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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 - Winter 2022:

A Don Quixote Sampler

Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, published in two parts (1605, 1615), is a complex narrative that speaks to its time and place as it points forward to the development of what has been called the modern novel. The six-week course will consist of the reading and discussion of sample chapters of Don Quixote, with emphasis on Part 1, and commentary on the text as a whole, so that participants will have a vision of the comprehensive narrative. We will use the translation by Edith Grossman, available through in Kindle and paperback. The reading for each week will be under 40 pages. The course will be limited to 25 participants, in order to foster dialogue and discussion. The goal of the course will be to give the members of the group a sense of the scope, the parameters, the artistic and conceptual brilliance, and the well-merited classic status of Don Quixote.

Barack Obama: Man and President

The course will examine the presidency of Barack Obama and will explore the background influences that shaped him as a man and affected his domestic and foreign policies. This course will be recorded.

Cultures of India and Japan

Cultures of India and Japan course is designed to promote a complex and enriched understanding of culture through an exploration of what are considered ‘Indian’ and ‘Japanese’ cultures. Using a combination of immersive activities and individual/collaborative research, learners will examine their previously held notions of culture and diversity, gain a broad understanding of the target cultures, enhance their critical cultural awareness, and develop attitudes of curiosity and critical questioning. Learning activities will involve engaging with a variety of academic and nonacademic texts that reflect the variety of experiences, challenges, and values of what are considered Indian and Japanese cultures. The course does not require background in any Asian language. This course will be recorded.

Drawing Your Life: Learning How to Keep a Sketch Notebook

Keeping a sketchbook journal has become a very popular pastime in the last decade. Urban Sketching, a movement based on drawing from real scenes on location, is now practiced all over the world. In this class we cover the basics of how to keep a sketchbook journal, including materials, basic drawing, painting techniques, and different styles of sketchbooks. We will begin by drawing simple objects, then progress to interior room scenes, then end with drawing landscapes outside. Along the way we will learn about perspective, color, and focal points. The main point is to learn to love the process, not the results! No prior art experience needed. 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.

Music, Pandemics, and History

Diseases are, at least in part, culturally constructed. When Mimi (of Puccini’s La Boheme) coughs out her last breaths on stage, when composer Guillaume Dufay calls to St. Sebatian to “protect and preserve me,” when J.S. Bach’s tenor recites “The whole world is nothing but a hospital,” we understand these texts on the basis of our very human reaction to disease. In this course, we will examine human cultural responses to pandemics, juxtaposing our own experiences with COVID-19 with music from the historical past. Music could be an answer to fear or its victim; it could celebrate the possibility of survival and redemption or mourn the passing of fellow citizens; it could be chastened by the experience or use humor in its defiance. This course will be recorded.

Policing in America: Evolution and Controversy

History of American policing: how and where police derived their power and how that power is sustained. We will trace the roots of police in America and the evolution of police power through unions, public support, and political emphasis. Special attention will be given to police brutality issues, the role of media in framing our ideas of policing, the militarization of police forces, and the relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they are paid to serve. We will try to answer the question: What is the function of police? This course will be recorded.

Songwriting for Non-Musicians

If you’re ever wondered what it would be like to turn your thoughts, ideas, and stories into songs, this course is for you. Grammy-recognized, #1 hit songwriter, Cliff Goldmacher, will give students big picture insights into the songwriting process and then delve into the nuts and bolts of what makes songs work. Participants will be guided through the process of turning their ideas and memories into a finished lyric with proper song structure that can be put to music. At the end of the course, after the attendees have written their own song lyrics, Cliff will choose a few of the completed lyrics and put them to music on the spot. No musical experience is necessary although musicians are certainly welcome. This course will be recorded.

Title IX at 50: Women in Sports

The landmark Title IX legislation that changed the course of women's sports in America turns 50 in 2022. This course examines the past, present, and future of women's athletics with guest appearances by a diverse mix of interesting athletes, administrators, journalists, and scholars from around the country. Instructor Andrew Maraniss will lead interviews with our guests and encourage questions from students. This course will be recorded.

Witches, Fairies, and Nature in Shakespeare’s Plays

In three sessions we will explore the magical, mysterious, and natural worlds in Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare's plays are populated with medicinal herbs, prophetic witches, and mischievous fairies. Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Artistic Director Denice Hicks and Marcia McDonald, Ph.D., from Belmont University will lead two in-depth discussions followed by a third session with excerpts from each play performed by Nashville Shakespeare Festival actors. This course will be recorded.

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