executive Director, OLLI @ University of North Carolina at Asheville

Sandra Richards, Director, OLLI @ University of California Riverside

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


Monday, October 26, 11am – 12pm Central

The Happiness U-Curve: Why Life Turns Around in Middle Age

A midlife crisis, like the Seinfeld show, is often literally about nothing. Yet it seems unshakable for those experiencing it. Society treats it as a joke or a cliché, yet it is natural, normal, and lays groundwork for surprising happiness and wisdom in later adulthood. Drawing on cutting-edge psychology, neuroscience, and even economics, while also tapping his own experiences and those of dozens of interviewees, Jonathan Rauch — author of the major The Atlantic magazine cover article "The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis" and the engaging book, The Happiness Curve – explains why even chimps get midlife malaise, and how humans can cope with it far better than we do. Rauch emphasizes that older adults are healthier, happier, and have more to give than ever before, and they and society are already starting to invent new ways to contribute. The old black-and-white distinction between work and retirement is giving way to the mixed pursuits of “encore adulthood.”


Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution & Contributing Editor, The Atlantic

Author, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50


Tuesday, October 27, 11am – 12pm Central

Engaging Volunteers in our New Reality

2020 has been a year of extreme challenge and change – especially around engaging volunteers. As another academic year begins, Osher leaders have many questions about how to continue connecting their long-valued volunteer resources with the needs of their Institutes. What are volunteer powered organizations doing to engage volunteers safely and impactfully? Which investments of time and energy will be most worthwhile for OLLIs and their communities? How can volunteers’ interests and passions be sustained in this changing world? Volunteer management consultant, author, and speaker Beth Steinhorn will share how some organizations are thriving despite these circumstances and how you can apply their practical tips to your Osher Institute. Learn how volunteers are partnering with some organizations to fuel their innovations and sustain their organizations for years to come.


Beth Steinhorn, President, VQ Volunteer Strategies, Denver, CO