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What measures have you introduced for increasing diversity in your OLLI’s membership?

Posted on June 17th, 2011 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Dee Aguilar, OLLI at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Asks OLLI:

Following up on an Ask OLLI question posted in February (http://usm.maine.edu/olli/national/askolli/?p=192), I would like to know if your OLLI has introduced measures for increasing diversity in your membership.  I am interested in knowing about ideas for increasing diversity in each of the following areas: age, education, ethnicity, geographic location.

2 Responses to “What measures have you introduced for increasing diversity in your OLLI’s membership?”

  1. #1 by: Millie Lynch

    Yes, we are conscientiously working on increasing our diversity, particularly within the African American community. We have formed a Diversity Committee, we are looking for additional African Americans to teach in our program, we have dropped off Course Catalogs in African American Churches and organizations, and we hope to initiate a speakers group to talk with diverse groups in our community.


  2. We have tried many things. However, I’m not sure what specifically has worked the best. I believe that offering courses of interest to potential members from non-majority backgrounds has been successful. For example, this semester we are offering a course on African American Literature and another course on African American History. In the past, we held a discussion class led by a non-liberal facilitator (a real minority in our program). This coming semester, we are offering a class entitled On Being Catholic in a Contemporary World.

    Since the majority of our members are Jewish and we have many Jewish oriented courses, we have intentionally sought out faculty and courses representing other faiths.

    In each of the above cases, we have had to intentionally seek out and request courses and faculty to offer these non-majority (if you will) courses.

    Another thing we strive to do is to encourage our members to welcome new people and to be sensitive to differences. We have developed a “Diversity Statement” that we circulate at the beginning of each semester. Some are offended by our efforts to encourage them to be sensitive to people from different backgrounds and to discourage them from discussion and comments that assume that everyone is from the same background. However, we receive many thank you’s and are told stories of cultural elitism within our program that end up reassuring us that this education has been worthwhile.

    If you would like to discuss this more, I can be reached at (215) 204-1511. Thanks.

    Adam Brunner, Director
    Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
    Temple University.

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