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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 - Summer 2021:

All About Comedy

This three-week course is a comprehensive multimedia look at every single aspect of comedy that fits into 3½ hours. Please note adult material is included. “The History of Ha!” (1 hour) looks at comedy from Ancient Greece to “Modern Family,” from jesters to Groucho, from Plato & Aristotle to Abbott & Costello, with stops along the way for commedia dell’arte, a French fartist, and how comedy killed Abraham Lincoln. “Comedy vs. the Apocalypse” (1 hour) is about how humans use humor in terrible times—from the Black Death to the Holocaust to 9/11—how we’re doing it now, and how humor can help get us to tomorrow. “The Greatest Satirical Songs” (90m) features the best in musical satire from Randy Newman, Weird Al, Gilbert & Sullivan, Steve Martin, Chuck Berry, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Bugs Bunny, and more! Watch video

Black Womanist Consciousness and American Public Life

Building upon Katie Geneva Canon’s seminal essay, “The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness” in her 1995 book Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community, this course explores the rise of Black Women’s political participation in American public life from Reconstruction to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The course will examine democratic dilemmas in religion and public life and struggles of justice for Black women with particular focus on the U.S. South.

History of Photography

At a time when photographic images saturate our daily lives, it is hard to imagine what life was like before the invention of photography. In this course, we will attempt to envision a world before photographs and make our way to the present day, where over 1.4 trillion images are projected to be taken this year. Spanish photographer Joan Fontcuberta once asked, "Does photography make history, or is it photography that produces history?" By looking closely at significant photographic works made over the last 175 years, this course will consider Fontcuberta's question and address the complicated social and cultural impact of the medium. 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

Introduction to Latin America

Latin America is a varied and complex region that is home to some 600 million people (10% of the world’s population), living in thirty-four nations that extend over 12% of the planet’s surface. We will explore the region as a whole and focus on the rich diversity that characterizes Latin America. This course is organized chronologically and thematically, beginning with precolonial times, and then diving into several important periods: conquest, colonization, wars of independence, nationalism, twentieth-century revolutions, and the Cold War. We will end the course by examining some of the key debates regarding Latin America’s current situation in a global context. Through the study of these historical moments, we will explore the legacy of slavery, social change, and global capitalist dynamics. This is an opportunity to learn about territories and ways of life that differ from those that we in the United States consider familiar, as well as a space to examine our own lives in a new light and consider our role in Latin America’s past, present, and future.

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

Tai Chi – Introduction for Health, Balance, and Relaxation

There is a general lack of awareness and understanding about the ancient practice of Tai Chi Chuan - Supreme Ultimate Boxing. People know Tai Chi as a slow-moving exercise often seen in medical commercials performed by people looking happy and peaceful. There is a vague recognition that it is somehow “like yoga” and “good for you” and that is about it! Tai Chi is an easy-to-learn routine that improves health, balance, and relaxation. Tai Chi is low impact and can easily be done by everyone including seniors, people with illnesses and injuries, and even small children. In fact, it is a great exercise for these types of people due to the extraordinary health benefits that result from continued efforts. This course is appropriate for beginners and for people with past Tai Chi experience. We will learn about body alignment, gravity, motion, and power. We will practice deep breathing and strategies for relaxing and reducing anxiety. We will have fun and enjoy getting healthy together. Watch video

The Kingdom of Italy: Unity or Disparity, 1860-1945

As a “geographical expression” Italy has a long and rich history. But as a nation-state Italy has existed even fewer years than the United States, having only been unified politically, diplomatically, and militarily since 1859-60. Even as a singular nation-state—The Kingdom of Italy—with all regions subject to the same king, same constitution, and same laws, it faced many disparities. Among these were a basic disagreement among the populace whether republic or monarchy was the better form of government; an industrializing, modernizing North and an agrarian, traditionalist South; rabid anti-clericalism alongside devout Catholicism and the presence of the Pope as a religious and secular authority. These existed on top of the vestiges of the impositions of previous foreign rulers, among them Spanish, Austrian, and French, seen even in dialects and cuisine. The history of the Kingdom of Italy from 1860 to 1945 is a history of trying…and many times failing… to overcome these disparities and create a stable polity and of the irony of the “unity” created by the Fascist Regime. Watch video

The Napoleons and their Cultural Impact

Napoleon Bonaparte left his native Corsica and rose to prominence during the French Revolutionary years, eventually creating a vast empire which he ruled as Emperor in the early years of the 19th Century. His nephew, Napoleon III, rose to power in the wake of the 1848 revolution in France, and was declared emperor in 1851, ruling France until Le Débacle that Émile Zola described in one of the 20 novels he wrote about the Second Empire. The two Napoleons’ accomplishments, and foibles, are the stuff of legends, promulgated in large part by propagandists, as well as some of the great artistic figures of their respective ages. In this course, we’ll overview the achievements and disasters of these two monumental French figures, examining with particular care the impact they had upon contemporary artists, writers, dancers, and philosophers. Watch video

Yoga for Health and Vitality: Fostering Healthy Aging and Lifelong Wellbeing

Keeping mind, body, and spirit in balance is essential for maintaining good health. Regardless of limitations, yoga offers ways to establish a foundation for lifelong well-being by fostering physical strength, flexibility, balance, and agility, and cultivating mindfulness and emotional balance. Join Donna Ortner, yoga and meditation teacher, online for a six-week series of gentle and steady yoga practices that weave together breath, movement, and meditation to cultivate a mindful presence and essential health in mind and body. Note: Although no yoga experience is needed to participate, the ability to stand and move comfortably for 45 minutes and get up and down from the floor with ease is recommended. Access to the internet, a yoga mat and yoga block are needed to participate. 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.