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Does you OLLI have special interest groups?

Posted on March 1st, 2011 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Michael D. Smith, OLLI at the University of Kentucky, Asks OLLI:

Does you OLLI have special interest groups?

The OLLI at the University of Kentucky has begun to develop special interest groups (SIGS), an area in which we expect significant growth. Our Curriculum Committee would like to hear from other OLLIs with experience in this area. Here are the questions they would like information on:

1. What are your basic requirements to establish a SIG?

2. Do you have a minimum and maximum number for a SIG?

3. How many SIGs do you have?

4. Where do your SIGs meet? Does the OLLI staff reserve the space?

5. What is the formal relationship between the OLLI office and your SIGs? In other words what support does the OLLI staff provide to the SIG?

6. Do you ask your SIGs to report on their activities?

7. Do you require release forms for trips?

8. Any lessons learned or best practices you can share with us?

Thank you for any information you can provide.

5 Responses to “Does you OLLI have special interest groups?”


  1. OLLI@UGA currently has 18 SIGs. We have not established minimums and maximums. We want to make sure that each SIG has a leader or leaders. SIGs meet in a variety of places–in our classrooms, at the Council on Aging, members homes, etc.


  2. 1. What are your basic requirements to establish a SIG?
    Anyone can start an interest group. All you need to get started is an idea and some enthusiasm. The first step of the process is to find a group leader. This is the person who communicates with the group members and works with the OLLI office to secure a meeting place.

    2. Do you have a minimum and maximum number for a SIG?
    No, but a group with low participation just ends naturally. It is the decision of the leader.

    3. How many SIGs do you have? One.

    4. Where do your SIGs meet? Does the OLLI staff reserve the space?
    OLLI staff secures a meeting place. It might be at our class locations or somewhere in the community.

    5. What is the formal relationship between the OLLI office and your SIGs? In other words what support does the OLLI staff provide to the SIG?
    OLLI staff finds a meeting place and refers interested members to the group leader. We advertise the group in the catalog and on the website.

    6. Do you ask your SIGs to report on their activities? No.

    7. Do you require release forms for trips? Yes.

    8. Any lessons learned or best practices you can share with us? Although we have had this concept implemented for quite some time we find the members don’t take advantage of it. We were just talking this morning in our staff meeting about how to get more participation. We decided to make announcements in class as many members probably aren’t even aware of the possibility. We put the info in the catalog but chances are most people don’t read it.


  3. Yes, we have 13 SIGs. The only requirement we have is that a current OLLI member has to be willing to coordinate all the details and communication, which usually means setting up an email list. OLLI staff do not get involved in the details of a SIG. However we do list meeting dates/agendas in our newsletter and we are on all the e-mails lists so we are kept in the loop. We don’t have a min or max number of SIGs. If the SIG meets on campus, they do have to work with OLLI staff on the room. Our OLLI classroom is rarely available for the SIGs because classes take priority. If the SIGs meet on campus, it is usually on Fridays because more classrooms are available on that day. Active groups include: Buddhist Psychology, Bridge, Theater, Digital Photography, Bicycling (two groups/two levels), Lunch, Dinner, Board Games, Writing, Gardening, Knitting, Flora and Fauna, and Ping Pong.


  4. Hi Michael. The Tufts OLLI has 10 SIGs (EDventures)with more on the way. Whenever a member has an interest s/he is referred to the EDventures chair and another SIG is born. Everyone must be a current Tufts OLLI member and agree to coordinate the SIG group at least once annually. All groups meet monthly throughout the year and all but the God Club I, God Club II, On-Line Book Club, Movie Club and Dining Club meet on campus. Meeting time, date, location and title of topic are posted in our weekly E-News. The EDventures Chair sits on our Executive Board and submits a monthly report on all the activities. As these activities are done for the most part outside the University release forms are not required. SIGs or EDventures are a valued social and/or academically enriching opportunity for all our members and can be done with ease. If you want to communicate with our EDventures chair I will be happy to give you his email address, Michael. Just let me know.


  5. 1. What are your basic requirements to establish a SIG? Osher membership

    2. Do you have a minimum and maximum number for a SIG? no

    3. How many SIGs do you have? 6

    4. Where do your SIGs meet? Does the OLLI staff reserve the space? most on campus; SIG coordinator usually reserves space using univ. form

    5. What is the formal relationship between the OLLI office and your SIGs? In other words what support does the OLLI staff provide to the SIG?
    -varies; most SIGs are pretty independent; we ask SIG coordinator to make sure all SIG members are Osher members and we stay in fairly constant touch to hear how the SIG is doing

    6. Do you ask your SIGs to report on their activities? no, but see #5; there is good voluntary communication

    7. Do you require release forms for trips? yes, and the SIG coordinator is asked to handle these

    8. Any lessons learned or best practices you can share with us? require Osher membership for SIG membership from the very start - - we thought we could allow non-members to join the SIG as a marketing strategy and it backfired with some people reluctant to join after we began enforcing the membership requirement

    Thank you for any information you can provide.

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