Senior University extends educational opportunities

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
Jennifer Anderson, middle, speaks with members of Winona State’s Senior University. Winona State is the only university in the Minnesota State system with a retiree center. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Jennifer Anderson, middle, speaks with members of Winona State’s Senior University. Winona State is the only university in the Minnesota State system with a retiree center. (Photo by Kendahl Schlueter)

Elizabeth Pulanco / Winonan

Education comes in many different forms. As part of the Winona State University Retiree Center’s Senior University program, retired individuals from the Winona State community and Winona community are expanding their educational options.

Starting in the fall of 2009, Senior University has reached out to retired members of the Winona community for participation in the program.

During Senior University, participants take a course of their choosing for four to six weeks. Courses are available in the fall, spring and summer.

The courses cover a variety of topics and are taught by retired professors, current professors or experts within the community.

Jim Reynolds, co-creator of the Retiree Center and retired Winona State sociology professor, discussed how the Retiree Center brings in the experts to teach the courses.

“We have classes on wildflowers and we recruited Dave Palmquist, who is a retired naturalist from White Water State Park,” Reynolds said.

Since Feb. 1, Senior University has invited retired Winona State history professor Marianna Byman to teach a course about Charles Darwin. The course follows different research and writings that Darwin worked on throughout his life.

Timothy Forester, a retired pastor, is currently taking the course and said he enjoys the different experiences that his fellow students bring with themselves to class.

“With an age group like this, a professor doesn’t need to beg for participation, the conversation just flows and pours out of the audience,” Forester said. “You will be sitting next to an expert on physics or psychology and they will add their experience to the classroom.”

The courses offered through Senior University are based in academics and the participants are assigned optional readings.

“On occasion we will have popular topics, but otherwise the courses have academic rigor to them so participants are stretched in a new direction and challenged in their thinking,” Reynolds said.

According to Jessica Kapushman, the director of the Retiree Center, the courses are open to all ages, but those who usually enroll are 55 and older.

Over the years, 70 Senior University courses have been taught. During the summer courses, the students go on field trips outdoors and explore the Winona community.

Kevin Possin, a member of the curriculum committee for Senior University, discussed the different field trips that the students of summer courses have gone on.

“We had one field trip out on the Mississippi,” Possin said. “With the Cal Fremling classroom boat, the course on the Mississippi spent the day on the boat doing water samplings.”

Possin also said other field trips have been to Bluff Creek, and this summer there will be a course field trip to Lake Winona.

The outdoor courses give participants a chance to work beyond the classroom and open up opportunities for new activities.

Nancy Amann, the Retiree Center’s office manager developed a passion for birding after taking one summer course.

“Taking the birding class changed my life. I took that class and all of a sudden my husband and I are birding all the time,” Amann said. “You never know what course will open your eyes to something you really like.”

Besides working with Winona State professors, Winona State students have offered up their assistance to the Senior University courses.

In the fall of 2015, Senior University offered a course about fitness and wellness for active adults. With this course, the participants worked closely with students in the cardiac rehab program. According to Jim Reynolds, the students interviewed the participants about their own fitness and wellness goals.

“Based on the goals, the students enrolled in this course took all of the participants of the class to a lab in the HERS (Health exercise and rehabilitive sciences) department and put us through eight stages to measure different levels of fitness,” Reynolds said.

After the eight stages, the students met with the instructor of the course and customized a workout regimen for each participant.

For those who work closely within the Retiree Center, their goal is keep retirees connected to the university after they retire.

“What I do is try to come up with new ways to bring things together, so that is why we come up with new ideas for programs so we give people different opportunities to be social,” Kapushman said.

Kapushman also said Winona State is the only university within the Minnesota State system with a retiree center.

Kapushman, who was recently elected to the board of directors for Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education, said other universities have been impressed by Winona State and are trying to start programs similar to Senior University.

“They’ve been very impressed with what we do considering the size of the university,” Kapushman said.

After retirement, some individuals do not know what to do with their free time. With programs like Senior University, retirees in the Winona Community are able to participate in socially and intellectually engaging activities.

“All of the programs we offer are different and open up new ways of remaining connected,” Reynolds said. “When you retire, you have to have something to retire to and these classes have provided me with the life-affirming chance to stay connected and involved.”

By Elizabeth Pulanco

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