Knowledge for Life: USD's University of the Third Age

Knowledge for Life: USD's University of the Third Age

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Agnes West-Kohler majored in chemistry, but certainly dabbled in other academic subjects as a San Diego College for Women student. A 1965 graduate of the founding school that eventually merged into what is now the University of San Diego, West-Kohler has, in recent years, returned to campus to continue her knowledge development through a liberal arts lens.

Earlier this week, 52 years after her college graduation, West-Kohler sat in the second row of Mother Rosalie Hill Hall’s Warren Auditorium to hear presentations by author-speaker-organization consultant-coach Ken Druck and USD professor and Fletcher Jones Chair of Applied Mathematics Satyan Devadoss, to enrolled members of the University of the Third Age (U3A) program. 

Set to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018, University of the Third Age is the longest running community outreach program at USD. Twice a year, this three-week class session provides a unique university experience for students 55+ to be introduced to topics and presenters they would not necessarily have access to on their own. Each class day is a chance for new insight on topics such as military, government, science, medicine, research, current events, music, theatre, art, religion and more. 

Druck’s talk was titled “Your Best Years Ever Reimagined: Courageous Aging.” Devadoss, meanwhile, had an energetic and enlightening discussion using math to explore the question of the shape of the universe. This range of subject matter alone backs up West-Kohler’s assessment for why she’s been enrolled in U3A for six-plus years. “It’s different every day.” 

USD alumna, Cay Casey, PhD, RN, describes University of the Third Age as “an experience that offers intellectual growth, phenomenal community exposure and a heightened awareness of courageous aging at its best.” 

Jodi Waterhouse, business development director of USD’s Professional and Continuing Education, has been USD’s U3A director for 21 years. She’s maintained a successful program and especially enjoys the quality interaction between students and presenters who are leaders in San Diego as C-Level executives, military officials, academics, researchers and non-profit executives. 

“I’ve been honored to be U3A director for 21 years. I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to interact with some of the greatest experts throughout San Diego who present and, especially, with the fabulous 55+ student attendees that join me to engage in experiential learning,” Waterhouse says. “USD's U3A program is a gift to the San Diego community, providing an environment for non-traditional students 55+, bringing them back to campus to continue their learning and keeping students healthy — mentally, physically, socially and spirituality.” 

Diverse Opportunities to Learn

The current U3A program, which runs through June 22, goes 8 to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday. The first hour and 15 minutes consists of a social media workshop that sharpens students’ technology skills on smartphones, tablets and mobile apps. From there, two one-hour presentations take place at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. with a 15-minute break in between. One day each week there is a local field trip. On June 8, it was a behind-the-curtain tour of La Jolla Playhouse. On June 14, the group will see a choreographed dance routine hosted by John Malashok at Malashok Dance facility in Liberty Station. On June 20, students will visit the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. 

Learning from USD educators is another highlight. June presenters include: Associate Chair and Professor of Chemistry Joseph Provost doing a science of cooking demonstration; Trans-Border Institute Director Ev Meade discussing U.S.-Mexico border issues and immigration politics; Department of Theatre Chair Scott Ripley talks on acting basics at the USD Vassiliadis Family Black Box Theatre; Matt Zwolinski, Philosophy Professor and Director of the USD Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy, speaks on political conformity in higher education;  Jan Gist, Professor and Resident Voice and Speech coach for the Old Globe and USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program, will present the “Art of Speaking in American Theatre,” in the Vassiliadis Family Black Box Theatre; and Jacob Bruce, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Theatre, will discuss Theatre and Society, on the final day of class in UC Forum C. 

Community presenters include representatives from the San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Water Authority, Xconomy San Diego, San Diego Lifeguards, San Diego Public Library, San Diego Miramar College Fire Academy and the San Diego Firefighters Emerald Society. 

With so many interesting opportunities to learn, it’s no wonder why students return to University of the Third Age for multiple sessions. 

“U3A is a treasure. Eclectic topics, top-notch speakers and fascinating field trips add up to three weeks of an exciting learning adventure,” says retired teacher Diana Brotherton-Ware, a USD alumna and second-generation U3A participant. 

Added L. Julie Erdmann, another veteran attendee: “I so greatly value U3A for the exceptionally high quality and diversity of speakers and field trips. I particularly appreciate the presentations that I would never have likely selected individually simply because they are outside my primary interest areas. However, because of that they greatly expand my knowledge, understanding and appreciation. It’s delightful!” 

Devadoss’ June 6 talk was his first introduction to U3A, but he thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share his passion for math through a topic that offered a deeper dive of knowledge for an audience he cherished. 

“Having been born and raised in southern India, anyone who is even a few years older than you are, you have incredible respect for them because they have wisdom and they’ve seen things you haven’t. Being surrounded by a group of people who are older than I am (here), there’s a sense of ‘wow, these people have lived life, they’ve seen life well,’ so it’s a cool honor to share something like this with them.” 

— Ryan T. Blystone

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Center for Inclusion and Diversity
Maher Hall 253
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

Phone: (619) 260-7455
Fax: (619) 849-8280

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