Since its inception, enrollment has steadily increased in classes offered by the Georgetown University Learning Community. But these are no ordinary students.
The program provides low-price courses to area residents over the age of 55. This semester, between 60 and 70 students are enrolled in the GULC compared to only about 45 when she began work at her current position in early 2010, Center for Continuing and Professional Education Program Coordinator Kimberly Woolf said. Nearly half of the students are Georgetown alumni, and more than half live in the greater Georgetown area, according to program webmaster Joseph Earley.
The program, which started in the fall 2005, offers classes at a rate of $30 for one class and $50 for two or more classes, according to the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies website. The average participant takes two or three courses per semester, but some take four or more, Earley said. The classes generally meet one to five times per semester and are held on the main Georgetown campus.
Most of the classes are taught by emeritus faculty members of Georgetown, according to Earley, an emeritus professor of chemistry and former president of the Association of Main-Campus Retired Faculty.
“[The participation of retired faculty] not only allows us to benefit the community but to continue to use those resources that are so great at Georgetown,” Woolf said.
Chair of GULC Martha Swanson is enrolled in several classes this semester and is in her third year of taking GULC courses. Her fellow students, she said, are one particularly interesting component of the classes. As older adults, many of the Georgetown alumni, parents, retired faculty and community members who enroll have had varied and significant life experiences and bring these to the classroom.
“By and large all of these people are bright, interesting people,” Swanson said.
The program is affiliated with the Georgetown Library Association, Woolf said. Courses are entirely free of charge for dues-paid members of the Library Associates, the D.C. Alumni Club, the Association of Main-Campus Retired Faculty and previous Learning Community Faculty and their spouses, according to the program website. Professors are not paid to teach these classes, according to current President of the AMCRF Paul Betz.
Emeritus professor of biology Ellen Henderson, who is teaching her third class with the GULC this semester, said that she chose to participate in the program because she still enjoys teaching, despite no longer being a full time professor.
“In the end, I felt it was quite useful to have done this, and I enjoyed it a lot. I think it is a great program,” she said in an email. “It keeps retired faculty engaged in the university and offers real educational experiences to people in the area.”
The six courses offered this semester range from Henderson’s course on genetic diseases to classes on American short stories and the morality of war.
Some professors, however, question the value of the GULC when other, similar programs exist at American University and The George Washington University.
“In general, it is difficult to determine who benefits from this program,” Emeritus professor of economics George Viksnins said in an email.
Viksnins, who taught a GULC course during the program’s first year, suggested that the Alumni House do more to advertise the program to Georgetown graduates and that the program lessen its focus towards retirees as both teachers and as students. The program has previously advertised in local newspapers and at local churches, according to Woolf.
The AMCRF was also a new organization when the GULC started in 2005. Its members, led by then-provost Dorothy Brown, were the program’s main founders, Earley said.
Philosophy professor John Brough, who retired from Georgetown’s faculty six months ago and will be offering his first GULC class in April, said that he decided to join the program because of friends in the AMCRF. He expects that other retired faculty members and at least one former classmate will attend his course.
“I know quite a few retired faculty members, and they are a delightful group,” Brough said in an email. “I expect the course will be an enjoyable experience for me. I just hope they will enjoy it too.”