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The articles on this page will familiarize you with the goals,  values, activities and some recent history and procedures of University of Maine at Augusta Senior College (UMASC).  If you have questions or comments, please use our contact page to get in touch.

Still active, looking for things to do, but getting ads on your feed about the joys of assisted living?
Maybe we can help!

The articles on this page will familiarize you with the goals,  values, activities and some recent history and procedures of University of Maine at Augusta Senior College (UMASC).  If you have questions or comments, please use our contact page to get in touch.

The Mission

All Are Welcome …
But You Gotta Be at least 50 To Vote!

Not every (almost-soon-not-to-be-any-longer-middle-aged – I can’t believe it!) person is particularly interested in any sort of classes. In fact, many resist the idea of associating with people of their own age. But some are interested (the numbers around 3%, so you’re definitely unique!), and at the University of Maine Senior College, our mission is to make sure the opportunity is there for those who want it. We’re grown up and generally competent. As we say to entice prospective instructors, “We already know how to learn and have well developed, easy going, social skills. You’ll like teaching here.”

Augusta Senior College provides many activities and academic classes in language, history, current affairs, and other subjects. We also offer a variety of personal enrichment opportunities in art, crafts, music, and theater, along with concerts, forums, and book clubs. Our Winter 2020 Lecture Series registered 187 students, though one of our most popular classes, Pétanque (a French style bowling game, taught by Raymond Fecteau) is limited to 8 at a time. A typical semester has 25 or 30 classes. 

What don’t we have? We don’t have classes that are primarily intended as job training or career advancement. That’s “adult education,” and for a brief explanation and history of the difference between Senior College and adult education, though the age brackets overlap, see at right, The World of Lifelong Learning.  Suffice it to note that the UMA campus that is famous for it’s productive and convenient distance learning programs which support many of those who are advancing their education while working or taking care of kids, is also the campus which sponsors one of the most successful Lifelong Learning programs in the state of Maine. So if you did stumble here looking for a degree program or classes to improve your career, go to  UMA’s website or read a great US News review. To see our most recent semester, click here.

General Information for
Potential Students and Instructors

  • UMA Senior College activities are focused on people 50 years old and up.
  • There are two semesters – Spring (begins mid-March) and Fall (begins mid-September) – about 25 to 30 classes per semester.
  • Classes are typically 1.5 – 2 hours long and run 8 weeks.
  • Not including our Concert series, we produce about 25 lecture and forum events per year, in addition to classes. Lectures are one or two-part presentations on a wide variety of subjects.  This is often how volunteer instructors get started.
  • Our long-running Concerts at Jewett series, sponsored by local businesses and private contributions, featured talented Maine performers representing a variety of musical forms. The concert series has been temporarily suspended.
  • During the winter months of January, February and March, Zoom Winter Lectures are held Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. This replaces the Brown Bag Lectures that were formerly held at noon.
  • The Granite Hill Lecture Series is a regular course lasting for 8 weeks that is taught each semester by 8 different instructors. (Suspended and replaced with Zoom lectures due to Covid precautions at the Granite Hill Estates facility.)
  • Classroom facilities include white boards, overhead projectors, computers, etc. You can usually set up a video or PowerPoint presentation on your laptop or thumbdrive, and project it. Some classrooms are Zoom friendly.

 

The information above describes what have been our historical norms. Don’t hesitate to ask about something different.  In particular, although we serve retired seniors well, we believe our classes are not easily available to those still working.  We are looking to inaugurate Saturday classes and evening classes. It would help to know if you are interested or have other suggestions.

The World of
Lifelong Learning

The Osher Foundation, a catalyst in the formation of the Maine Senior College Network where UMASC is one of 17 participating colleges, says about the need for Lifelong Learning:

“In the fall of 2000, the Foundation began to consider programs targeted toward more mature students not necessarily well served by standard continuing education curricula. These courses often attract students of all ages eager to accumulate units to complete degrees or to acquire specific job skills. By contrast, the interest of many older adults, especially those who have retired, is in learning for the joy of learning – without examinations or grades – and keeping in touch with a larger world.”

This is not only an American phenomenon. It began in France in 1973 and spread throughout Europe where it is commonly referred to as U3A (university for the third ‘age’ of life). China began building schools in 1983 and now has more than 70,000 serving about 8 million students, about 3% of the people over 60.

If you’d like to be part of this world wide movement, sign up for a class. After a few sessions, you might be walking back to your car, notice some classmates and join them for a cup of coffee. There are studies that show we make our lifelong friends in college. But who needs studies?

FREE CLASSES
Where do they come from?

UMASC has a problem that most organizations would envy. Our coffers are overflowing. Our members support the organization with generous contributions, we’re frugal, and our compliance with the tenants of the Osher Foundation regarding (1) classroom space from a supporting educational institution (UMA) and (2) a commitment to a totally volunteer workforce (instructors and support staff) means that we have almost no costs for labor or rent.

The board began to tackle the situation after a $75,000 donation in 2019 pushed our total assets above $190,000. The board was comfortable with the cushion, but concerned that continued growth for its own sake was not in keeping with fulfilling the mission of Senior College. And then when Covid forced the college to virtual classes, the answer appeared.

Because the technology was new and problematic, we wanted the classes to be free as we prepared and learned to do reasonably glitch-free on-line events. Participation, however, in Zoom classes was immediately high. People were taking more classes than they had been. And, after polling, we saw that one of the many reasons was that Zoom classes were free, which made a second or third class possible for many who would not previously have thought it affordable. So, to serve as many people with as many classes as possible without regard to economic status, the $30 fee for classes was waived by the board for campus classes also.

One counter argument to free classes has been that commitment to the class would wane if it were free. Consistent attendance and participation at classes for the last 2 semesters, where classes have been free, does not support this conclusion so far.

FOR NOW:

  1. There’s a new word for savings at UMASC – endowment! As of now, the income from our endowment, our membership fees, and contributions are sufficient to support us. If our net worth starts to dwindle, we will adjust. We believe we need to continue to have a “cushion” as the full effect of the boomer generation may not yet have placed a full demand on our services.

  2. Based on committee recommendations, the Board of Directors approved the proposal to continue to offer free classes with the following conditions:

    • No books or supplies will be furnished through the Operating Account, they will be purchased by the students.
    • If other materials are needed (art supplies, etc.), the instructors may provide them at the students’ expense.
    • Any expenses that may arise relating to field trips will be the students’ responsibility.

  3. To further ensure that cost does not prevent anyone from participating, we have established a self-administered scholarship level membership for $10. The traditional membership $25, and higher increments up to $100 have been added. So far, there is no evidence that significant numbers of people have shifted from $25 down to $10. Our average income is higher than $25 per membership.

  4. The Winter Lecture Series in February (formerly Brown Bag) and  summer lectures and classes are free and open to the public.

THE ALL VOLUNTEER ALMA MATER

There is a team working at Senior College now that did not exist before Covid.

In the Spring of 2020, shortly after registration for classes was complete, the UMA campus was closed. Some of the temporary volunteers who had signed up to help during the days of registration at the office, took on the task of unraveling the payments and authorizing refunds.  As they were finishing, the office building was locked.

This group, including Pam St. Peter, the administrative specialist from the University, were all relatively new to each other. And now they could not even meet in person. They were all seniors social distancing. The word was that Senior College would be suspended indefinitely. There were no vaccines. They had responded to a call to help with registration for just one week. So none of the individual volunteers knew if any of the others felt an obligation to try to continue facilitating Senior College activities into the future.

They held a meeting on Zoom, a new experience for them, where they discovered that they were all willing to commit, agreeing that Senior College would be even more important during the national shut-in period. From that virtual group handshake, many hundreds of volunteer hours ensued.

The group became familiar with Zoom so they could train and assist instructors with their Zoom presentations, even sitting in classes when needed to handle the issues students encountered so the class and instructor would not be interrupted.

The team scheduled duty days for themselves, so anyone who called to request help with Zoom or computer use would receive it. Usually, a special private Zoom session was set up for the caller to learn to log in and use the software. This made it possible for board and committee members to meet and for students to attend classes.

In the beginning, to get things started, Mike Bell agreed to present his canceled Roosevelt class on Zoom as a test case and learning experience for everyone. The process went well, and next came summer lectures and then full fall and spring semesters. In short, the heavens opened up, a light shone through, and Senior College did not suspend it’s classes!

What qualified these people to succeed? Among them they had life experience being at various times unemployed and/or on public assistance, the director of admissions for a Maine college, the art director for a regional magazine, a public school teacher, a manager for a small private company with 20 employees, an environmental specialist for a state Department of Environmental Protection,  and an electrical engineer for a large international corporation.

The group, however, did not succeed because they had or had not held positions of authority, or because of particular training, or because of or in spite of their age. They were up to the task mostly because of a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to each other to share the burden.

The Covid Office Volunteer Committee:
Kay Fiedler, Louis Fontaine, Shelly Gerstein, Gale Mettey, Robert O’Halloran, Elizabeth Reinsborough, Pam St. Peter, and Ann Sullivan