OLLI's Winter Session For Older Adults Goes Sci-Fi

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Dominican University of California begins its Winter Session on January 11, 2021, with exciting and unique academic courses focused on history, art history, music, psychology, economics, science – and now science fiction.

OLLI faculty member Andrew Fraknoi, a distinguished scientist and award-winning teacher, will teach a course called “Aliens in Outer Space: the Science and the Fiction.” Fraknoi is on the board of Scientific Advisors for Breakthrough: Listen and, in 1984, was one of the founding board members of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute to continue the scientific work of seeking signals from alien civilizations that NASA had begun.

“The topic of whether or not there are other intelligent life-forms out there is one of my favorites in astronomy,” says Fraknoi who retired in July 2017 as the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College. “What I hope to give the students in the OLLI course is the background needed to appreciate the scientific search and then an update on our thinking of what aliens might be like and how we propose to find and communicate with them across the vast distances of space.”

OLLI members range in age from around 50 to 98. In fact, several members 90 and older are part of OLLI’s Advisory Council.

Because of the pandemic, OLLI’s enrollment dropped, but members have gained a better knowledge and confidence in participating in virtual classes via Zoom.

“All members of OLLI who live in a senior residence benefited from online courses during the long period of several months when they were required to shelter-in-place for their own safety,” says Katherine Henderson, OLLI Director.

This past fall, OLLI has had approximately 400 individual members taking classes via Zoom. Pre-pandemic, OLLI had some in-person classes with enrollment greater than 200. Now, a typical class will have around 80 to 100 enrolled.

Being able to provide classes via Zoom also allows OLLI to seek teachers who now have more flexibility and access. For example, Fraknoi is one of three new OLLI faculty members, joining Dr. Jon Bailey, professor emeritus and two-time outstanding teacher of the year recipient at Pomona College who will be teaching “East Meets West on the Musical Stage,” and historian Dr. Chris O’Sullivan, who was a visiting Fulbright Professor of International Relations at the University of Jordan. His course for OLLI’s Winter Session is “The Transformation of America: An Economic and Social History of the United States.”

For more information about OLLI, email olli@dominican.edu or call (415) 458-3763

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