UWGB Lifelong Learning Institute Keeping Older Generations Connected

By Emily Murphy, Hope Doyen (doyeh21@uwgb.edu) & Ashley Harrison (harraj29@uwgb.edu)


The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has been presenting multiple opportunities for older generations to become involved with the school.

The Lifelong Learning Institute has been around for 30 years and provides opportunities to register for classes. Each semester, there are approximately 150-250 classes available. Classes are offered in a multitude of different formats, including in-person, online (live & recorded), and outdoor. Interested parties can purchase an annual membership of 140 dollars or a one-time membership for a single term for 75 dollars. The format for this institution resembles that of a university schooling, where you can sign up for 15+ credits each semester.

According to Heidi Jahnke, the program specialist, the Lifelong Learning Institute is available to anyone. These classes include a variety of different activities, such as yoga, music, and outdoor classes are a few of the courses that are offered within this program. An important thing to note is that there is no testing or grades, so students can enjoy learning with no stress. The Lifelong Learning Institute offers people the chance to connect and communicate with people their age by doing a series of activities that differ depending on the week. Classes are offered on Green Bay, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Marinette campuses for those who are concerned about needing to travel to take part in these classes.

The Lifelong Institute is a member-led organization which means there are opportunities to become a volunteer and to make an impact to help continue this learning-focused opportunity.

This timetable displays the classes that are offered on Monday and from what time, along with the title of the classes. (https://www.uwgb.edu/lifelong-learning-institute/register-for-classes/)

Residents appreciate that classes are straightforward to enroll in because they provide descriptions, times, and locations in the enrollment process of the Lifelong Learning Institute.

Jahnke described the different courses that can be taken, including history, yoga, cooking, biking, lectures, and tours of local companies and businesses. She also explained the similarity of UWGB, saying, “There are two terms (Fall and Spring), and classes start and end around the same time.”

The professors who teach in this program involve current and retired professors of UWGB and often doctors, lawyers, and finance professionals from the community.

Jahnke explained that classes are normally common for those 55 years or older, even though everyone can enroll.

The program also provides the opportunity to volunteer, and Jahnke explained that the volunteers are normally the individuals who take the classes, but anyone can be a volunteer, including UWGB students.

With COVID-19, a lot of institutions were affected, including the Lifelong Learning Institute. Jahnke explained that their numbers dropped from 1100 to around 570 due to some still being fearful of COVID-19 while others have passed away.

Jahnke explained that the main goal and purpose of this program is to provide mental and emotional well-being for older adults and to also provide anyone with an opportunity to learn, which can be seen through UWGB’s attempts to educate all ages.

Heide Jahnke

Bob Cook, a UWGB professor, described, “My wife and I got involved in this program as a way of having something to do and meet others.” Since joining, they have been involved for 16 years, and now a professor after 40 years of being a history and math teacher at Ripon and Random Lake High Schools.

Cook said, “Numbers jumped from 550 to 1,100, which was a good improvement after trying for nearly a decade to gain more students.” Cook is dedicated to the program in which he was a president once and explained, “The program is a great way to meet others in your age and escape isolation.”

Ruth M, a 10-year student, says, “The classes have been enjoyable and are a great way to meet others along with being able to keep your mind going.” Ruth explains, “I was relieved when my friends who were in the program told me about it because I gained new friends, and prices are reasonable for courses each semester.” Skip Wilson, a new Fall 2022 student, says, “The classes are great, inclusive of everyone, and very informative.”

The Lifelong Learning Institute is roughly $140 dollars per semester and provides older generations a way to keep learning, making friends, and staying active. Through one short class with them, students can see the inspiration painted on their faces after seeing their classmates along with learning about new things.

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