Most people like to take it easy on their birthday, sleep in, eat out, maybe catch a movie.
Not Margaret Pashko. The vice president for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University council, Pashko will be busy on Wednesday making sure OLLI’s fourth annual open house goes off without a hitch.
“It just worked out that way,” laughed Pashko, the open house co-chair. “It’s all good. I’ll celebrate later.”
The open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at SOU’s Stevenson Union, is free to the public, and will also include free desserts and refreshments, door prizes and free parking. Registration is required to attend, however, and those interested can do so by visiting www.inside.sou.edu/olli, or by calling 541-552-6048.
The event will feature 20 OLLI instructors, 18 OLLI community partners (other nonprofit organizations in the valley that support lifelong learning), and, in an OLLI open house first, 18 exhibitors from SOU. In the past, the event has been strictly OLLI-centered, but this year the national organization’s local affiliate will also highlight SOU’s offerings in an effort to broaden members’ horizons.
“We really felt this year that we wanted to highlight SOU because a lot of our members don’t know all the various resources that the university provides to the community,” Pashko said. “I think we always focus on academics, athletics, theater arts and music and then, less so, maybe Hannon Library and (Jefferson Public Radio). But they don’t know about a lot of the other activities and programs and resources that are available out there.”
SOU Director of Outreach and Engagement Jeanne Stallman has been involved with OLLI since its inception in 1993 and said the program’s member-driven DNA, unique among SOU programs, has become both a tremendous strength and a sort of limitation, one that the school is addressing by including other SOU programs Wednesday.
The SOU exhibitors Wednesday will include the athletics department, the Oregon Center for the Arts, The Farm, Rogue Valley Television, the digital media program, housing and dining, and Southern Oregon Arts & Research, among others.
“Part of the wonderful thing about (OLLI being member-driven) is that the members have a great sense of pride of ownership and a sense of this is their program,” Stallman said. “Sometimes the downside can be that because they own it so much, they don’t realize that they’re really part of the university. They sometimes they feel a little separate. So this … allows both the members and then the non-members who might be interested to really get a sense of how older adults belong on our campus. They’re an important part of our campus historically, as well as in our future.”
Pashko said she’ll be running the open house with the help of about 40 volunteers, doing everything from hosting tables and helping with check-ins to serving refreshments and greeting people at the door. Another big crowd is expected. Last year, the open house attracted a shade less than 700 visitors. Pashko said 650 had registered as of Wednesday afternoon, meaning the final number could top last year’s total.
“We’re probably going to grow this a little more,” she said, “which is exciting on one hand and a little scary on the other. … Advertising’s been great, and just word of mouth has been really strong, too.
“Our reputation’s continues to grow. We’re just happy to have the response that we’re getting.”
Geared toward people 50 and older, OLLI offers members who pay an annual fee more than 100 classes in each of the three terms September through June. Members can sign up for as many classes as they think they can handle, and most of the classes are held at the Campbell Center in Ashland and the Higher Education Center in Medford.
Membership dues — currently $125 per academic year — cover roughly half of OLLI’s operating costs, and the Osher Foundation and fundraising efforts by local volunteers make up the rest.
The 2017-18 catalogs will be available to pick up at the open house, though members should have received them in the mail this week. Class registration will go live Monday.
It’ll be a busy birthday, but Pashko says it’s all coming together.
“Many, many, many details go into this, as you can imagine,” she said. “But this is our fourth year (hosting an open house) and we’ve learned a lot over the years. A lot of last-minute confirmations with people, vendors, decorations, that sort of thing, so my job over the next few days is to ensure that they’re all on board and they’re all going to be there when they said they’re going to be there. Then we can welcome our guests with open arms and be ready and prepared for them when they come through that door.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.