Lifelong Learning Communities encourage community involvement

Tyler Manning

To present the member benefits and structure of Lifelong Learning Communities, Todd Giles, associate professor of English, and David Hartman, retired senior minister at First Christian Church, spoke at the Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 9.

Lifelong Learning Communities are educational community outreach programs for those not already enrolled at the age of 50 or more. LLCs will provide members with non-credit classes where they can learn about subjects such as current events, ancient history, art, health care retirement planning, philosophy and many more.

Hartman said he and Giles were approached by Suzanne Shipley, university president, about the creation of this project.

“It was [Shipley’s idea]. She had had it at Shepherd, the university she served before. She approached Todd and she approached me. She wanted someone from both the university and from the community,” Hartman said. “She knew Todd’s leadership position and she knew that I was just wandering around the streets since I retired. She brought us together and Todd has been a great leader in the project.”

The goal of LLCs is to reach out to members of the community and get them involved on on campus.

Giles said, “The main reason [for LLCs] is that they are great for community outreach. As you know, we are a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. This will help extend our mission out into the community by bringing people onto campus and getting more people in the community involved at our art exhibitions, our concerts, our lectures and things like that.”

Though the structure of the payment for the LLC program is still under production, Hartman assures that they want everyone included.

“One of our great longings is to be inclusive. We do want to make sure that any interested learner who financially cannot afford [is included]. Older folks very often are up against it, much like students who face student loans are up against it,” Hartman said. “We want to make sure that these courses are available to them. And that is something that we will be working through in the months to come.”

The LLC is projected to be implemented on campus next fall semester. Giles said that they are finishing up research on the project.

“We are getting ready to wrap up our research phase. We have looked at nine different LLCs. We have done quite a bit of research. We just wrapped up our three focus groups. We’re going to bring all that information together and do some serious analysis of the data,” Giles said. “This week we are going to UNT in denton. Next week we are doing another site visit at UNC Asheville. So I think it is fair to say we are wrapping up our initial feasibility study at this point.”

To Hartman, the LLCs are an opportunity for members to feel what it is like to be a part of the university process and said he is excited for the program.

“Old people like me, and I’ll claim the title of old, we still want to learn. And to be liberated from the burden of term papers and sweating the grades so we can get into graduate school and the prospect of student debt. To be able to learn in the purest sense is exciting and I am really pumped about it,” said Hartman.

CORRECTIONS: In a previous version of this article, Todd Giles’ first name was not capitalized and the article stated the Board of Regents meeting they spoke at was on Feb. 8. The Wichitan regrets these errors.