Steve Ahrens: BSU’s Osher institute provides great adult opportunities


February 9, 2014 

If you’re older than 50, and if you’ve always loved learning but hated taking the tests that often went with it, then there’s a great education opportunity at Boise State University.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers an incredible variety of educational, noncredit, nonpartisan, college-level short courses, lectures and special events.

Subjects include history, politics, art, medicine, religion, science, environment, technology and more, presented by some of the best and brightest people in Idaho’s academic and work worlds. And it’s truly “learning for the sake of learning” — members get the information they want without having to take notes, do homework or pass a test.

Some topics are handled in one meeting. Other courses are presented once a week over a three- or four-week period, which gives members the opportunity to make choices that fit both their interests and schedules. Special events enhance the Osher experience by providing unique access to behind-the-scenes tours and interesting out-of-town trips.

We’re all getting older, but “getting older” shouldn’t mean we have to stop learning or caring about the world around us — especially when there’s a great one-stop opportunity to dig into a wide range of interests for which there “never seemed to be time” during our work lives.

Osher members bring their own career and life experience into the Osher classrooms. With their varied personal and professional backgrounds, they can pick and choose the subjects that interest them the most, to expand their knowledge and keep up with what’s going on in the world around us.

For example, this semester’s curriculum includes subjects such as the Israeli-Arab conflict; genealogy fundamentals; nanotechnology in cancer treatment; Hemingway’s short stories; dealing with retirement in today’s world; holding government accountable; Shakespeare’s plays; modern forest fire management techniques; Idaho sheep ranching history; struggles over race/civil rights in Idaho; ballet; an interview with former Gov. Cecil D. Andrus; and a tour of Yellowstone via Craters of the Moon and the Grand Tetons.

And the Osher institute serves more than the purpose of lifelong learning; it also provides a social setting in which members meet and make new friends. It is creating a growing community of lifelong learners who benefit not only from time spent in class, but also from the friendships and interaction that learning together provides.

Philanthropist Bernard Osher has helped fund programs like Boise State’s at 117 universities in 50 states. BSU’s is the only one in Idaho and is part of the University’s Division of Extended Studies.

Here’s how it works: The institute charges a basic annual membership fee that includes attendance at all lectures and some special events for no additional cost. Then members can select from a lengthy menu of course options, which are priced separately.

Osher’s programs are presented in classrooms at the Yanke Family Research Park, 220 E. ParkCenter Blvd. And on-site parking (always a concern in attending events around the Boise area) is included in the membership fee.

The late Calvin Osborn, a longtime Osher member, summed up the program’s value: “The key to retirement is staying physically active and intellectually curious.”

We encourage you to check out this great program. Visit or call 426-1709.

We look forward to seeing you at future lectures.

Steve Ahrens, a member of the Boise State Osher Board of Directors, is the retired president of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry.

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