370 neighbors spend a semester learning at Skidmore
For the past 40 years, the Skidmore Encore program has offered adults age 55 and older the opportunity to learn like a college student for a semester.
They attend class, eat lunch in the dining hall, bond over coffee and shared experiences, and engage in the occasional debate over a current event. It’s all part of the learning process.
For seven weeks each fall, these members of Skidmore’s extended community spend more than 20 hours in lectures organized by the Office of Special Programs and presented by Skidmore faculty members.
Each day has a theme — such as “Around the World,” “The Mind and the Brain” and “Conceptions of Nationhood,” to name a few. Each session offers a chance to break down complex, contemporary issues and hear about the latest research happening at Skidmore.
This year, the lecture topics included Brexit, the U.S.-Mexico border, Alzheimer’s disease, education in America and plastic in the environment — subjects that frequent the news cycle and are sure to prompt a few conversations at home.
That’s part of the goal, as longtime attendee Bill Bray discovered.
“This is my sixth year attending Encore lectures, and I’m always learning something new,” he said. “Every time, I end up going on the computer when I get back home to look up more about whatever the topic was because the professors just make you want to learn more.”
Bray is such a fan of the program that he wanted to share the experience with his wife, Susan. This is her second year.
“I love that Skidmore gives the community this opportunity to discover things we never would’ve even thought about before,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful way to learn about what’s going on in the world today.”
Many students in the Encore program heard about it through word of mouth and recommendations from friends. Cindy Hollowood, a first-time attendee, is one of those referrals.
“A friend of mine is a repeat attendee. She and I have traveled the world together just to learn and explore, so this was a close-to-home journey of the mind for us,” said Hollowood. “I really appreciated that the presentations were both current and historical in nature, creative and analytical, and there was never any bias or slant. It was all about reflecting and curiosity.”
The program has remained popular since 1980. Seats usually fill up within the first 48 hours of open registration.
And while engaging conversations and stimulating presentations are at the heart of it, there’s also something special about being at Skidmore, on a college campus, in the same seats where the next generation of leaders are learning.
“Yes, being on campus harkens back to our own days at different colleges, but it's different,” said Hollowood’s friend and fellow student Nancy Ingersoll.
“You look around the room and there’s so much life experience here. And what do we all seek in the end? Wisdom and camaraderie. Plus, there’s no homework and ... Skidmore’s food is a lot better.”