University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Frequently Asked Questions


The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Connecticut—Waterbury, CT


What is lifelong learning?olli_logo_small (1)

Lifelong learning is an educational philosophy that embraces a comprehensive definition of human inquiry—educational activities can and should be available through all stages of life for the achievement of various personal goals. Lifelong learners, for our purposes, are people who choose to engage in life to the fullest and explore learning for enjoyment, fulfillment, intellectual stimulation, peer interaction, mentoring, or other related reasons. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is geared toward helping members, people usually aged 50 and over, achieve these goals.

Why is it important to have a lifelong learning program?

Lifelong learning programs are important because they improve the quality of life in communities and they help foster overall good health, particularly brain health, and personal achievement. Studies have demonstrated that intellectual stimulation is a cornerstone of ongoing good health and the prevention of disease.  Lifelong learning institutes are also a place to socialize, meet other individuals with similar goals, and participate in inter-generational programs.

How is lifelong learning programming different from senior center programming?

The traditional senior center often provides a stronger offering of “hand-on” activities, whereas lifelong learning institutes generally offer programs and courses that are academic in nature. There are no hard and fast rules, these are just general trends, differences and similarities depend on locations.

Why is there an annual fee to belong to OLLI and not my local senior center?

Local senior centers and their programs are usually funded through city or town budgets (tax dollars) similar to a public library.  While OLLI is housed at a public university (UConn), it is a self-sustaining organization within the University through fees. The Bernard Osher Foundation provided funding for start-up and development and the University provides specific in-kind services and space.

In order to maintain our relationship with the Bernard Osher Foundation we must demonstrate an ability to be fiscally sound through other sources of revenue such as fees and donations.

Will OLLI fees increase in the future?

OLLI is subject to the same increases in expenses as any other program or department; fees will likely increase in future years.  OLLI has maintained the same annual fee structure since its inception.  As we move forward, we plan to maintain the reasonable fees that have been established. OLLI at UConn has one of the lowest fee structures among the OLLIs in New England.

Why is the membership cycle for one full year and not a semester?

Much like any other organization to which people belong, annual membership provides for stability, continuity, and planning. We have an annual membership fee which covers four sessions (winter, spring, summer and fall).

What is the vision for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Connecticut?

OLLI at UConn is designed to be a self-sustaining, member-driven learning community that is focused on providing non-credit teaching and learning activities for older adults.  OLLI members generally want to engage intellectually, expand their knowledge and experience, share their wealth of accumulated knowledge, and enrich their lives and the lives of those around them. Recognized by the University of Connecticut’s Provost for Excellence in Outreach and Public Engagement for three consecutive years (2007, 2008, 2009), Dr. Brian Chapman received the first place award in the staff category at a ceremony on December 9, 2009.

Why is the University of Connecticut involved in this type of programming?

“As our state’s flagship public university, and as a land and sea grant institution, we promote the health and well-being of Connecticut’s citizens through enhancing the social, economic, cultural and natural environments of the state and beyond.” *  The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UConn is, and will remain, the only Osher Institute in Connecticut and one of over one hundred fifteen institutions in the U.S.    

What is The Bernard Osher Foundation?

Bernard Osher has been listed among the most generous philanthropists in the United States. The Osher name is used to honor the foundation that provided substantial financial support for the start-up of this Institute. The Bernard Osher Foundation was created in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a successful businessman and community leader.

The Leever Foundation, founded by Harold Leever in 1991 to benefit Greater Waterbury, provided initial funding to bring the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to the area. The Connecticut Community Foundation, which administers The Leever Foundation, oversaw an assessment to determine interest in the region and helped establish advisory committees of area residents.

What is unique about OLLI courses?

Lifelong learning institutes across the nation provide courses and programs geared toward older adults and generally offered at a lower cost than traditional university courses. These programs tend to be led by retired or semi-retired professionals or educators who reside in the community (although non-retired guest speakers and presenters sometimes become involved). The curriculum is member-driven with assistance from the university administration. The course format is usually guided discussion, rather than lecture-driven, allowing for the opportunity for lively discussion.

How is participation in an Osher course different from enrolling in a traditional UConn course with a senior citizen waiver?

At UConn, in order to qualify for the senior citizen waiver you must be 62 year of age or older; Osher courses are generally designed for people 50 years and older. Under the waiver policy, you can register for traditional classes on a space available basis for auditing purposes. Ordinarily registration can only occur after credit-earning students have completed their registration and subsequent changes—usually after the first full week of classes in a given semester. The format of these courses is generally designed with credit-earning, degree-seeking students in mind. The learning objectives are geared toward this population of students and the courses generally meet on a traditional sixteen-week fall or spring calendar. Osher courses are offered on a shortened schedule with the older adult learner taken into consideration in the design of the courses. Enrolling in an Osher course is also part of a broader experience related to being part of a community of learners with common goals.

Where are OLLI courses held?    

Courses and events are primarily held at the UConn campus at 99 East Main Street in downtown Waterbury, with a few off-site course locations each session. The campus is a state-of-the-art facility with an attached secure parking garage with proximity to arts and entertainment organizations, retail establishments, and restaurants.  Most courses meet on Fridays. We have expanded a few of the course offerings to other days of the week and to other downtown locations.

How do I get involved?

There are many opportunities to get involved in the UConn OLLI; active member involvement in OLLIs across the nation has proven to be one of the most significant aspects of OLLI success.  The following standing committees may be seeking members: Curriculum, Communications, OLLI VIPs, Membership, Travel, Editorial and Clubs & Activities committees.  You can get involved in these committees by providing your name and contact information to

The OLLI Council

The OLLI Leadership Advisory Council is a primary driving force for the Institute and its members. The Council serves to advise the program director, carries out the curriculum planning process, and fosters the growth of and sustainability of membership through advisory and volunteer activities. The University is solely responsible for all legal, financial/budgetary, and administrative oversight of the OLLI. The OLLI Council functions as a voluntary advisory group governed by self-adopted, University-approved, OLLI Guidelines.

Leading an OLLI Course

OLLI courses are generally led by retired or semi-retired educators, professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, writers, and others. Non-retired educators and working professionals may lead some programs or serve as guest speakers at events. UConn faculty members are already fully committed to teaching and research assignments, but on occasion may lead courses or provide consulting to OLLI for programs or events.  Experience with teaching and group facilitation is not required, but is preferred.  Information and coaching can be provided to first-time presenters (course leaders). OLLI presenters will receive other privileges for their participation. Access the course proposal form online by clicking HERE, or contact OLLI Staff, at 203-236-9924 or email


* Excerpt from the MISSION AND PURPOSES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT, Adopted by the Board of Trustees on April 11, 2006 and amended on June 20, 2006.