Skip to main content

What does OLLI stand for?
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is one of over 120 prestigious lifelong learning institutes in the United States that are funded in part by the Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco. Formerly Northwestern University's Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR, founded in 1987), OLLI was renamed in 2005 after a generous grant from the foundation.

What does peer learning mean?
OLLI at Northwestern is one of only a handful of peer-led, lifelong learning programs in the country, which includes programs at Harvard, Brandeis, and the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) at The New School in New York City. Peer learning means that groups convene in seminar-style discussion groups, without an instructor. Peer learning allows you to learn with and from each other. Subjects for study are conceived by members who are called coordinators.

What background do coordinators need to have?
The coordinators are not required to have expertise in the subjects they suggest. Anyone with a passion for a subject can become a great coordinator. A committee of members reviews proposals from the coordinators and those that meet their criteria are included in the catalog. Coordinators create a syllabus and select the text for the study group, and they facilitate study groups, but they do not teach.

What topics are offered?
Each semester, OLLI offers about 90 diverse study groups in the following disciplines like Literature, Creative Arts, History, Science and Technology, and Contemporary Issues. Most study groups range in size from 10 to 25 members.

Do you have prerequisites or exams?
No, there are no prerequisites, no exams and no grades. There is no degree granted, just the joy of learning for pure pleasure — and the spirit of friendship and shared learning.

How many members does OLLI have and what is their average age?
We have 1,200 - 1,500 members, between the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Our members range in age from about 50 to 90 years old. The average member is in their early 70s.

Where can I find more information about OLLI memberships?
Details on all our membership options can be found on our website — Click Here. Memberships are available for purchase during the registration window for each term. The type of memberships available are dependent on the time of year you join. 

What if I just want to try OLLI out?
The Trial Membership is for you! This special membership is for first timers only and may be purchased only one time. It may be purchased in fall, winter, or spring.

What is different about the summer and winter sessions?
These are shorter sessions with an eclectic roster of offerings. The winter and summer sessions are 4 weeks and semesters are 14 weeks. A winter or summer session group might also offer atypical studies such as docent-led visits to museums or city sculptures or playing in a chamber music quartet.

Can I join for just the summer or the winter?
Yes, OLLI summer and winter sessions are open to new members.

How can I get a catalog that further explains the different levels of membership and the schedule of study groups?
Email the OLLI office at or click here to request a catalog and we will send email you a PDF of our next available catalog.

May I visit an OLLI study group to see if OLLI is the right fit for me?
Yes. Email the OLLI office at and a study group will be found that is tailored to your interests. The office will contact you to make the arrangements.

Are scholarships available?
Yes, limited financial assistance is available to those in need and awards are strictly confidential. Please contact OLLI Director Kari Fagin at to learn more about our scholarships and to fill in an application form.

What about a Gift Membership? (Great for Father's or Mother's Day!)
Of course! You may purchase a gift card directly from this site — Click Here. Or you may contact the OLLI office at for other options.

What if I cannot attend one or more sessions? Does that alter my ability to register?
Most members of OLLI have reasons that come up during the year for having to miss sessions. In such cases, you should look closely at the study group descriptions and pick subjects that are more "by-the-week," such as Short Stories, film groups, or The New Yorker, if you are going to be out a lot.

What about transportation to OLLI classes?
There is plentiful public transportation and an intercampus shuttle, which you can learn about here. If you are a full year OLLI member with a WildCARD, you can ride the intercampus shuttle for free!

And if I drive?
If you drive to your study group in Chicago, you can park at a special, discounted rate at the Northwestern parking lot. Validation for discounted parking is available from the Chicago office. Email the OLLI office at for the most current rate. If you drive to your study group in Evanston, you can find ample street parking on the streets near 500 Davis, or you can park in the building itself - 500 Davis Center.

Whom do I contact if I have other questions?
Please email the OLLI office at

/*NOV 14 2020*/