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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

August 2020 - Community Relations Team Member Spotlight

Norma Clippard                  

Name: Norma Clippard

Title: Director for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)

How long have you worked at VU?

After working in the marketing business for a number of years, I came to Vanderbilt University to work in the Public Affairs Division solely focusing on the Retirement Learning program.  Within a year, I was named Director of the program which later became the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt. I have been in this capacity for over eighteen years and take great pride in the growth  and expansion of the OLLI at VU! 

How has OLLI changed over the past 5 years?

In the past five years, we have secured a second endowment and grown our curriculum, volunteerism, community partnerships, and Shared Interest Groups.


What do you think people should know about OLLI that they would not know from visiting the website?

OLLI is a very welcoming group of adults who appreciate the joy of learning! The classes are not intimidating in any way for there is no homework or exams.

What is the most fascinating thing that you’ve learned from a class offering from OLLI?

I have learned so many fascinating things through OLLI courses but I believe the one that has benefited me the most is from Dr. Jeanette Norden’s class on the brain. She explained how the brain benefits from exercise and how it GREATLY reduces the chances of dementia. 

How has the new "normal" impacted OLLI?  

Our “new normal” includes many OLLI classes being taught virtually and has enhanced our ability to reach more Tennesseans including our Vanderbilt graduates that do not live close enough to drive to Vanderbilt to participate.  We are also reaching out to Senior Centers who have residents that may have mobility issues as well as rural and underserved communities.  The option to teach virtually also benefits our local members and gives them options to attend in person or virtually. 

Where would you like to see OLLI in the next 10 years?

In 10 years, I predict the OLLI at Vanderbilt will have doubled in size and have a more diverse group of students, which will enrich everything we do!

 August 2020

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Vanderbilt University is an inclusive group that strives to organize and present to the greater Nashville community stimulating intellectual and cultural noncredit courses, programs, and trips for adults over 50 of all educational backgrounds. We are very proud of OLLI’s three-year relationship with Fisk University – particularly since the classes are taught by Fisk professors on the beautiful campus of this historically black institution.

Dr. Paul Kwami, associate professor of music at Fisk University, taught “The Original Fisk Jubilee Singers, Their Tour and Their Music” course. Reavis Mitchell, Ph.D., professor of history and dean of the school of humanities social and behavioral sciences, taught the course entitled “A History of Fisk University."

“Diversity and inclusion continue to be among our most important priorities, as reflected in the curriculum for this summer,” said OLLI at Vanderbilt Director Norma Clippard. “We are striving to expand into a variety of neighborhoods across Nashville, and the Fisk partnership is an important component of our programs.” "I know that Fisk professors have enjoyed the strong engagement and enthusiasm of the OLLI lifelong learners on our campus,” said Rodney Hanley, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Fisk University. “We are delighted to continue this community partnership with Vanderbilt.”

These following noncredit classes are the types of classes that were offered this winter:

  • OLLI Steel Drum Band – Advanced, taught by Alli Puglisi, for seven Sundays, beginning Jan. 12; The class is geared to those with a long history of musical experience or who have participated in the OLLI Steel Band classes for several sessions. The class will meet from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Blair School of Music

    OLLI Steel Drum Band – Beginner, taught by Mat Britain, for seven Sundays, beginning Jan. 12; Students will be placed according to their desire to learn a particular instrument and their individual strengths. The class will meet from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. at the Blair School of Music.

    OLLI Steel Drum Band – Intermediate, taught by Mat Britain and Alli Puglisi, for seven Sundays, beginning Jan. 12; This course is designed specifically for OLLI Beginning Steel Band members who have developed a solid fundamental background and are ready for slightly more difficult pieces. Students will meet from 2 to 3:15 p.m. at the Blair School of Music.

    Understanding Brain Disorders, taught by Jeanette Norden, professor of cell and developmental biology, emerita; Subjects to be covered include head trauma, stroke, dementia and drug addiction; students do not need a science background to enroll. The class will meet for five Mondays, starting Jan. 20, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center.

    Six Modern American Novels, taught by Vereen Bell, professor of English, emeritus; Students will read six novels published between 1899 and 1997. According to Bell, American themes surface and resurface in these novels, as if they were “speaking with each other, putting forth their own point of view.” The class will meet for six Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 14, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at The Temple.

    John Bell Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, focusing on significant battles at Columbia, Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville during the latter part of the Civil War; The class will be taught by Brandon Hulette, associate professor of military science, for six Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 14, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at The Temple.

    OLLI Chorus, designed to provide an opportunity to learn and sing a variety of choral music; The chorus will be led by Paul Kwami, associate professor of music at Fisk University and musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The class will meet for six Tuesdays, beginning Jan. 14, from 3 to 4:15 p.m. at Scarritt Bennett’s Fondren Hall.

    Music for Seniors Intermediate Harmonica Learning Lab, led by Bronson Herrmuth, a teaching artist and multi-talented instrumentalist and vocalist; Students will meet for six Wednesdays, beginning Jan. 15, from 2 to 3:15 p.m. at Scarritt Bennett’s Fondren Hall. The course is designed for those with previous experience playing the harmonica.

    U.S. History from the Women’s Perspective: A March Toward Equal Rights, covering the many steps that women have taken since the nation’s founding to gain equality; Carole Bucy, professor of history at Volunteer State Community College, will teach the class, which will meet for six Thursdays, beginning Jan. 16, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at The Commons Center.

    Working Virtues: Essential Moral Skills for a Good Life, drawing from a wide range of sources—religious and secular, humanistic, poetic, literary and scientific; Led by Larry R. Churchill, professor of medical ethics, emeritus, the course will define and explore those moral skills that are most important for a good and happy life. Students will meet for six Thursdays, starting Jan. 16, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at The Commons Center.

    How to Write a Memoir, designed to provide tools and organizational tips on how to get started writing a personal or family story to save, distribute and/or publish; The instructor is Carole Webb Moore-Slater, an educator and community speaker. Students will meet for five Thursdays, starting Jan. 16, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Division of Government Community Relations Conference Room (2007 Terrace Place).

    Fort Negley: Past, Present and Future, covering the expansive history and potential future of a Civil War fortification in Nashville that was built by enslaved and free black people; Angela Sutton, postdoctoral fellow in the College of Arts and Science and director of the Fort Negley Descendants Project, will cover a series of topics that include the significance of the fort’s UNESCO Slave Route designation. The class will meet for six Fridays, beginning Jan. 17, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at the Fort Negley Visitors Center.

    OLLI at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, an examination of the festival’s winter production of Macbeth; David Wilkerson, theater artist and professor at Middle Tennessee State University, and Marcia McDonald, professor of English at Belmont University, will lead the class, which meets Jan. 20 and 22 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Students will also attend a matinee performance on Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. All sessions are at the Troutt Theatre, Belmont University.

    OLLI at Oz Arts Nashville, a performance of the theatrical music event Notes of a Native Son; The production is named for James Baldwin’s 1955 collection of essays on being black in America. The performance will take place at 8 p.m. Jan. 31 at Oz Arts Nashville. 

Please call our office at 615-343-0700, or email us at with questions, or to join the mailing list!