On Campus Learning is Not Only for College Students
Learning at Skidmore is not confined to 18-22 year olds. Rather, it includes people as old as ninety-three. One ninety-three year old hops on the CDTA bus once a week and heads to campus for a day of learning sponsored by the Skidmore Encore program.
Skidmore Encore, formerly known as The Survey of Liberal Studies for Mature Adults, brings together adult learners ages 55 and older from the local region. Since the founding of this 35-year-old program in 1980, adult learners are able to come together once a week (Tuesday or Thursday) for seven weeks during the fall semester. In a typical day, the learners attend three lectures by three different professors, have lunch in the dining hall, hold discussions with peers, and socialize with new people, all of which “gets their brain working and body moving,” according to Program Coordinator, Debra Amico.
Over the course of the semester participants hear twenty-one different lectures given by current and retired Skidmore faculty. “We encourage faculty members to think of these as TED talks for the local community,” said Amico. The fact “that you get to hear from 21 different speakers helps keep you interested in the day's activities,” say Gloria and Al Ciejka, who have been participants in the program for fifteen years.
One professor who has contributed to the program is Government Professor Yelena Biberman-Ocakli, whose lectures receive high praise from participants. Biberman-Ocakli says, “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to share my work with an audience with remarkable experience across different walks of life.”
Participants in the program are involved for different reasons. First year participant Dan Lundquist, who recently retired after 25 years as Vice President at Union and Russell Sage, participates because he misses “the college campus environment, its energy and diversity, and Encore provides that for half a day, once a week.” Six-year participant Joanne Kennedy participates “in Skidmore Encore because I want to keep learning and growing as an individual.” Another first-year participant, Zoe Ann Shafer, says that she and her husband, second-year participant Richard Shafer, take part in Encore “to stretch our minds, to learn, to grow.”
Amico said, “they [the participants] always look forward to lunch at the dining hall,” and the participants have reiterated this statement. Lundquist says that the food in the dining hall is “great”, while Kennedy says, “I enjoy the lunch that is open to us.” Kennedy also mentioned how much she values the lectures and the information she learns from them. She says she loves “to see the excitement of the students as they go from class to class, knowing that they are getting a top-notch education.”
With regard to the program, Lundquist says, “I learn something from every talk and, in some cases, new doors of personal pursuit have been opened. A true ‘wow’ that really exceeded my expectations.”
Likewise, Kennedy says, “Skidmore Encore for me, is the best part of the week for the entire seven weeks.”