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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 2019 Catalog   Printable Registration Form

FALL REGISTRATION BEGINS AUGUST 26. 
Please call our office at 615-343-0700, or email us at oshervu@vanderbilt.edu with questions, or to join the mailing list!

ATTENTION! New registration system in place.  If your last class taken was spring 2019 or prior to, you cannot use the same username/password that you've used before. You must register as a new user.    Click HERE for registration instructions.     

List of Classes:

A Lifetime of Strengths: Understanding Strengths in Retirement

“What will happen when we think about what is RIGHT about people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” —Don Clifton In this six-session workshop-style course, participants will have the opportunity to explore their Clifton Strengths and better understand how those strengths emerge in their day-today lives through the power of intentional reflection. Prior to the course, participants will take a 20-minute strengths inventory online. During the course, participants will dive into their unique top five strengths, exploring them from various perspectives. The course will start with an overview of the field of positive psychology and evolution of personality inventories like the Clifton Strengths assessment. Topics that will be covered in this interactive course will include leveraging your strengths in leadership, relationships, parenting, and recreation and using your strengths to create the retirement you desire.

American Popular Music: Part 2

This course will cover a variety of topics pertinent to understanding popular music in the United States and abroad. A historical approach will be used, with an emphasis on important styles, artists, and social and cultural issues. Through class lectures and discussions, students will gain an understanding of the nature of popular music, how it is created, how it functions within human society, and how it is a direct expression of the cultural context in which it is produced. For this reason, we will also discuss historical, political, religious, philosophical, and other aspects of American society.

Contours of the Haitian Past; Glimpses of the Future

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by one of the deadliest earthquakes in modern history. The 7.0 magnitude quake ravaged the nation, killing an estimated 230,000 people, injuring 30,000, and leaving millions homeless. As the world mobilized to send aid and support, nearly every mention of Haiti in the press reminded readers that it was “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line and 54 percent of the population living in abject poverty.” A more succinct summary often referenced Haiti simply as a “failed state.” In truth, there is far more to Haiti than just instances of disaster, poverty, and suffering. Haiti today cannot be understood without knowledge of its rich and complex past. Consider that just over 200 years ago, Haiti (then known as the French colony of Saint-Domingue) was the most profitable tract of land in the world, amassing great riches from the production of sugar and the utilization of African slave labor. This course seeks to examine the story of the Haitian people’s struggle to fashion a way of life based on equality and autonomy. We will look at Haiti’s triumphs and failures from the time of the Haitian Revolution, including efforts at nation-building, instances of United States occupation and foreign intervention, political legitimacy and the dangers of autocratic regimes, and forms of artistic and cultural expression.

Creating a Financial Legacy for Future Generations

This course will discuss guidelines for creating a lifetime legacy by examining our past, present, and future. Past decisions, events, and their effects on us will be discussed as to their value in today’s world. The present will be reviewed as it pertains to creating a legacy while personally remaining financially sound. Living longer and outliving our money is becoming an unfortunate reality that sometimes reduces our ability to create a legacy. Discussions will broach the topics of preventing outliving one’s financial resources and ways to save money during retirement such as reducing income tax, avoiding RMD taxes, current tax changes, and estate planning. Future lifetime legacy plans will be outlined with detailed explanations on how to accomplish your goals. Creating a legacy is important, but just as important, is training descendants on their responsibility to continue the legacy for future generations.

Defensive Eating: A Guide to Healthy Eating in the 21st Century

The importance of nutrition pertaining to health is well established in scientific literature. In this six-week course we will examine the role of nutrition in the current epidemic of degenerative diseases (e.g., diabetes, cancer, heart disease). We will also discuss the role of the standard American diet in disease progression and the strategies to implement for prevention and possible reversal.

Music for Seniors Harmonica Learning Lab

Charlie McCoy, renowned harmonica virtuoso and “Nashville Cat,” will kick off this 6-week series led by Teaching Artist and multi-talented instrumentalist and vocalist, Bronson Herrmuth. Participants will gain foundational understanding about the diatonic harmonica’s design as well as learn proper ways to clean and care for their instrument. They will learn and practice effective techniques for holding and playing the harmonica, including: the “train” exercise to develop lung capacity and use of the diaphragm; the “pucker” technique for playing single notes; how to create vibrato and “bend” notes; and more. While having fun learning simple, familiar songs and playing music together, participants also will be introduced to basic music therapy and harmonica tablature. Harmonicas will be provided for all participants.

OLLI at the Nashville Film Festival

Titles selected from features included in the 2019 Nashville Film Festival program will be exhibited at morning screenings for OLLI class participants. Belmont University faculty member Sarah Childress will curate the selections, provide spoiler-free contextual introductions, and lead post-screening discussions. This course will include 7 sessions.  Film titles and updates to the course schedule will be posted to the OLLI website as they become available.

OLLI at the Nashville Jazz Workshop

This jazz-themed group event provides world class jazz performance with music education over lunch. Packed with snappy musical entertainment in the upbeat atmosphere of “The Jazz Cave,” guests will dine as syncopated rhythms and stories bring jazz legends, and the era they lived in – back to life. The hour and a half JAZZ Lunch will focus on the great vocal stylings of jazz vocalist, Nancy Wilson featuring Dara Tucker. Some of Nancy’s most famous tunes were “Happy Talk,” “Never Will I Marry,” “Save Your Love for Me,” and “Guess Who I Saw Today,” just to name a few!

OLLI Steel Drum Band - ADVANCED

If you have a long history of musical experience or have participated in the Beginning OLLI Steel Band for several sessions, this class is for you. A level up from the Beginning OLLI Steel Band, this class moves at a fast pace and focuses on learning the different styles of music that can be played on pan. Latin, jazz, calypso, reggae, rock, and even show tunes are all offered in this class. There is a strong emphasis on proper technique and learning the subtle nuances behind playing the steel pan. The class is highly music oriented and the participants will learn several songs each session, working towards a final recording that you can share with family and friends. Students will be placed according to their preference and the availability of the desired instrument. The Beginning OLLI Steel Band class is a required prerequisite unless instructor permission is granted through a short audition.

OLLI Steel Drum Band - BEGINNER

Take a weekly musical “Cruise to the Islands” by joining the OLLI Steel Drum Band. No musical experience is needed to join this very hands-on class. If you enjoy island music like Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, calypso and reggae, this class is for you! The amazing history and construction of the steel drums will be presented through mini-lectures sprinkled throughout the classes. Listening and video examples of calypso music as well as discussions of Trinidadian culture, past and present, will give you a taste of the Caribbean and an understanding of how the steel band art form developed. The instruments are made up of melody, upper harmony, lower harmony, and bass steel drums (much like a choir). Students will be placed according to their desire to learn a particular instrument and their individual strengths.

Our Brains: An Operator's Manual

In this series, a group of Vanderbilt’s outstanding researchers will give you an insider’s view of the topics they study. Weekly topics will include the anatomy of the brain; our senses of smell, hearing, and vision; and the effects of our interactions with the world: technology, addiction, physical activity, and mindfulness.

Six of the Bible's Most Misunderstood Texts

Sometimes you know a story so well that you don’t know it at all. This is especially common when it comes to Biblical stories. You learn them in Sunday School; you watch them on television and in the movies; you hear them preached from pulpits…you know them, right? Probably not. In this course we will explore six well-known and often misread and therefore misunderstood stories from the Bible: the Creation of the Universe (Genesis 1-2); the Expulsion from Eden (Genesis 3); The Giving of the Ten Commandments; The Patience of Job, Elijah and the Still Small Voice (I Kings 19:11-13); Barabbas and the Trial of Jesus (the Gospels). Drawing on rabbinic midrash, Jewish mysticism, and contemporary scholarship, Rabbi Rami leads us into a deeper reading of these classic texts and invites us to discover new meanings in these ancient and timeless stories. This is a course for anyone interested in learning about alternative readings of biblical texts.

Sleep Science: Sleep, Sleepiness, and Sleeplessness

This six-session course will present a cursory survey of the complexities of healthy and disordered sleep. We will explore what comprises normal sleep (e.g., sleep stages and sleep duration), how sleep is measured (e.g., polysomnography, sleep diaries), how sleep changes across the lifespan (not such bad news for older adults), and health risks of inadequate sleep. We will explore where sleepiness comes from (e.g., brain chemicals and the body’s circadian rhythm) and how to mitigate the drag of jet lag. Lastly, we will touch on some of the 80 sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs) and typical treatments.

The History of African Americans in Nashville

The History of African Americans in Nashville explores the black experience in the city from its founding and settlement in 1779 to the end of the modern civil rights movement. The course will document the lives of the city’s enslaved and free people of color as well as the cultural, religious, and educational institutions that they built. The course will also consider how black men and women in Nashville defined freedom and equality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and developed and sustained protest movements starting before the Civil War. Finally, we will pay close attention to the ways this history has been recovered, celebrated, contested, and erased from the city’s public memory.


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.