Winona State accepts senior students

Lauren Gennerman, Features Reporter

Winona State University welcomed retired senior citizens through the Senior University program offered on campus to their newest class which began Monday, March 19.

Senior University is a public education program that started in 2007 and is led by professor emeriti, Winona State faculty and topic experts. Formatted in short courses, lasting between 4-6 weeks each with no tests or grades, this program is targeted towards retirees, but is open to all community adult learners.

Each year, the curriculum is decided upon by a committee. The program is run by Jessica Kauphusman, Retiree Center director, and Nancy Amann, Retiree Center office manager.

The program directors like to offer at least 4-6 classes per semester, and at least one over the summer. Each session is between 1-2 hours and meet at least once a week. When it comes to choosing the topics for the sessions, the curriculum committee often turns toward the community, like contacts in town or the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

“We reach out to people who we know have content expertise and through those contacts we are able to find amazing instructors for those classes,” Kauphusman said. “Otherwise, at the end of the class, we offer a survey asking if the course met their needs and what we can offer in the future that would be of interest to the community. We get a lot of fantastic suggestions there as well.”

Typical class sizes range from 5-25 students; however, enrollment has consistently grown since the program’s creation. Within the past few semesters, enrollment has skyrocketed, creating a need for waitlists within the program.

“We have really grown to include not just Winona retirees, but more of the community as well,” Amann said.

While the classes may be led by former Winona State professors, they are a bit different than teaching undergrad classes at Winona State.

“A lot of our instructors talk about how this is such a different experience teaching their peers as opposed to the typical college students,” Kauphusman said. “The opportunity to have in-depth discussion is one our students seem very thankful to have.”

Of course, Winona State offers some unique opportunities that other universities do not. Winona State is the only university in the Minnesota State system that has a retiree center. While most of the classes have a degree of academic rigor, the outdoor beauty is not ignored. While classes about wildflowers or birding must be carefully timed with the weather, they have some of the highest enrollment rates.

“This area offers so much for outdoor enthusiasts,” Amann said. “It would be a waste not to use that, and people love to learn.”

Of course, when teachers inspire students, students take that learning beyond the classroom. A few years ago, a former professor led a class about the ethics of war, and then later one on the ethics of war and terrorism. The topic turned out to be so popular that the students in the class created their own discussion group once that session was over. The group currently meets once a month in Maxwell Hall to discuss war, peace and terrorism, and all students, professors and community members are welcome. In the past, undergraduates have not only attended the discussion group, but have occasionally led the discussions as well.

“This is such a valuable experience for our undergrad students and community members,” Kauphusman said. “Having this intergenerational discussion fosters meaningful discussions that need to be had. Each person is equal to another in this group, and so everyone has the opportunity to learn from each other and find commonalities.”

When asked why they do what they do, Kauphusman and Amann brought it back to Winona State and keeping people connected.

“A lot of the people who have worked at this place have worked here for 10, 20, 30 years or longer. You don’t see that kind of loyalty to a workplace much anymore,” Kauphusman said. “Retiring can be a big life change, and we want to make it so that when you walk out the door, you know you’re always a part of the Warrior family.”

While Senior University is a great program offered by the Retiree Center, there are also many more social events to keep retirees close to Winona State.

“I don’t think many schools are aware of the value of having their retirees active in their school after they retire,” Kauphusman said. “We are unique in that way, and there’s a big benefit to it, especially to our students.”