Rollins Professors Promote Lifelong Learning in the Community

August 26, 2011

John Sinclair and Jesse Lunin

Director and Professor of Music John Sinclair chats with Mayflower resident Jesse Lunin.

Taught by Rollins professors, classes ranging from psychology to physics to music, theater and art bring residents to campus and the college to The Mayflower.

Back to School

When B.J. McKee says that participating in programs at Rollins College is “the best thing I've done since moving to The Mayflower,” that is saying something. After all, the vibrant Orlando native and businesswoman is the epitome of being active and involved. Still passionate about managing a portfolio of commercial real estate properties in Florida and Georgia, she says she does “all that I can to keep my mind active.”

For her, Rollins classes really fit the bill. “I've learned so much,” said the self-proclaimed “hard-working landlord,” referring to The Mayflower's lifelong learning program. "I've always loved art, literature, books and grammar. But, the math side of my brain has been asleep all my life. Now I'm listening to college professors talk about physics, sound waves and astronomy–looking through a telescope at stars that are 28,000 miles away. It's amazing!"

Like many of her Mayflower neighbors, McKee understands how important it is to keep your mind active. And that's the underlying reason why Jana Ricci, the community's marketing director, initially spear-headed the relationship with Rollins, which began in the spring of 2010 and continues to thrive. “This is all about brain fitness,” she says. “Research tells us that if you ‘don't use it, you'll lose it.’ So, we're on a mission here at The Mayflower to provide ongoing opportunities for intellectual stimulation.”

Taught by Rollins faculty and staff, the on-campus enrichment series features hands-on learning experiences and small classes that cover subjects ranging from art, music, theater, writing and history to physics and environmental sciences. Over the past year, participants have enjoyed improv at the Annie Russell Theatre, tours of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and lectures from some of Rollins' finest–including Director and Professor of Music John Sinclair of Bach Festival fame, who chairs the College's department of music.

Resident Roz Levitt believes The Mayflower is “blessed” to have the partnership with Rollins. “It's fantastic to stay alert and keep up with the world,” she said. “It's so good to live in a community where learning is valued.”

Physics for the Rest of Us

Physics for the Rest of Us

Professor of Physics Thomas Moore explains the science of sound to Mayflower residents in his Physics for the Rest of Us class.

One of the most popular classes in the program was Physics for the Rest of Us, which was taught by Rollins Professor of Physics Thomas Moore and Assistant Professor of Physics Christopher Fuse. During the four-week course, subject matter ran the gamut from "everyday" physics (energy, momentum, etc.) to the science of sound to astronomy (featuring a lecture delivered by a Rollins astrophysicist).

The last session, an evening class, featured two high-tech telescopes that allowed participants to do some star gazing.

"The whole sky lit up," said McKee. "It was spectacular. I'd relive that moment in a heartbeat."

Physics for the Rest of Us was a real crowd-pleaser,” added Ricci. “It touched on everything from how a cat lands on its feet to how satellites work to how musical instruments make sound. Everyone loved it because it explored physics in such a unique and practical way.”

Dick Jansson, engineer, technologist and acknowledged “space junkie” agrees. “Of course, I've always been interested in science,” he said. “So this was a wonderful review of information I studied years ago. I'm actually working on a satellite design project right now, so this was right up my alley. But, you didn't need a technical background to enjoy the class. It was interesting for everyone.”

A True Win-Win

For both Rollins and The Mayflower, what began as a lifelong learning "experiment" has become far more meaningful and mutually beneficial.

“From a Rollins perspective, this program gives our students a chance to interact with people who have such different life experiences,” said Moore. “It's important for them to not only get to know people of their own background, but others as well. It's also important to demonstrate that you can continue to learn–even after you leave college. The Mayflower residents are a perfect example of that. They are very intelligent and interested in the subject matter. The interaction excites them, and it's good for our students as well.”

“Academic experiences like these are both transactional and transformational,” added Director of Community Engagement Micki Meyer. “When we're young, we spend our time trying to create purpose and meaning in our lives. And when we're older, we reflect on the purpose and meaning in our lives. Intergenerational learning enables us to understand and help each other, and we ultimately find that we are more closely linked than we originally thought.”

Mayflower resident Ed Cole agrees. “The whole concept of getting retirees and students together is a definite win-win. The intergenerational aspect is truly phenomenal. It's so much fun, after 60 years, to be back in college again!”

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