It may be winter break for the almost 1,800 lifelong learners at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Southern Oregon University, but OLLI faculty members are far from idle. They are putting the final touches on the content for 109 courses being offered during OLLI’s upcoming winter term that runs Jan. 8 through March 16.

For John Kloetzel, a retired PhD cell biologist, plans during the holidays will include finalizing the syllabus for his course on gene editing. Karen Campbell, with an MFA degree in acting/directing and past work with Seattle’s professional improv groups, will be strategizing ways to take the improv talent within OLLI to a whole new level. Jim Jarrard will be channeling his technology background to explain the use of voice control technology from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google. Allison Renwick, art history educator, will be fine-tuning her PowerPoint presentation on “Dada and Surrealism.”

The donated time and impressive expertise of these and others who make up the OLLI faculty help keep OLLI membership fees at $125 per year with no per-course tuition and lets members choose from more than 100 courses in each of three quarters of OLLI’s academic year.

Not all OLLI faculty members are retired and not all are OLLI members. Medford dermatologist Jeri Mendelson is again offering a course she has taught in several previous quarters: “Medical Hazards in the Wilderness.” Brooke Friendly provides dance classes, including the “English Country Dance” class she offers at OLLI, elsewhere in the community and at camps, workshops and events around North America and England. Tony Davis, a PhD linguist and consultant in computational linguistics, is teaching “Word Meaning in the Information Age.” Shannon Rio, a wildlife educator, is offering a course titled “Have Fun Learning About Birds.”

Paul Steinle, whose background includes journalist, documentary filmmaker, news media manager and journalism educator, is offering not just one but four courses during OLLI’s winter term: two nonfiction writing workshops and two film classes, a total of 34 class sessions. Steinle shrugs off this extraordinary contribution of his time.

“For one thing, I find teaching at OLLI is a fun and stimulating activity," he said. "And, for another, my wife, Sara Brown, is an active member of OLLI’s Curriculum Committee.”

The volunteer Curriculum Committee is tasked with recruiting, training and supporting the OLLI faculty and building each term’s wide array of courses.

Karen Grove, a PhD geologist, is reprising her course, “Billions of Years of Climate Change on Earth,” this winter.

“Climate change is such a complex area," she said. "Factors like plate tectonics, fluctuations in solar radiation, the Earth’s orbital cycles, volcanic activity and ocean-atmospheric cycles all work together on an almost incomprehensible time scale. Some changes are gradual and some are abrupt. I feel a responsibility to present the scientific facts in order to de-politicize the understanding of our present situation.”

Jim Jarrard's technology class is geared toward older students.

“Technology tools are increasingly valuable for adults in their senior years," he said. "Awareness of software like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Ok Google will be invaluable in maintaining an independent lifestyle for ourselves and those who are concerned about our well-being.”

Early registration for OLLI's winter term has passed, but seats in the vast majority of courses still remain available. Open registration starts Dec. 18.

Course proposals are currently being sought for 2018, with a deadline for receipt of Dec. 31. Courses can include from two to 10 weekly sessions of 90 to 120 minutes in length, can be taught at either or both of the OLLI campuses in Ashland and Medford, and can start and stop within the quarter that runs from April 2 through June 8.

For more information, see or call 541-552-6048.

— Anne Bellegia is retired from a career in healthcare communications and now volunteers in various aging services capacities, including with OLLI. She can be reached at