Learning doesn’t end after graduation or even retirement.
Just ask the CU Denver leaders and participants in the Lifelong Learning Program. More than 20 program participants gathered in August to celebrate Bellverie Ross, a former CU Denver staff member who shepherded the program for more than 25 years.
The Lifelong Learners Program, formerly known as the Senior Citizens Program, allows area residents age 60 and older to audit CU Denver courses without the cost of tuition. Classes are available in topics from Chinese Language to the Fall of the Roman Empire, giving ample opportunity for seniors to explore their passions.
Chancellor Dorothy Horrell attended the gathering and lauded the lifelong learners for their commitment to education; she also thanked them for the added value that their experience and perspective brings to the classroom.
“My hope is that other students are seeking you out while you are taking these courses,” Horrell said. “You can be an incredible resource for them.”
Honoring Bellverie Ross
Horrell also announced the creation of the Bellverie Ross Lifelong Learning Scholarship, which will benefit a tuition-paying CU Denver student. The scholarship is named for Ross, a Student Affairs employee who played a significant role in developing the Lifelong Learning Program.
Ross shared her personal story with attendees, reflecting on her family’s rich history, her time at CU Denver and how the Lifelong Learning Program had changed over time.
“When I started working with the program in the 1980s we had Holocaust survivors, World War I vets and World War II vets,” Ross said. “Over the years the population has continued to change. Today we have veterans from the present war, educators, lawyers—participants from all walks of life. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do.”
The scholarship will benefit a tuition-paying CU Denver student. Lifelong learners are invited to share their passion for learning with the next generation by making a gift to support the fund.
Enriching the student experience
The Lifelong Learning Program is attractive to participants for a variety of reasons, according to Ciarra Thompson, the program’s current coordinator. Some take courses they were unable to take in college; others are professionals seeking to stay current in their fields and many are simply interested in expanding their knowledge for the sake of learning.
Joy Breeze is one participant who exemplifies what it means to be a lifelong learner. During her 21-year career as a CU Denver staff member, Breeze consistently took classes at the university. When she retired, she continued to attend CU Denver through the program.
“I take classes because I just have a passion for learning,” said Breeze, who has a particular fondness for history courses. “It’s fun to be an older student in the classes because I have lived a lot of these subjects. It is a shared experience.”
The passion and enthusiasm that lifelong learners like Breeze bring to the classroom provides alternative perspectives for other students who are looking to gain knowledge and build the groundwork for their future careers.
“Seniors have experiences to offer students that the students can’t get anywhere else,” Thompson said. “Many of these seniors are professionals who have already utilized this knowledge. They can add context beyond the textbook.”