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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

OPINION: Men’s Basketball just won’t back down
Abigail Taylor, Contributing writer • February 27, 2024

Lifelong Learning at Wofford College: intergenerational curiosity and connections

Photo courtesy of Mark Olencki.
Pictured is a watercolor class offered a past term through the Lifelong Learning Program. The program offers a wide variety of coursework, and anything from watercoloring to political science can be enjoyed.
Photo courtesy of Mark Olencki. Pictured is a watercolor class offered a past term through the Lifelong Learning Program. The program offers a wide variety of coursework, and anything from watercoloring to political science can be enjoyed.

“The professors, the students, all of us were eating together and there was such joy on all of their faces,” said Joan McPherson, a Wofford College Lifelong Learner, describing her meals at Burwell Dining Hall after class.

The beloved Burwell Dining Hall is often crowded with many visitors. Bright, young elementary schoolers and older members of the Spartanburg community can be frequently found enjoying lunch and dinner alongside the resident college students. 

Many Wofford students may be unaware that some of these senior visitors are actually their fellow classmates. The Wofford College Lifelong Learning Program was founded in 2014. Since then, senior adults in the community have had the opportunity to take countless courses through Wofford. 

The Lifelong Learning Program is available to all interested older adults of the Spartanburg community. The instructor program is completely volunteer based. Many of the course instructors are retired professors or teachers, but others are simply passionate individuals who want to spread their knowledge on a particular subject. 

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For many Lifelong Learners, the program is about much more than furthering their knowledge. The Lifelong Learning Program offers these adults a chance to challenge their minds but, more importantly, receive a community and sense of belonging.

“For most seniors, they no longer work, their children are grown, many have lost a spouse or are caring for an ailing one, many have moved upon retirement to be closer to children, so they do not have as many friends nearby,” Lucy Woodhouse, the director of lifelong learning at Wofford College, said. “Lifelong Learning is a great place for them to find a new circle of people who have similar interests.” 

Through these courses, lifelong learners are able to expand their interests, learn new hobbies and meet new people. 

“Ultimately, I don’t want any senior in our region to sit at home all day in an armchair and be lonely,” Woodhouse said.  

McPherson has found that the Lifelong Learning Program provides her with a chance to learn from other people’s stories, and she particularly loves to form connections with all types of people. 

“Labels drive me crazy, clumping a group of people into a category, I hate that. I don’t see you anymore as a labeled group than anyone that flies to the moon,” McPherson said. 

Emily Lang ‘23, a junior psychology major at Wofford, is a student employee of the Lifelong Learning Program. Lang has found the program to be one of her favorite aspects of her Wofford experience, as it has given her a greater connection to the Wofford community and the generations above her. 

“From working with the Lifelong Learning Program, I have gotten to know many of the older adults in the Spartanburg community, and I get to learn about other things they are involved with,” Lang said. “I definitely feel more connected to the Spartanburg community and continue to learn more about it every day I go to work.” 

Most of the Lifelong Learning Program classes and offices are located at Central United Methodist Church of Spartanburg due to a lack of available space on Wofford’s campus. The location differences have contributed to a lack of awareness among students about the program, and a feeling of disconnect among the lifelong learners.  

McPherson described the disconnect she feels between the Lifelong Learning Program and the Wofford community.

“Lifelong learners have done different things on campus, but I have felt it can be hard to see Wofford’s contribution,” McPherson said. 

The location, intergenerational differences and pandemic have ultimately all contributed to the sense of disconnect between the lifelong learners and the general Wofford community. However, there are many opportunities for Wofford students, faculty and staff to attempt to form connections with lifelong learners. 

Lifelong Learners may not fit the typical mold of a Wofford student, but they are just as important and worthwhile as any member of the Wofford community, so be sure to interact when possible as a way of bridging the gap.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Lifelong Learning program, please contact Director Lucy Woodhouse at [email protected] for more information.

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