By Elaine Omann

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University of North Florida is known as OLLI. It is a community of learners with the vision “Live well, learn forever.”

OLLI at UNF is “self-organized members working together to create and deliver educational, cultural, and social opportunities for lifelong learners aged 50 and better,” according to its mission statement.

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The self-organized members have made this particular organization unique, organic and engaging for more than 10 years. It welcomes members, instructors, volunteers and audiences to learn for the joy of learning and it continues to get better for those who are part of the experiences and for those who want an active role. OLLI transforms people through active learning.

OLLI has thrived on this involvement of the membership who volunteer, create, instruct and attend courses based on choices for learning. Member volunteer leaders enjoy the support of one paid director, Jeanette M. Toohey. The program also benefits from support from the Bernard Osher Foundation and an OLLI National Resource at Northwestern University.

It continues to expand in opportunities for those aged 50 and better seeking camaraderie, friendships and relationships through learning opportunities within diverse areas of interests. These are compiled in catalogues with courses offered daily Monday through Friday. Membership is $50 annually and program costs are ala carte. Most of the programs are held at the University of North Florida”s Adam W. Herbert University Center with free parking.

One of the most effective support tools is the role of host for each course offered, which allows the Instructor to focus on the experience and the participants’ enjoyment of the learning. Hosting is often a wonderful introduction to OLLI and provides an opportunity to volunteer. In attending this training, it was noted how many people recognized one another from a prior course, the level of interaction, and the joy and commitment to making OLLI better.

“OLLI is about you,” was shared by the trainer. Another support tool is “Inside OLLI,” a course which allows members to see how it all fits together to make the joy of learning happen.

Courses for Winter 2017 are rolling out now with diverse offerings such as Spanish Conversation, a tour of Sweet Pete’s and Chemistry in Everyday Life. Instructors capture their passions with engaging titles. Wood-working, theater or music are offered and, surprisingly, a golf course with a unique perspective: “Golf as a Transformative Practice.”

Ed-ventures are field trips with experiences such as kayaking and tours. Skill courses in bridge, technology or photography are among the favorites.

Joining OLLI or signing up for courses is provided in multiple formats. Registration can be completed online at or by calling the office at (904) 620-4200 for assistance. OLLI staff and volunteers are organized and provide every effort to make the learning experience from start to finish a part of the joy of learning.


Photo courtesy OLLI

Wood working for the joy of learning

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