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Lifelong learning: Adults taking advantage

February 28, 2013
By TYLER REYNARD - For The Times Leader , Times Leader

WHEELING - One of the key phrases in education today is to be a lifelong learner, and with the population of the Ohio Valley becoming aged, what new directions are available locally for those looking to continue their education outside of the traditional classroom setting?

The People's University at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling offers adults college level instruction in the liberal arts. Local college professors, active and retired, lecture Tuesday evenings at the library on literature, art, government, and world and American history, among other topics.

Programs are usually eight weeks in length, and according to library Reference Assistant Sean Duffy, are faithfully attended by around 50 adult students from various educational backgrounds - from college graduates, to those with no postsecondary education.

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The People’s University at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling offers adults college level instruction in the liberal arts, with college professors — active and retired — leading the lectures.

"People tell me it's really given them something to look forward to," Duffy related. "It's a free educational opportunity and I think it's filled a need within the community. There are people here who want to continue their education, but may not have the financial means or time."

The program was the vision of Library Director Dottie Thomas, who was reviewing the mission of other library's as a part of an effort to better define the role of the Ohio County Library within the community.

The Community University for Lifelong Learning at West Liberty University is embarking on its second year of enriching the lives of local residents through continued education.

"We're presenting folks with opportunities to engage their mind," said Jeff Knierim, WLU Vice President of Community Engagement. "If you're learning, you're staying sharp, and that's certainly a healthy approach to life."

Local experts share their knowledge with students 50 years and older during lectures the WLU Highlands Center. For a $25 fee, adults can attend as many classes as they wish in multiple subjects. Classes meet Monday through Friday during the day and in the evening to accommodate schedules.

The response has been overwhelming, according to Knierim, with more than 200 people signing up to take classes during the first year.

Lectures tend to focus on local topics. Past topics have included Wheeling's role in the Civil War, the history of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and the area's mining history.

Other lectures have addressed technology and art.

"The instructors are so passionate about their field of knowledge and expertise, and we have people that love to learn." Knierim said. "We learn something everyday and there's no reason we can't continue to learn in later years."

Like the People's University, The Community University is for those adults who want to continue to learn, but not necessarily while pursuing a degree in a traditional classroom setting. There is no required reading, no attendance records, no notes and no exams.

"The love of learning is what counts," Knierim stressed.

A new course offered last fall took students off-campus for the first time to tour the historic homes of North Wheeling, including the Eckhart House, the Arthur Phillips House and the Hans Phillips House on Main Street.

None of the 20 courses offered overlap each other, so students paying a one-time fee can take as many courses as they wish throughout the week. Those interested in participating can pick up a brochure and registration form at the WLU Highlands Center, the Ohio County Public Library, the Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library and the Brooke County Public Library. Community members can also visit the Community University website to download a registration form.

Knierim said the courses have "a relaxed atmosphere" and have seen great participation from people "who like to learn just for the joy of it." He said he sees the program branching out in the future to offer courses in Brooke, Hancock and Marshall counties.

"The Community University really complements the educational opportunities offered by West Liberty," Knierim said.

"It connects people to the university who might not have any other reason to be connected with us."



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