On January 20, 2023 at Lincoln South Rotary Club, we heard from Bob Michl - director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Nebraska.
Bob opened by sharing a little about himself - at an early age he developed a passion for education. His parents fully supported his goals. He served the Freeman Public Schools for a number of years.
 
He shared the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNL motto - Curiosity Never Retires.
     MISSION: To promote lifelong learning by providing stimulating, congenial and varied opportunities designed specifically for lifelong learners 50 years of age and older.
     VISION: OLLI at UNL is a vital, diverse member-driven program for adult learners.
 
He said that the opportunity to work at OLLI was a natural fit for him. He had experience in a variety of aspects of education and he had a passion for education - life-long learning.
 
He pointed out that OLLI is not a stand-alone organization here. There are 125 OLLIs across the country.The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute provides grants to run the program, which helps keep the cost for membership and participation down.
 
OLLI at UNL is the only one in Nebraska and, due to the agreement with Osher Life Long Learning Institute, it will be the only one in Nebraska. Though based in Lincoln, it serves all of Nebraska. It started out with most members from Lincoln and Lancaster County. But, membership has expanded to 65 communities throughout the state. And, because OLLI at UNL has a great reputation, there are also members from 18 different states.
 
There is an interesting history to the OLLI program at UNL. There was a program in place to support education for older / retired individuals called SAGE. But the program was struggling. The opportunity to change the program to OLLI provided the opportunity and motivation to grow the program.
 
OLLI at UNL is strong. It survived COVID when a number of programs across the country shut down. At the beginning of the pandemic, OLLI at UNL recorded some programs and had them available to members within a few weeks. Later they were able to offer sessions by Zoom. Some members indicated that, being able to keep connected through OLLI is one of the reasons they survived the pandemic.
 
They currently continue to offer sessions both in person and by zoom.
 
It is an organization of 3.5 full time equivalent staff. The number of volunteers varies but there are around 12,000 volunteer hours per year helping to manage the 1400 members.The volunteers head up focus areas - topics for programs.
 
Bob mentioned earlier that OLLI at UNL is not standalone. The OLLI organization is funded primarily by a Bernard Osher Foundation endowments (interest). The fees for membership and course participation are low but they help with the overall program funding.
 
In addition to the "classroom" programs, there are opportunities to travel and learn. Last year trips included Macinac Island in Michigan, Danali National Park in Alaska and Morocco. Next year they have plans for trips to Madison County Bridges in Iowa, Colorado Mountain views, Ireland, Door County Wisconsin and The Pyramids and Nile in Egypt.
 
web: olli.unl.edu
email: olli@unl.edu
 
 
BIO
Bob Michl is the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska.  He has been with OLLI since 2018 where he first served as curriculum director.  He was selected as the Director of the organization in January 2021.

While Michl grew up on a farm west of Lincoln, he always knew he wanted to be an educator.  He attended UN-L as a student, where he earned his bachelor’s (1983), master’s (1995), specialist’s (2002) and doctoral (2006) degrees. 

A life-long educator, Michl spent 17 years in the high school classroom at Gretna, Nebraska where he taught journalism, photography, and college prep English courses. He also coached basketball, volleyball, and golf.  He then served as the high school principal and curriculum coordinator at Freeman Public School in Adams, Nebraska for another 17 years, before retiring in June, 2017.