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MacOdrum Library. Photo: Ron Lavoie.

Opportunities for lifelong learning at Carleton University

By Barbara Popel on April 20, 2019


These are just a few of the participants’ comments about recent lecture series in Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program.

“I learned a great deal about something I knew nothing about!” “The quality of the information and knowledge level of the professor were outstanding.” “The course was not only intriguing and thought-provoking but also thoroughly enjoyable with the professor’s sense of humour and excellent teaching skills.“ “Very high level of intellectual stimulation.“ “It was provocative, interesting, relevant, comprehensive and made me want more. AND I was most satisfied with the lecturer.” “Made you want to come back for the next course and to hear additional courses by this presenter.” “The lecturer was simply wonderful—she is a superb lecturer, very warm, pleasant and articulate, knows her subject matter down cold and weaves a story into each part of the presentation.” “The professor is EXTRAORDINARY! Please convey to him my gratitude for such a wonderful course. I enjoyed every minute of his thought provoking and entertaining classes.” “LOVED, LOVED this series!”

I talked to Daphne Uras, the dynamic Life-Long Learning Program Coordinator, about the lifelong learning available from the Centre in Initiatives in Education at Carleton. In the program’s 19 years of existence, it has been known as Learning in Retirement… but it is in fact open to all adults. Ms. Uras told me about the exciting current offerings, and gave me a sneak peak at the program’s expansion into renovated space in the Dominion-Chalmers Centre.

“In the program’s 19 years of existence, it has been known as Learning in Retirement… but it is in fact open to all adults.”

Photo courtesy of Carleton University.

The Early Spring Session ends on April 26. It has twelve lecture series, a songwriting workshop and two Italian language workshops. I’m taking a lecture series myself: “Genetically Modified Everything” by Daniel Burnside. His lectures have me saying “Wow!” over and over again.

What’s coming up next? By scheduling things a little later in the calendar year, there were bigger lecture halls for some of the Late Spring Session lecture series. Since more rooms were available, they could offer a greatly expanded roster of single lecture presentations.

The Late Spring Session starts on April 29. It has fourteen lecture series, five writing workshops, and four Italian and Spanish language workshops. You can find the complete list online, including a link to register. So far, nearly 600 people are registered, but there’s still room for more enrolment. And those bigger lecture halls mean that more people can register for several, such as the perennially popular “Behind the Headlines: Current News and World Events” by Dr. Elliott Tepper.

Single Lecture Presentations: 31 daytime and evenings lectures 

I think the most exciting development is the impressive number of offerings in the Single Lecture Presentations—thirty-one presentations! Many of these are in the evenings, so they’re accessible to more people. Ms. Uras told me that, in the first few days, about 450 people had registered to attend one or more of these lecture presentations. Some people have registered for seven of them!

It’s no surprise that, a few days after registration opened, four of them already had waitlists. But that means twenty-seven still have openings. The Single Lecture Presentations begin on May 2 with the aboriginal “Sky Woman Creation Story” and end on June 13 with “Art Appreciation: Focus on Abstract Art”. In between, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of presentations, ranging from “An Introduction to the Archetypes of the Greek Pantheon” to “You’ll Never Get to Heaven: A Lighthearted History of Space Travel” to “If I Had A Hammer: Pete Seeger’s Life in Song”.

Star gazing in Algonquin Park. Photo by Jo-Ann Holden.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two very special illustrated lectures Ms. Uras singled out: “The Natural History of Algonquin Park” and “The Natural History of Northern Ontario”, which will present exquisite photographs by the beloved naturalist, Michael Runtz. The Algonquin presentation will benefit from one of those big lecture halls. Check out the complete list online and register here.

“I have always enjoyed lecturing… with the added bonus of having enthusiastic students who bring into the classroom a huge variety of life experiences.”

I asked Ms. Uras how she recruits the lecturers. She told me they send out a call for proposal to Carleton University faculty. In some cases, this attracts proposals from PhD candidates as well as faculty members. All of these proposals must be evaluated, a subset selected, then scheduled. In addition, they invite retired professors and recognized experts to lecture. They even get people from the community with specialized knowledge offering to teach. And of course they invite back lecturers who have received positive evaluations.

What’s in it for the lecturers, I wondered? She said that “they can teach content they’re passionate about, to people who really want to hear it… who are incredibly attentive.” For example, one lecturer told her,”Throughout my 35 years at Carleton I have always enjoyed lecturing. The Learning in Retirement program allows me to continue this endeavour with the added bonus of having enthusiastic students who bring into the classroom a huge variety of life experiences, which very often I can incorporate into my lectures.”

The program is a definitely a win-win for the participants and the lecturers!

There are big changes afoot following Carleton’s acquisition of the Dominion-Chalmers Centre. There will be additional lifelong learning lectures and workshops offered there, tentatively planned for the Fall. Already, 58 lecturers have expressed interest in teaching there. This summer, Apt613 will report on details of Carleton’s expansion of lifelong learning opportunities. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the spring offerings.

Visit for course descriptions and registration info.