Skip to main content


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. 

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

List of Classes - Spring 2021:

Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Aging is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The U.S. has a rapidly aging population and by 2050 13 million persons are projected to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. During this time, African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino adults will make up 40% of adults over the age of 65. Currently, women and African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino adults are disproportionately impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of clinical trials currently underway, which is critical, as to date there is no cure for this brain disease. We will discuss current information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention strategies for this disease in an interactive online course. Watch video

Antarctica: At the Heart of it All

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, highest, windiest, brightest, loneliest, most peaceful, and least explored continent on Earth. Since its discovery 200 years ago, it has motivated a golden age of exploration and the race to the South Pole, and it continues to inspire modern scientific inquiry and governance. Despite its isolation, Antarctica is central to our understanding of the global climate and ecosystem and understanding how the Antarctic Ice Sheets are changing is key to our ability to predict how much and how fast sea level will rise in the coming years. Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s surface freshwater resources, is the site of the first arms control treaty signed during the cold war, and is the world’s largest wildlife refuge. What happens in Antarctica affects all of us on Earth, and the continent is truly at the heart of it all. This course will cover the geologic history of Antarctica, the exploration of the continent from its discovery to present day investigations, and the role that Antarctica plays in modern political systems. Watch video

Effortless Mindfulness: Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart

This is a meditation course, open to both beginning and experienced meditators. What has come to be known as “mindfulness” in the West most typically comes in two “flavors.” The first flavor is Focused Attention, which is a concentration practice (or samadhi in Buddhist teaching). The object of attention may be breathing, sounds, the world of bodily sensations, a mantra, or a visual image. The second flavor of mindfulness is Open Monitoring, or choiceless awareness (known as vipassana in Buddhist teaching). Choiceless awareness is less focused and more “open” than Focused Attention. It is a witnessing of the passing procession of cognitive and emotional and somatic experience, without focusing on any particular content. Focused Attention and Choiceless Awareness are two flavors of what is known as “Deliberate Mindfulness." There is a third, and less commonly known flavor of mindfulness, known as Effortless Mindfulness (or rigpa in Tibetan Buddhism), which is the awareness of awareness itself, or Non-Dual Awareness. Here the focus of attention is not on contents in consciousness, but on consciousness itself. In this case, the meditator turns and shifts awareness back on itself. Because awareness is not striving, not trying to get anywhere, not trying to make anything happen, not resisting anything, awareness “recognizes" itself as “effortless.” Effortless Mindfulness is a simple, yet advanced form of mindfulness. It is an upgrade to another “operating system,” one shifted from the contents of perception, thinking, and emotion to the boundless welcome and loving embrace of Awareness itself. Christian mystics call this upgrade into Awareness itself “Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart.” This class will train your natural, relaxed capacity to See with the Eyes of the Heart, both during your formal meditation practice and in your daily life. Watch video

Forgive Us Our Sins, As We Too Forgive

This course will trace the evolution of the practice and understanding of mutual forgiveness among Christians and its relationship to the formal practice of exclusion, repentance, and reconciliation managed by the leaders of church congregations. We will consider the foundations of the practice in the Gospels and the crises that required its development. The presentations will focus on the North African church, where the evidence is most abundant in the second through fifth centuries. The analysis will attend, in particular, to the interpretation and application of Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:15-20, and John 20:22-23. Watch video

How to Write a Memoir

How to Write a Memoir is an eight-week workshop designed to motivate and inspire by providing guidelines 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 their personal stories. There will be writing exercises during class and each participant will be encouraged to write and share a memoir essay with the group. All classes will be interactive with ideas shared, personal manuscripts read, and group feedback provided. Limited to 14 participants. Watch video

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. This is a repeat of the course taught by Randy Pendergrass this past fall — back by popular demand! Watch video

OLLI Annual Meeting

Join us for our annual meeting with guest speaker Dr. William Schaffner, professor of health policy and professor of preventive medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center followed by our annual business meeting with OLLI at Vanderbilt updates and musical entertainment by the National Museum of African American Music. This event is complimentary to all, but donations gladly accepted. We very much appreciate your participation in the programs, and we appreciate your generosity. All donors will be entered in a raffle for annual memberships to the National Museum of African American Music! Please click HERE to donate any amount.

Short Stories: Analysis and Enjoyment

This course will focus on short stories by authors from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Latin America. Some will be familiar (Mark Twain, Guy de Maupassant, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood, for example); others will not, and so participants can add to their repertoire. Each selection has something special to offer. We will look at how the individual stories are constructed, how they can be analyzed, how form and content interact, and how every text can best be appreciated. The format will be discussion and dialogue, not lectures. The first session will be an introduction, and each of the other five sessions (of one hour and 15 minutes) will accentuate several short stories. The reading assignment for a given session will be a maximum of 20 pages. There will be “points to consider” for every selection. The goal is double, as the title suggests: enlightenment and enjoyment. Limited to 25 participants. Watch video

Swing to Bop: Jazz in the 1930s and 40s

This course will cover a variety of topics pertinent to understanding the history, continuation, and influence of the jazz styles swing and bebop. The course will explore these styles through a historical approach with an emphasis on important artists, pieces, and social and cultural issues. In addition to an exploration of the music and careers of musicians including Fletcher Henderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Sara Vaughn, and others, participants will gain an understanding of swing and bebop as musical styles and how they are a direct expression of the cultural context in which they were produced. Watch video

Tennessee History: From Reconstruction to the Digital Age

Dr. Carole Bucy will talk about events and people in Tennessee history after the Civil War that most Tennesseans don't know. Beginning with the return of the ex-Confederates to the political scene after Tennessee was readmitted to the union, she will discuss how those experiences were different from other southern states. There will be material on the state's industrialization in the late 19th century, Tennessee's involvement in national reform movements in the early 20th century, and the role of Tennessee's congressional delegation during the Great Depression. The course will also include the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and end with more recent history, including Tennessee's ratification and subsequent rescission of the Equal Rights Amendment in the early ‘70’s. Lastly, Dr. Bucy will discuss the political shifts that have taken place over the past fifty years. Watch video

The Era of the Russian Revolution: History and Literature 1890s-1930s

We are living today through a period of profound societal transformation. This six-week on-line course considers another such period of human history, the era of the Russian Revolution. It uses a combination of lectures, Zoom lecture and discussion, and your reading of one of the great Russian language novels of the 20th century, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago [Doctor Zhivago (Vintage International, 2011) [Richard Pevear (Translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translator)]. The course examines the decades that encompass the 1917 Revolution, and Zhivago’s lifetime—from the gilded age of the 1890s through the First World War, the collapse of Romanov autocracy, the rise of Bolshevik authoritarianism and civil war that convulsed the land mass of Eurasia, to the new communist state that came to rule northern Eurasia. Using history and literature, we will experiment in a laboratory of head-spinning opportunities to consider how humans respond to the challenge of change. Watch video

The House of Possibility: The Literary Theological Imagination of Emily Dickinson

The American poet Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) bequeathed to us 1,789 poems in which she reveals a literary-theological imagination that exceeds the conventions of nineteenth-century poetics and religious thought. As a precursor of Modernism, Dickinson forged a literary-theological grammar in verses described as metaphysical, provocative, flirtatious, tragic, and humorous. In this lecture series, we shall consider the literary and religious traditions inherited by Dickinson and her responses to the questions and paradoxes she encounters as she resides in “the house of possibility,” her metaphor for poetry. 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.