Annual Play Festival
In May, OLLI at California State University, Chico hosted a private screening of four original plays – written, directed, and performed by OLLI members. The plays were performed and recorded as part of the OLLI Annual Play Festival, now in its seventh year at Chico State. But what made this festival extra special was its new format – on Zoom – featuring OLLI members as far away as New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Colorado, and Mexico! More than half of the 17-member cast hailed from other Osher Institutes.
Kevin Bigelow, pictured in green, won the role of an alien in Space Travel 2030. A play written by Joan Goodreau and directed by Rachel Jablon, both OLLI Chico members. “My character says some of the most outrageous things; then later is revealed to be the alien with a big heart," explained Kevin. "Having worked for various government agencies, I can relate to being required to take the 'company line,' but feeling your heart tug when confronted by people frightened or in need.”
The in-person screening drew 30 OLLI Chico members, who gathered in one of the program’s designated classrooms. Popcorn and soda were provided to create the perfect ambiance, with several of the local OLLI writers and directors introducing each recorded play and talking briefly about their “virtual” experience.
While the festival production team looks forward to a time when these one-act comedies can be rehearsed and performed on a physical stage, the online experience has opened the door to continuing with an online production. “The online format allowed us to meet new people who share our passion for creating and delivering performances,” explained Pam Loyd, writer, actor, director, and founder of the OLLI Chico Play Festival. “By connecting with other OLLI members, we enhanced the experience for everyone – and we made new friends!”
Submitted by: Ann Nikolai, Program Director, OLLI at California State University Chico
Lighter as We Go
This fall Penn State OLLI members will return to the classroom once again to spend time discussing current research on happiness, aging, and well-being with fellow undergraduate students. “Lighter as We Go” is a twice-weekly course that enrolls undergraduate students alongside OLLI members to allow for intergenerational learning. The title comes from a book by the same name that is the inspiration for the course. The purpose is to connect the virtues featured in the book to the experiences of aging. How do we become the human beings we want to be? The older members of this class bring perspective from life experience and provide insight to those younger class members. To be sure, undergraduate students learn a lot from the older students in the room. But that is not where the learning ends. OLLI members report they take away just as many lessons from their time as they share.

All class participants develop skills and experiences working within an intergenerational team. Students pair up to complete a project each term that can range in creativity from a video to a children’s book, to a puzzle. The purpose of the projects is to allow classmates to find common ground while working with someone who has a different perspective from them. Faculty member Amy Lorek, PhD, with Penn State’s Center for Healthy Aging, says “I want everyone to become storytellers.” She does not allow for passive participation in this class and finds continuous ways to ensure all members are engaged not only in asking of others but also in sharing some of themselves in the process.

OLLI member and Volunteer Committee Chair, Sandy Lopez has had the opportunity to participate twice. In reflecting on her first class project, she says “I was matched with a young woman and when we started chatting the first day of class, we immediately connected around a shared experience – summer camp! Our experiences were somewhat different in terms of location and certainly the decade, but shared many similarities as well, especially in terms of culture and basic values of why we attended summer camp. We realized that any gap between the generations was bridged through those commonalities. We wrapped up the semester sharing our experiences with the class, including photos of each of our camp experiences.”

The connections formed in the classroom extend beyond with opportunities for class pairs to attend performances and art showings across campus together. Some form a bond that lasts beyond the semester. One undergraduate student in the ROTC program invited their older classmate to attend a special ceremony to celebrate with them. In another case, an older student had a friend who was soon to have a new baby. The older student wanted to knit a baby blanket for her friend but, due to some physical limitations, could no longer knit. Her younger student partner offered to make the blanket for her.

The bonds formed in this educational experience last long past the 15 weeks in the classroom. And it is yet another way to connect OLLI members to the larger campus and get involved.

Submitted by: Amy Lorek, PhD, Center for Healthy Aging, and Brynn Mifflin Rousselin, Director, OLLI at Penn State
The OLLI Ambassador Program: Mentoring & Engaging New Members
It was the fall of 2020 and the pandemic had really taken hold of the country. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was struggling to find ways to offer classes to membership while keeping everyone safe. The Membership Committee was working hard to develop ways in which to retain existing members and attract new members.
A common theme that continued to come up in brainstorming sessions was connecting an experienced member with a new member. From that idea, OLLI launched the Ambassador Initiative. The concept was to assign a veteran OLLI member to serve as an ambassador for any new member. Ambassadors would help build initial relations with new members and encourage new members to participate in all OLLI has to offer.
  • Help new members feel a part of OLLI quickly
  • Assist with aspects of the OLLI experience, such as class selection, enrollment, finding class locations, classroom etiquette and managing classes via Zoom
  • Encourage and support new members in finding additional classes or interest groups that appeal to them
  • Provide an enjoyable social and learning experience for new members
New members are advised of the Ambassador Initiative when they enroll and are encouraged to participate for at least for one term, with the option to participate for the entire membership year.
Today, a veteran OLLI member serves as the lead ambassador coordinating the program and helping to mentor new ambassadors. The coordinator is responsible for the new member assignments to ensure that workload is evenly managed between the individual ambassadors.
The ambassador position extends for a minimum of one OLLI term year. Ambassadors need to have enough experience to help direct questions or help identify resources within OLLI. Ambassadors are assigned at least one and no more than five new members. 
Since May of 2022, OLLI ambassadors have had nearly 50 exchanges either in-person, on the phone, text, or Zoom with new members. Considering OLLI has signed up approximately 200 new members this year; nearly five percent of new members have opted into the ambassador initiative. 
This initiative is solely based on volunteers; there is no cost to OLLI at UNL. If it retains one member through its efforts, it will have been a resounding success. Additionally, as more new members talk about the added benefit of having a mentor upon joining the organization, this can only become a bigger part of the OLLI at UNL program.
Submitted by: Patricia Saldana, Communications Associate, OLLI at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
George Mason University Presents a Course Based on Caste
What is a Woo-Hoo? A Woo-Hoo is one of those wonderful, amazing, out of the box experiences at an OLLI. All Osher Institutes have the opportunity to submit and showcase their Woo-Hoo for the Osher National Conference. The Woo-Hoos are shared during general sessions at the conference, and attendees vote on their favorites. The following is one of the winners from the 2022 Osher Institutes National Conference.

George Mason University Presents an Eight-Week Course Based on Caste
The Humanities and Social Science Committee program planners of OLLI at George Mason University presented a course on Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste. This eight-week course was designed to help members understand various aspects of race in America. Using curated videos and discussion groups among members, they began with interviews with Wilkerson. They then went on to look at Jim Crow, systemic racism, race in entertainment and sports, white supremacy, monuments and violence, the cost of racism, and how to move forward.  
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