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Jennifer Juanitas

Jennifer Juanitas, program director of OLLI at Pacific.

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OLLI members and instructors set for another round of distance learning

Jul 31, 2020

Faculty and students had company when they transitioned to distance learning when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of University of the Pacific campus operations in March. 

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and instructors got out their laptops, figured out the nuances of Zoom and took part in lectures, art classes and much more, many from the safety of their homes. 

All told, 70% of OLLI members stayed with the program when most of the offerings were abruptly switched from in-person to virtual.

“They took a leap of faith to stay with us, and I could not be more pleased,” said Jennifer Juanitas, program director of OLLI at Pacific. “Our instructors rose to the occasion and I am extremely proud of the OLLI members who braved this new world with us.”

Juanitas, OLLI staff, instructors and members are prepared for Round 2 of distance learning. 

The OLLI fall catalog was recently mailed. The content was “cautiously optimistic,” Juanitas said, that in-person classes could continue in the fall. 

“Wouldn’t you know it?” she said. “The week we sent the catalog out is the week that President (Christopher) Callahan announced distance learning for the fall semester. But I have been pleased that so many OLLI members are stepping up to continue.”

The personal touch helps. In March, when the “emergency” change to distance learning occurred, OLLI staff and advisory members made personal calls asking members to stay with the program.

The fall lineup will have some deletions from what was published in the catalog, including campus walking tours, a visit to the Haggin Museum and some in-person classes. But there are plenty of offerings, including a 13-part lecture series (Mondays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Zoom). There will be bonus lectures on Thursdays.

Included in the lecture series are:

  • Gene Bigler, a retired scholar and diplomat, will give three talks about the November election—two months in advance, in the weeks leading up to the election and after the results are in. “Gene is always so thoughtful and it is great to have his perspective for three different times in the election cycle,” Juanitas said.
  • Medicare Part D: Raj Patel, professor of pharmacy practice, will talk about the nuances and costs involved in the program.
  • Faye Snowden, a Pacific staff member and author, will speak about fiction writing and how others can tell their stories.
  • Carla Strickland-Hughes, assistant professor of psychology, will address the topics of ageism and attitudes toward the aging.

Other offerings include art lessons, fitness classes, and a selection of events and webinars during Active Aging Week in early October.

Juanitas said Zoom-based distance learning provides opportunities, including outreach into surrounding areas. 

“With distance learning, we have an opportunity to reach out to people who normally would not have been able to join in the past, including those who take care of their loved ones, or may have mobility or transportation issues,” Juanitas said. “Also, geographically we can extend to any areas that do not have OLLI’s. The nearest OLLI’s are University of California, Davis; Sierra College; and Fresno State University. So there definitely a huge opportunity to share lifelong learning here in San Joaquin Valley.” 

The OLLI Fall Preview Reception, open virtually to all, will be from 2-4 p.m. on Aug. 11. OLLI member orientation is 10 a.m. to noon on Aug. 18.

For contacts and more information, visit the OLLI at Pacific website. The fall catalog can be downloaded there.

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