By Lola Norris and Paula Mathis
Chapter three in the life of Paula Mathis at Southern Miss has just begun. In chapter one OLLI's new Director enrolls as an undergraduate at Southern Miss and proceeds to earn two degrees, a B.S. in paralegal studies and an M.Ed. in counseling and personnel services, with emphasis in college student personnel. In chapter two, with degrees in hand, she begins her professional career and in 2001 is named Assistant to the Dean and Coordinator of General Honors in the university's Honors College.
During her seventeen years in the Honors College, Paula works with the university's most outstanding undergraduates. She recruits students, monitors their progress in the Honors curriculum, coordinates student research with faculty mentors, helps to develop and implement Honors policies, maintains relationships with Honors College alumni, and organizes special Honors programs and events.
Now we turn the page, as chapter three begins—in her own words and from her office at OLLI . . . "My work with young scholars (juniors and seniors) in the Honors College—helping students navigate the research piece of the Honors curriculum—was a most rewarding experience. These responsibilities meant that I was always learning across varied disciplines, including areas that I once thought would be of little interest to me.
"As several OLLI members have heard me say, I often approach issues backwards or in reverse order. For example, I start at the end of a magazine rather than on page 1—fewer ads and meatier articles. I look for the bigger picture then attend to the details. When I began to consider the OLLI position, I thought about the opportunity to observe and learn about the outcome of the seeds that were planted in our young scholars, who likely will become lifelong learners themselves.
"AND I'm OLLI-eligible (50+) and feel as if this is a perfect time and place for me to transition into a new and exciting life phase without sacrificing opportunities to continue to learn. The skills I developed in the HC will serve me well at OLLI—helping committees select quality faculty and community leaders to facilitate interesting, timely classes.
"In my short time here at OLLI, it's become ever apparent that OLLI members are enthusiastic learners and doers with wide-ranging interests. In that I look back and visualize young scholars who are still seeking.
"As we move forward, a top priority will be to assess member responses to course offerings and other expectations in a systematic manner and to offer high-quality programming and opportunities for social engagement based on member feedback.
"I also hope to encourage broader diversity in our OLLI membership (i.e., race, ethnicity and age) and to offer programs that will attract new members. We undoubtedly experience richer learning experiences and lives in general when we establish connections and friendships with folks who follow different paths from the ones we choose and hear stories that differ from our own.
"Raising the OLLI profile/visibility on both the Southern Miss campus and in the Hattiesburg community is another goal. Thus, communication and a sort of branding will be important as we proceed. I have ideas—some are admittedly quirky (e.g., #ObsessedWithOLLI or that's #OvertlyOLLI)—but we want both prospective and current members to recognize our OLLI and to know what we offer. It won't happen overnight, but an ultimate aim is for OLLI at Southern Miss to become one of the premiere models for OLLI across the OLLI network.
"I can't achieve these goals on my own—it must be a team effort! I seek and value input from all our members. Your creativity, intellect, commitment and spirit have inspired me! I look forward to fostering at OLLI the sense of community and engaging programming that are the hallmarks of an innovative and productive organization.
"OLLI is a happenin' place. It's a community that I'm delighted to be a part of!"
By Robin Clark
The Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI) at Southern Miss is one of 122 OLLIs at universities across the United States and the only OLLI in Mississippi. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as President of the Advisory Board of this distinguished institution.
We are blessed to have OLLI here because it offers us the opportunity to continue learning during our retirement and experience the vibrant community of other lifelong learners. This academic year is off to a great start with the fall session offering over 130 classes, seminars and field trips.
Paula Mathis joins us as Director and is already contributing to our programs. She is working with the Advisory Board and guiding us toward our goals and objectives.
So many good things are happening. This is possible because of the generous support from staff, the university , the Osher Foundation and notably members like you. Life never stands still and is constantly changing. As challenges take and bring OLLI members, so too does our financial support ebb and flow. But as we stand ready to face the next challenge, we cannot do so without your support. For our vital OLLI community to continue to flourish and grow, we need YOU. The two ways you can help are by donating time and donating money. As the average OLLI member is a senior, you may feel a little short on both time and money. But what better way to spend resources than on a place that values your seniority and a community that welcomes you.
OLLI needs you. We need volunteers to help with committee work, membership and social functions as well as office support. If donating your time isn't possible, that's okay. As education funding is reduced, the support from Southern Miss is not always a guarantee. You can help with financial donations. We are not self-supporting at this time, so to keep OLLI alive and growing, we depend on donors just like you. With your help, OLLI will flourish.
The path to a bright and sustainable future is to be self-supporting. But we can only do that with your support, increased membership and a larger volunteer base.
May the amazing OLLI community be a joy and inspiration to all of Mississippi. Together we can make it happen.
Thank you for your support.
Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Amen and Blessed Be.
By Nanci Youngblood
During the selection of a new Director at OLLI these past few months, team Baucum-Jeske, aka Tay and Diane, stepped up to provide assurance to the community that OLLI is still in business! They conducted daily business, answered phone calls, responded to texts and emails, managed the buildings and grounds, and were there to listen to OLLI members' concerns. Especially helpful were the weekly messages Tay sent out after she and Diane worked together to decide what to include that would reassure OLLI members.
Thank you, Tay Baucum and Diane Jeske! We are all looking forward to working with our new Director, Paula Mathis!
The annual dinner honoring veterans, whether OLLI members or not, is always a high point of the year.
Veterans, again, we say Thank You.