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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. 

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

List of Classes and Special Events - Winter 2023:

A Roadmap for Living the Era of Global Warming

In this course we will explore the unprecedented challenge that humanity faces in the ongoing environmental crisis. While scientists have been warning us for decades about the costs of desecrating the environment, most of us--and our leaders—have been asleep at the wheel. The reasons are numerous and exploring them can teach us new ways to live. How we respond to this crisis has implications for every aspect of our lives, including what we eat, where and how we live, and what we and our progeny can hope for. Our survival as a species may depend on the choices we make over the next decade. Various strategies for mitigation and adaptation, both individual and social, will be woven into all the sessions. This course will be recorded.

Formative Filmmakers

We will explore the impact of some of the world’s most innovative directors on fiction filmmaking. By examining their film-historical and film-art contributions, we’ll chart the ways each evolved filmmaking practices and participated in a global network of artistic dialogue and influence. Though we will focus on some Hollywood icons, we’ll also be looking at directors in other countries and those working outside the studio system. The course structure will follow film history. We’ll begin with the silent shorts of Alice Guy-Blaché, D.W. Griffith, and Lois Weber. We’ll then consider Charlie Chaplin’s involvement in the evolution of film sound; John Ford’s international and intergenerational impact; how Vittorio De Sica started a worldwide film revolution; and how John Cassavetes, Spike Lee, and Jane Campion moved popular and critically acclaimed filmmaking beyond the Hollywood model. This course will be recorded.


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 16 participants. 


Introduction to Watercolor and Gouache for Painting the Natural World

This course will begin with an introduction to watercolors and the tools needed for watercolor painting. We will cover the basics of painting: the color wheel, color mixing, and watercolor painting techniques. Once we get comfortable with using the medium, we will look at some practical ways of painting common landscape elements like skies, trees, water, and buildings. During the last weeks of the course, we will do an introduction to gouache, which is an opaque form of watercolor that opens up more opportunities for improving and enhancing your watercolor paintings. This course will be recorded.

Journey to Jubilee Tour

This tour focuses on the African Americans who were brought to Belle Meade in 1807 and follows their story through emancipation showing how vital their presence was to the success of the property and family. The tour is followed by a wine tasting. This walking tour is not ADA accessible and takes place inside the kitchen house and outside on the grounds of Belle Meade. Please plan accordingly. OLLI members and guests are welcome.

Modern China

For most Americans, China is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. The reason being is that the subject of modern China’s travails and then rather sudden rise to becoming a major power, second only to the United States, has rarely, if ever, been taught in our public schools or universities. As a result, the subject of China has created consternation and anxiety. We will attempt to have you step into the shoes of a Chinese person who has a much clearer understanding of their modern history than we do. For China, history is not a boring academic subject, it is an integral part of their culture and their world view. Dr. Kupper has traveled to China over 150 times and been over most the country while working as a consultant to companies seeking to do business in China. He has witnessed the modernization of China before his very eyes and discussed it all with party officials, workers, academicians, private entrepreneurs, and people from almost every walk of life. This course will be recorded.

OLLI Steel Drum Band - ADVANCED

After excelling in the Beginner and Intermediate Bands, it is time to approach music that is more difficult. We will implement more advanced musical terminology and playing techniques. This group often performs in the Vanderbilt Steel Bands Concert at Blair School of Music. Recommendations for enrollment: Prerequisite of the Beginner and Intermediate levels is required unless instructor permission is granted through invitation or a short audition; reading music is very helpful but not essential as long as you learn quickly by ear; strong rhythmic comprehension is helpful; understanding the concepts of underlying pulse, syncopation, and being able to hear and repeat rhythms is helpful; willingness to practice before class recommended if needed. 

OLLI Steel Drum Band - BEGINNER

This musical journey to the Caribbean is a hands-on experience where you will learn how to play the steel drums. During the seven-week term, we will approach proper playing techniques, which we will apply by learning a song. History of the art form and its birthplace will be discussed in class, along with easy “homework” assignments (short YouTube videos, articles, listening examples). Come join us for a low-stress, fun musical adventure! Recommendations for enrollment: No musical experience needed but helpful; able to stand for 60-75 minutes; reasonable mobility in fingers, wrists, and arms; willingness to practice before class recommended if needed. 


For those who have grasped the basics, this band will refine the basics and techniques on the steel pans. We will work on slightly more difficult music and dive deeper into the culture of Trinidad and the steel band art form. Recommendations for enrollment: Prerequisite of the beginner level is required unless instructor permission is granted through invitation or a short audition; reading music is helpful but not essential; able to stand for 60-75 minutes; reasonable mobility in fingers, wrists, and arms; willingness to practice before class recommended if needed. 

Stories Told by Nashville Rocks and Earliest Fossil Inhabitants

This course will relate fundamental Earth characteristics and processes that have operated for its entire history to the rocks, records of past life, and landscapes of the Nashville area. We will explore how Nashville’s geographic and environmental setting more than 450 million years ago and subsequent events are the proximal causes of its environmental challenges, including lack of suitable landfill sites, susceptibility to flooding and landslides, and changes in patterns of development and population distribution. Fort Negley’s well-exposed rocks will be investigated, and participants will collect, identify, and interpret the lifestyles of the ancient animals found in in Fort Negley’s fossil-rich rock pile provided by Vulcan Materials Company. This course will be recorded.

Tennessee State Museum

Join us for a Docent-Led Tour of Painting the Smokies: Art, Community, and the Making of a National Park.

The Forts of Nashville, Then and Now

In this class, Vanderbilt Professor Brandon Hulette will discuss the system of fortifications that made Nashville the second most fortified city of the Civil War. He will discuss the reasons why Nashville was so heavily fortified, the types of forts here, and some of the cutting-edge research on this important feature of our city's history. This course will be recorded.

The Sky is for Everyone: A History of Women Astronomers

Before 1900, a woman who wanted to study the stars had to have a father, brother, or husband to provide entry. Their considerable intellectual skills were not enough to leverage their way into graduate degree programs, let alone to receive professional appointments at observatories or universities. Prying open the doors of opportunity took most of the 20th century. Today, after decades of difficult struggles, women are closer to equality in astronomy than ever before. In this course we will present a history of women in astronomy, discussing how and when women broke into the profession of astronomy. We will also look at their important contributions to astronomy and astrophysics. The foundation for our class will be the stories told by many of these women, as told in their own words in The Sky is for Everyone: Women Astronomers in Their Own Words, a book of chapter-length memoirs by 37 professional astronomers, published in 2022 and co-edited by Weintraub. These memoirs span more than 60 years of social and scientific progress and represent scientists from 20 different countries. During the first part of this class, we will learn about some women astronomers who, as they are no longer with us, were not able to author their own stories in The Sky is for Everyone. In the second part of our class, we will discuss some of the stories told in The Sky is for Everyone. Some of these are elegant pieces of prose that will make you smile; others will anger you or make you cry. Many of these women overcame tremendous challenges to enter the profession. Others stood up to prejudice and changed the institutions in which they worked for the better. This course will be recorded.

The Underground Railroad and the Struggle over Slavery

The Underground Railroad (UGRR) in the U.S. was a movement unique in the history of the struggle against slavery, providing shelter and succor to the enslaved seeking freedom. At the forefront of the movement were the enslaved themselves who took the decision to leave, to seek a new life among people they did not know. We need to look, therefore, at why they left and what assistance they got from family and friends, free blacks, white, and other enslaved people. What laws did they violate in their decision to escape? Similarly, what laws did those who aided them in the free states break. Finally, the UGRR, was, by its very nature, a political movement that aimed to undermine the system of slavery. We will look at all aspects of a movement that many contemporaries believed pushed the country towards war. This course will be recorded.

The United States in the 1930s: From the Great Depression to the Arsenal of Democracy

In this course, Carole Bucy will begin with the mood of the country as the reality of a nationwide economic depression took hold. The class will examine the ideas about how to end the Depression, the political consequences of the Depression, and the "bold experimentation" that led to an expansion of governmental programs and services. The course will provide an examination of the New Deal programs, with particular emphasis of those programs that came to Tennessee, as well as the rest of the nation. It will also examine the racial tensions in the country during this period and the steps toward desegregation that did not become a reality until the 1950s. The class will also discuss the global roots of the Depression and the responses of other countries to it. The course ends with the beginnings of World War II in Europe and the response of the United States to it. This course will be recorded.

The Division of Government and Community Relations sponsors the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt.