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Learning never stops at Ann’s Choice

Lifelong Learning Academy delivers a world of ideas to campus

Created date

April 24th, 2014
(From left) Lisa Mullins, Maureen Guim, Trudi Hertfelder, and Nancy Bulera helped take registrations for the Ann’s Choice Lifelong Learning Academy’s spring session.
(From left) Lisa Mullins, Maureen Guim, Trudi Hert

The Ann’s Choice Lifelong Learning Academy (ACLLA) has grown to perhaps the premier resident-run activity at Erickson Living’s community in Bucks County, Pa.

Its 40-member panel handles everything from lining up presenters to marketing courses to facilitating during lectures. 

What a deal

Five years ago, Nancy Bulera and Trudi Hertfelder expanded an occasional lecture series into a two-semester curriculum offering as many as 23 different short courses across a broad spectrum of subjects. 

The program is extra special because courses are only open to residents, some 380 of whom registered for this spring’s semester.

To accommodate everyone, classes are held in the community’s large multipurpose room or its performing arts center. 

The price can’t be beat: a single one-session course costs $15; the entire slate costs $50. And residents can walk in climate-controlled comfort to class.

If ACLLA didn’t exist, attending Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes would entail driving to area colleges, committing to longer courses, and paying more. 

When Lisa Mullins and her husband lived in Naples, Fla., they attended lots of lifelong learning classes. At Ann’s Choice, they continue that tradition at ACLLA. “It was vital for us to keep learning,” she says. 

A panel member, Lisa staffs the registration table on the Academy’s official sign-up day. She also facilitates at classes. 

Rich, diverse learning opportunities

Some courses are weightier than others—anthropology as opposed to cowboy poetry. But the Academy takes a scholarly approach to all.

“We try to provide lectures in typical academic disciplines,” says Maureen Guim. Originally from Abington, sitting idle in retirement didn’t appeal to her. She’s chaired ACLLA’s three-member course selection committee since 2010. 

The committee aims to provide learning experiences that are rich and diverse enough to appeal to the community’s eclectic population of 2,000-plus residents. 

ACLLA’s catalog routinely lists courses in history, literature, music, archeology, political science, and art.

Due to Maureen’s 30-plus years in higher education, she draws upon a vast network of academic colleagues, researchers, and emeriti professors who are experts in their fields.

This semester, Samer Abboud, Ph.D., a colleague at Arcadia University whose focus is Syria, will lecture on Syria’s civil war. 

Other headline-worthy courses this term include “Brain Health,” “Nuclear Proliferation,” and “Bacteria: The Good, Bad, and Ugly.” 

Residents flock to timely science-related courses. “Questions were flying when a stem cell researcher and professor at Chestnut Hill College presented a four-session course on biotechnology,” says Maureen.

As people leave the lectures, they chat about what they heard and learned. The buzz continues at lunch in the campus pub and again at dinner in the five campus restaurants. 

A Boheme Opera New Jersey presentation impressed Lisa Mullins. The four presenters mixed live performances, CD recordings, and scintillating discussion. “Their quality and depth was [amazing],” Lisa says. 

For non-opera buffs, an April presentation focused on the music of Fats Waller and Count Basie. 

“There’s a sense of excitement when each new catalog comes out,” says Maureen. “Something would be missing if the program weren’t here.”