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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 - Fall 2021:

Coffee, Globalization, and Sustainable Development

This course will explore the history and current state of the coffee industry as a framework for understanding the possibilities and pitfalls of globalization, international development institutions, and marketled sustainability initiatives. Beginning with a deep and troubling dive into coffee's insidious roots in slavery and colonialism, participants will move into understanding how the global trade began to change throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Participants will question the extent to which coffee in the 21st century maintains global and unjust patterns or challenges this status quo. In addition, the course will explore the history of development from the end of WWII onward, and describe how coffee policy and stakeholders have been influenced by this history and global development concepts. By the end of the course, participants will not be able to look at their morning cup of coffee the same way again. Watch video

Film Art: An Introduction to the Formal Elements of Film

This course will introduce you to the elements of film form - mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound - and to how these formal elements visually or aurally communicate story details while also contributing to the expression of concepts and development of themes. We will primarily focus on “eye training.” Through a series of lectures and guided clip analyses, you will become more aware of the individual formal elements and how they function. We will also take some initial steps toward film analysis by: 1) extrapolating concepts and themes from how the elements function in particular scenes and 2) thinking about how those scenes contribute to our overall understanding of the film. By the end of this course, you will be able to apply your awareness of these elements, their function, and their contributions to any film you watch. Watch video

Gladdening the Mind: Meditating in the Divine Abodes

This is a meditation course, open to both beginning and experienced meditators. When you wake up in the morning, after you get going with your day, what is the quality of your mind? Do you like hanging out with yourself? Is your mind a good friend to you? How do you relate to dear ones, to difficult persons, to adversaries, to strangers, to people in distress? In the Buddha’s teaching of mindfulness meditation, there are four qualities of mind called the Divine Abodes, or brahmaviharas. These four are Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity. These qualities of mind can be cultivated through meditative practice. We will learn to “incline the mind” toward these qualities and discover that we can choose to make our home in these divine abodes. Additionally, because it is at the core of the teaching of Jesus, and because grievance and resentment toward others, oneself, and life can block the experience of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, we will add Forgiveness practice as a “fifth brahmavihara,” as do some contemporary mindfulness meditation teachers. 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 16 participants. Watch video

Music in the ‘60’s

Music of the 1960s will explore the musical sounds of the 1960s as a reflection of and shaping force on the decade. The course will cover a variety of topics and styles including, but not limited to, Motown, the folk revival, the British invasion, country, soul, jazz fusion, experimental art music, and the many diverse sounds of the counterculture. Through an interdisciplinary study, participants will gain a better understanding of the ways the decade's music was both a direct expression of the cultural context in which it was produced and a profound influence on the trajectory of musical sound and popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. Watch video

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. Watch video

Painting Portraits: My Life as an Artist

Michael Shane Neal will share his adventures as a portrait painter. He will take us on a virtual tour of his studios in Nashville and New York City, discuss some of his recent commissions, and give insight into his philosophy and approach to capturing likenesses on canvas. Watch video

The U.S. Constitution: Foundations and Interpretations

This course will begin by examining American political thought through such founding American documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution and continue with the Bill of Rights, subsequent amendments, and their interpretations, especially in major Supreme Court decisions. Watch video

The U.S. Women’s Movement

This course will explore the resurgence of the American women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s, now often referred to as the second wave of feminism. We will begin by discussing both the traditional roles white middle-class women were expected to play in the home and family after World War II and some women’s dissatisfaction with these roles. We will examine how some women gained activist experience in the civil rights movement and the New Left but then grew disillusioned with the unequal treatment they received in these groups. We will investigate the history of the liberal feminists, such as the women in NOW (National Organization for Women), who wanted to work within current institutions, and the radical feminists, such as members of Redstockings and other women’s liberation groups, who were eager to remake society so that women were liberated from confining roles and stereotypes. Throughout the course, we will consider the continuing relevance of second wave feminism’s goals, strategies, and activism. Watch video

Uneasy Neighbors: Latin America and the United States

Relations between the United States and its neighbors to the south, from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn, have been marked by friendship and cooperation, neglect and indifference, and, at times, hostility and fear. This course is about the relationships, exchanges, and tensions among the people and nations of the Western Hemisphere, focusing specifically on the connecting points between the United States and the nations of Latin America such as state-to-state interactions at the level of diplomacy and military intervention to questions of culture and perception in inter-American affairs. Eras characterized by the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican War, the Spanish-Cuban-American War, the Big Stick and Dollar Diplomacy, the Good Neighbor Policy, the Cold War, the Alliance for Progress, human rights concerns, and the Reagan Doctrine of counterinsurgency will receive special attention. Rather than looking only at the influences at work on officials in Washington, we will investigate Latin American initiatives and responses, from the attempts by various nationalist regimes to find an alternative to the traditional model of dependence on the United States, to critiques by leading intellectuals and public officials from the early 20th century to the present. 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.