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Retirees take advantage of SU program

By Staff | Oct 7, 2011

Robbye Horowicz teaches a small group of Lifelong Learning students at the Shepherdstown Men's Club Tuesday, Oct. 4. Horowicz started her class by asking students about their experience with the Holocaust. (Chronicle photo by Mike Cramer)

When Robbye Horowicz took a job teaching conversational English to German school children in 1961, she had no idea she would be the first to tell them about the Holocaust. While trying to explain why they may face some animosity oversees when traveling, the topic came up and Horowicz took the difficult task of explaining what happened to the sheltered children.

She has now been teaching about the Holocaust for 50 years, and her next set of students are Shepherdstown retirees.

Horowicz is one of several community members who will be offering their time to serve as instructors for Shepherd University’s new Lifelong Learning program. Lifelong Learning is a set of unaccredited classes for retirees from the community who wish to continue learning.

Tuesday, Oct. 4 marked the first day of a new semester for Lifelong Learning students. Classes consist of a wide variety of topics, from poetry to the geographical politics of Afghanistan as well as Horowicz’s class entitled “The Holocaust: A Study of Human Behavior.”

The program began with requests to Shepherd from a group called Shepherdstown Area Independent Living. SAIL wanted to establish a Lifelong Learning program similar to ones offered at other universities across the country. Shepherd then collaborated with SAIL, as well as an advisory board of faculty and community members, to develop a study which showed the feasibility of and the interest in such a program. The response they received was incredibly enthusiastic, according to Program Director Karen Rice.

Rice also stressed that this is not just a learning experience for community students but also a social opportunity. Retirees who participate in the program will have an opportunity to discuss the program’s many topics with each other.

“I’m relatively new to the area, and I thought this would be a good way to make some new friends while learning something new,” Lifelong Learning student Austin Porter said.

Porter is taking the poetry and Holocaust courses. He said that he has always been a bit scared of poetry, and the course was perfect to wade into the subject.

“It forces you to think,” Porter said.

One of the members of the advisory board who worked with Shepherd on developing the courses was Jack Young. Young is now a student of the program.

“It allows you to learn for the joy of learning,” he said.

Young also said that there would be no grades or tests and that at the moment the courses are not accredited. At George Mason University, Young had participated in similar courses, which grew to have over 500 students. This is what encouraged him to pursue a similar program in Shepherdstown.

Already Lifelong Learning has attracted attention outside of Shepherdstown. Students from Hagerstown, Martinsburg and other surrounding areas are flocking to join in as well, according to Young.

The initial success of the program has led Shepherd to start planning a spring semester. Rice stated that she is already working on developing next year’s courses, which will start March 6, 2012.

Though currently no college professors from Shepherd are teaching the courses, Rice said that most of the instructors are community members who have worked for other institutions. Rice also believes that all the instructors, like Horowicz, bring special experiences in their field, which make them more than fit to teach.

Those interested in the Lifelong Learning program must pre-register with the university. Individual classes cost $99 and semester memberships are available for $250, which entitle members to attend any of the course offerings for the entire semester.

For more information on the program and the courses offered go to www.shepherd.edu/lifelonglearning/.