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OLLI offers lifelong learning
  January 3, 2006
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456,,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138,

California State University, Bakersfield is trying to promote lifelong learning at affordable prices in Kern County. The Bernard Osher Foundation has joined with CSUB’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences to offer a unique educational opportunity – the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). With a focus on people 50 years of age and older, membership in OLLI provides opportunities to explore new topics and meet new people through noncredit courses. The courses are designed for individuals to have fun while learning and not worry about tests or grades.

Individuals can purchase a yearlong membership for $25 and pay $2 per class. “This project will be positive for our community in many ways,” said Beth Rienzi, CSUB interim associate director of OLLI. “It brings in money that we can use to endow the program and it provides educational opportunities in an area of California that has the lowest education and income levels. Once we get a solid base of members we will use some of the money to bring in speakers like Joe Wilson or Ray Bradbury.”

All ages are welcome, so family and friends can become OLLI members and take a course together. And CSUB’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences is trying to make the program even more accessible by offering a free one-year membership to CSUB alumni who have graduated within the last year and 60+ Club members.

Special courses will be offered every quarter that will appeal to a variety of interests. During this winter quarter Robert Price, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian, will teach “The Bakersfield Sound: Migration, Poverty and Twang.”

Price will share his fascination and knowledge of the evolution of Bakersfield’s musical style. He has collected memorabilia, history and interviews since 1990. Price wrote a series on the subject in 1997. “There was this musical phenomenon that was unique to Bakersfield and not much had been done on it,” he said. Price said he still receives emails from around the world on his story. “I came to realize Bakersfield’s … honky tonk sound had a lot of things in common with the evolution and creation of rock and roll music. I was fascinated by the various socio-economic factors that lead to the creation of this music like the World War II era. It’s more than just music; it’s really about the westward growth of the United States starting from scratch.”

In addition to the class sessions Price plans to include a couple field trips. One trip might possibly include a stop at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace.

Other winter courses include “Seinfeld Economics” and “Painting Poetry.”

Special interest topics will be developed on the advice of community advisory groups, and courses will be presented at diverse locations to serve those with limited transportation. Rienzi said they are currently working with the Arvin and Lamont communities. “We want to target the diversity Kern County has,” Rienzi said. “In talking with our contacts in Arvin, they may want us to develop some presentations that are given in Spanish. We want to target communities that are tied together. They can tell us the kinds of things they want to learn about.”

Yvette Morones, CSUB interim OLLI coordinator, said this concept is almost like a “mobile university.” Morones explained, “The community would provide the promotion and a place and we would provide the program.” And those that participate in the community advisory groups would also be eligible for a free one-year membership. “We would be working with the parents and grandparents of the students we are actually targeting,” Rienzi emphasized. “We would engage them on this intellectual aspect and get them to talk to their kids about the things they are learning. This is the perfect circle.”

Individuals may also sign up for a lifelong membership for $1,000 or become a lifetime benefactor for $5,000.

For additional information, please contact Morones at (661) 654-6832 or log onto



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