Enjoy a Day of Learning at Seattle University

Would you like go back to college and not worry about homework or taking tests? Do you want to be taught by dynamic professors who know that older adults want stimulating and engaging opportunities for learning?

Those are the motivating concepts behind the 2015 Day of Learning at Seattle University, taking place on June 16. Scheduled between commencement and the start of summer classes, this five-year collaboration of Northwest Center for Creative Learning, Horizon House, and Seattle University draws older adults from retirement communities and the broader community.

Seattle University Associate Provost Charles Lawrence welcomed last year's students, admitting "I must have been 55 when I realized I was a lifelong learner. It takes a while—even when you're in education—to find this out."

In 2013, students engaged in conversations about health care dilemmas.

The Day of Learning event fits right in with the Northwest Center for Creative Aging's invitation to "Join us on the path to learning and discovery." The Center, now eight years old, presents programs that inform, inspire, and encourage adults to find new meaning in their lives as they age. It delivers programs in senior communities, libraries, and other venues throughout the Seattle region.

The organization often partners and presents at Horizon House, a premier retirement community in Seattle whose tagline states: Live Creatively.

The three Day of Learning partners meet early each year to discuss which topics will be most relevant and interesting to an older audience. They want courses to pull from the expertise of Seattle University professors and strive to include courses from the Sciences, Social Sciences, Religion, Art and the Humanities.

Seattle University professors know that they will be teaching people not only eager to learn, but comfortable asking challenging questions. The professors have learned that many of their Day of Learning students have had professions that give them knowledge about the course material. Professors comment on the pleasure they feel when teaching intelligent adults whose life experiences bring depth and insight to the discussions.

Participants' evaluations reflect their learning and appreciation for their professors and their time spent in class. Comments include:

  • "Great style of presenting, interactive and addressing students' concerns and questions."
  • "Excellent professor—clarified a topic I didn't know much about with wit and humor."

This year's line-up offers a range of choices from science to singing. Participants choose one class from the five courses offered and spend three hours in class. They also enjoy a box lunch with their classmates and professor.

Architecture and the Livable City was a popular previous Day of Learning class.

The stimulating day starts at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 2:15 p.m., with all activities taking place in the Pigott Building. Cost for class and lunch is $45 per person.

Your Amazing Brain: A User's Guide

Brain Science is always a draw for older adults. Dr. Michael Spinetta, assistant professor of psychology, will teach "Your Amazing Brain: A User's Guide." His areas of interest and teaching include learning and memory, addiction, and psychopharmacology. He investigates the effects that drugs of abuse and therapeutic drugs have on the learning process, including the formation, storage, and retrieval of memories. The course will explore how the brain works to perform all of its remarkable feats as well as investigating the most recent research into the role that aging plays in brain function and the tools to keep brains young and healthy.

Forming the Chemical Elements and Life: We Are Stardust

Dr. Joanne Hughes Clark will teach "Forming the Chemical Elements and Life: We Are Stardust," an introductory overview of astronomy and our physical understanding of the universe. The course explores scientific theories of how life began and the fascinating connections between our own planet and galaxy, and other astronomical bodies. Dr. Clark is an associate professor of physics at Seattle University, where she teaches a wide variety of physics and astronomy courses from the introductory level through upper-level astrophysics. Her research focuses on observational astronomy and the astrophysics of dwarf galaxies and globular clusters using imagers on large telescopes around the world. She leads SU students in research funded by NASA.

Indigenous American Voices in Literature, Story, and Poetry

Providing an opportunity for deep reading and understanding of literature by indigenous writers, Dr. Christina Roberts will teach "Indigenous American Voices in Literature, Story, and Poetry." The course will briefly examine oral literatures, short stories, and poetry performed and written by Indigenous peoples of this hemisphere. The first part of the course will focus on an historical overview to provide context for interpretations, and the class will discuss the ways that historical narratives shape understanding of Indigenous peoples. The course will emphasize close reading and interpretation of oral stories from the region, short stories by E. Pauline Johnson, Zitkala-Sa, and Sherman Alexie, and the poetry of Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, Leslie Marmon Silko, Esther Belin, and others. Dr. Roberts, associate professor of English, teaches courses in American literature. She is an enrolled member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community and author of "Treaty Rights Ignored: Neocolonialism and the Makah Whale Hunt" in a winter 2010 special edition of The Kenyon Review, as well as an article in Studies in American Indian Literatures entitled "Narrative Healing in Betty Louise Bell's Faces in the Moon: A Tribute to Cherokee Continuance."

The Human Story: Between Cruelty and Generosity.

Dr. Michael Trice, assistant professor for constructive theology and theological ethics, will teach "The Human Story: Between Cruelty and Generosity." Dr. Trice served as the Associate Executive of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America from 2004 to 2011. His current research interests include a theology of gratitude, the religious response to sectarian violence in the world, and the theological practicalities of reconciliation when trespass and trauma defy language. Dr. Trice's book, titled Encountering Cruelty: A Fracture in the Human Heart, won the distinguished best original dissertation award for Loyola Jesuit University, Chicago. The course will include two presentations on cruelty and generosity, with small and large group conversation throughout. Exploration of these topics provides a way of reimagining together the integral parts of our human story. The overarching questions the class will ask themselves: How does what we are learning today suggest the direction of a human future tomorrow?  

Higher Ground: Soulful Secrets of Negro Spirituals

Participants have a unique opportunity to learn and sing together. Dr. Gloria Burgess will teach "Higher Ground: Soulful Secrets of Negro Spirituals." Her students will experience the joyous power of the Negro spiritual and learn how it revolutionized the world. Transcending time, culture, and generations, these beautiful songs lift hearts and spirits, transporting us to higher ground. Students will learn calls, responses, rounds, and more, exploring the music, words, and history of the songs that helped a people survive generations of slavery and ultimately triumph over it. They will use their voices to create a communal soundscape, culminating by singing several spirituals in community. No prior singing experience is required, just voices and open hearts. Dr. Burgess has taught transformational leadership for more than 30 years, and began teaching at Seattle University in 2010. An award-winning musician, poet, and author, she is also a Distinguished Scholar in Theatre and Performance Studies. She has presented tributes, master classes, and invited keynotes on the African-American oral tradition and performed in diverse venues, including Carnegie Hall, Washington National Cathedral, Benaroya Hall, Kenyan Parliament, and South African Embassy.

Register to attend

To attend the 2015 Day of Learning at Seattle University, register through Northwest Center for Creative Aging (206-382-3789 or www.nwcreativeaging.org). Information about schedule, costs and registration are on the 2015 flyer.


Contributor Rebecca Crichton is executive director of the Northwest Center for Creative Aging.