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Campus Beat

Unlike True Love, OLLI Courses Running Smoothly

Image of senior citizens at an OLLI meeting. Photo by Gino De GrandisPhoto by Gino De Grandis.

It's only 30 minutes into Kurt Daw's Shakespeare class, and his students have already analyzed "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from both a psychoanalytic and feminist perspective. They've talked love, lust and humiliation; explored the symbolism of one changeling and several fairies; and discussed exactly how, as producers, they would feature these otherworldly creatures on stage (ideas that run the gamut from flashes of light to leather costumes).

The spirited exchange, Daw says, is one of the joys of teaching in SF State's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which offers classes to students age 50 and older. "The purpose of drama is to illustrate the human condition so it's exciting to talk with people of great life experience," Daw says of his students who have much to say about the play's themes, whether it's the foibles of young love or the challenges of marriage. As for the challenges of teaching an OLLI course? "These students make references in such shorthand, it's a struggle to keep up sometimes," Daw says.

Earlier this year, OLLI, which once operated exclusively at SF State's Downtown Campus, moved to a new home in the College of Creative Arts, where Daw serves as dean. The move has extended OLLI's reach to students on the main campus, and enhanced its artistic offerings (for example, students in a recent "Gallery Hop" class enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at San Francisco museum exhibitions, including those at SF State's Fine Arts Gallery).

OLLI courses -- offered at both the downtown and main campuses -- cover everything from wellness to website design, but autobiographical writing and music-related classes were among the most popular choices during the fall semester. "Most people in retirement are seeking enrichment, and usually it's focused on their creative lives," Daw says.

At the conclusion of his class he and his students agree to form a new course focused on "Romeo and Juliet," standard procedure for OLLI students who direct their own course content. Professor Emeritus Rufus Browning is among those happy to move on to the playwright's greatest tragedy. "I've learned more about Shakespeare in just a couple of these courses than my previous life, my entire college education," he says. "It's stimulating and exciting and you're learning from wonderful instructors."

In the spring, OLLI classes will include "Contemporary Theatre Makers" taught by award-winning playwright Mark Jackson (B.A.,'93), Associate Professor Political Science Martin Carcieri's "American Political Thought" and "Every- thing You Wanted to Know About Improvisation but Were Afraid to Ask" courtesy of Debi Durst and Michael Bossier.

OLLI invites prospective students to preview sessions on both campuses in January. For more information, visit www.creativearts.sfsu.edu/olli


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