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OLLI at Vanderbilt Mission Statement:
OLLI at Vanderbilt helps adults over 50 rediscover the joy of learning and build community through diverse social interaction.

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.  OLLI focuses on the joy of learning.  Interesting topics are explored with thought-provoking and engaging instructors, who are primarily active or retired Vanderbilt faculty, as well as other community experts.  In a relaxed atmosphere, with no homework, tests, or grades, you have the opportunity to ask questions, contribute ideas, and interact with people who share similar interests.  OLLI participants exercise their minds while making new friends, not only in the classroom but through other educational activities, special events and community engagement. 

Fall online registration is closed! Late registration? Contact us at 615-343-0700. 
Please call our office at 615-343-0700, or email us at with questions, or to join the email list! 

List of Classes - Fall 2020:

An Exploration of Astronomy’s History, Science, and Discoveries

Over the past century, the telescopes and technology of astronomy have improved by leaps and bounds. This and the numerous tricks up their sleeves have allowed astronomers to make discoveries that were once thought only to be science fiction. In this course, we will cover a wide variety of topics such as how astronomers are able to determine distances to objects and their characteristics, and how they are able to detect (and in some cases characterize) more than 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. We will explore some “oddball” stars – stars which have more going on with them than what meets the naked eye. We will focus on one of the most famous astronomers of all time, Galileo Galilei, the ground-breaking discoveries he made with his own telescope and how those discoveries clashed with the view of the universe during his time. Lastly, we will examine the life and accomplishments of a world-famous astronomer who was born right here in Nashville, Tennessee – Edward Emerson Barnard. No previous knowledge of astronomy is required. Watch video

Around the World in Six Weeks: Cultural Awareness through Literature

We will travel the world together in this course by reading literature from a different country/territory each week. Through discussion (and minimal lecturing), we will explore diverse themes prevalent in literature from around the world. In doing so, we will test the theory that connections can be made between main characters in different countries, regardless of the distance between their origins. We will trace the themes presented in the selected works to highlight their human significance and to consider the journey that each main character takes towards self-actualization. As we gain an understanding of the short stories in their cultural/ historical contexts, we will highlight the enduring human values which unite the bold characters in these riveting literary works. Watch video 

China's Revolutions: 1912-1976

We will cover events in China from the Sun Yatsen led Nationalist Revolution of 1912 through the founding in 1921 of the Chinese Communist Party and subsequent historic events that changed China and the world. This will include the years encompassing the Nationalist Revolution; two civil wars between the Chiang Kaishek led Nationalists and the Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Zhu De led Communists; the United Front between the two against the Japanese; and the eventual Communist victory in 1949 establishing the People's Republic of China. We will end with a discussion of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (1966 - 1976) up to the deaths of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Zhu De in 1976. Of note, the course will also include the active role foreigners, especially numerous Americans, played in these years of revolution. Watch video

How to Write a Memoir

How to Write a Memoir is a five-week mini-course designed to provide tools and organizational tips on how to get started writing a personal or family story to save, distribute, and/ or publish. Writing techniques discussed will help participants plan and organize personal stories. Each participant will be encouraged to write and share a memoir essay during the five-week period. Classes will be interactive as ideas are shared, personal manuscripts are read, and feedback is provided. Limited to 10 participants.

Nutrition and Immunity

The role of nutrition in supporting the immune system is well established in the medical literature. In light of current events, this role should be at the forefront of our thoughts. We will discuss the role that nutrition plays in the functioning of our immune system and strategies to help this system function optimally. Watch video

Race, Gender, and Sports

In partnership with the Vanderbilt Sports and Society Initiative and Vanderbilt Athletics, New York Times bestselling author Andrew Maraniss leads this course exploring issues related to race, gender, and sports. Each week, Andrew will lead a discussion with a fascinating speaker sharing insights on a particular aspect of the theme. Speakers -- including former professional athletes, leading academicians, and college coaches --- will come to Nashville from around the country to discuss issues ranging from the history of the Gay Games, the misunderstood legacy of Adolph Rupp, human rights abuses associated with the Olympics, women working in men's college sports, and more. Watch video

Self-Care: What It Is, Why It Is Important, And How to Do It

During this singular experience in our lifetime when almost every assumption about normal life has undergone change, there is a new need for understanding what it means to care for ourselves. This course is an introduction to the "what, why and how" of self-care. Even prior to the arrival of the pandemic, the subject of self-care was gaining attention as people search for relief from the demands that constant digital connectivity creates. As we struggle to sort through and integrate an inordinate amount of information, and learn to manage the anxiety provoked by “breaking news” every minute of the day, our intentions for our lives can get lost and our attention can get rerouted all too permanently. Misplaced intention and divagated attention can lead us to places we find difficult to recognize as “our own life.” Attending to oneself in a manner that fosters a sense of alignment with our inner compass and learning to hold our attention, a more valuable commodity than ever before, steady are crucial skills to develop as we undergo profound changes in the world as we know it. Self-care is an aspect of being human that can become and remain a priority as we seek some constancy in life. Watch video

The Blues: History and Influence

This course will cover a variety of topics pertinent to understanding the history, continuation, and influence of the blues in the United States and abroad. The course will explore the blues from the 19th century to the present through a historical approach with an emphasis on important styles, artists, and social and cultural issues. In addition to an exploration of the music and careers of musicians including Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, BB King, Robert Johnson, and others, the course will also explore the thematic, lyrical, and musical influences in the development of popular music genres such as jazz, country, rock and roll, and hip hop.

The Italian Renaissance: What Was It? Why Then? Why There?

Historians of the mid-late 20th century debated whether the historical notion of a “re-birth” occurring in city-states of Italy from the 14th to the early 16th centuries was a correct one. After a brief overview of the historiography that created the notion, the course will describe, define, and delineate the era, demonstrating that the concept is a valid one. Using visual and written primary sources, we will examine the values that defined the era and look at the conditions that fostered these values and created an environment in which they could flourish. Watch video

Writing Seminar: The Writing Life

In describing the work of a writer, the contemporary American author Annie Dillard contends, “The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.” Participants in this writing workshop will experience the challenges and the pleasures of the “writing life” by composing assignments in prose and through sharing their work with their peers. We shall read and discuss each contribution for its strengths and make recommendations for revisions. The seminar is designed for beginner writers with no previous publication experience. This class is limited to 12 participants who have not previously been enrolled in Victor Judge’s writing seminar. Registration will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Watch video

The Division of Government and Community Relations sponsors the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt and is
administered by Vanderbilt's Department of Community, Neighborhood, and Government Relations.