Southwestern University Veterans Association

Honoring Veterans in attendance at Southwestern

The Southwestern University Veterans Association is an organization that helps
student-soldiers adjust to life on campus.

“The organization was founded to help veterans and the dependants of veterans that
attend Southwestern adjust to college life,” said organization secretary Isidoro Ramirez. “We
also hope to promote awareness. We are here on campus; we don’t all have PTSD. We’re just
normal people.”

The SUVA is only a semester old. “We started during spring semester last year.
Shannon Johnson is our president. She is studying biology to go pre-med,” said Ramirez.
Other founding members include Kayla Golden, Mike York, and Aaron Smith. “We’ve
received a lot of support from the students and faculty. The university helped a lot with getting
everything we needed to become a registered organization. Southwestern is a very welcoming
environment.”

The SUVA also helps those who have parents that serve in the military. “It is
important to include them [in SUVA] because it is really hard for them to have parents that are
deployed. We’ve been deployed, so we know what it’s like and can give them support that other
people can’t.”

Additionally, Ramirez added, “Anyone that wants to help [SUVA] can stop by our
meetings. All are welcome. Meetings are held once a month on Thursdays around noon.”

“Lifeboats” Art Exhibit

Professor Mary Visser introduces Heather Carter at the Life Boats Gallery Reception.

Heather Carter makes sustainable living an art in her exhibition “Lifeboats”.
According to Carter, the 1994 Southwestern graduate, “Lifeboats started out as
taking things that have had a life before and honoring them.”

The exhibit consists of five pieces, all made from repurposed signs, wood, wire,
and trees. The piece “Tideline” leads the viewer through the exhibit with a series of
Carter’s favorite quotes, and creates an ocean for the other boat-inspired pieces attached
to the walls to float on.

“Boats have always been a big part of my work but using the idea of lifeboats changed it for me somehow,” Carter said. “It changed it into the idea of visualizing a seed pod or a place where you can be born out of and renewed – regenerated.”

The exhibit as a whole highlights the fact that environmental problems are human problems and invites the audience to engage in finding solutions for the betterment of our world.

Students examine Heather Carter's work.

 

Green living isn’t just an idea Carter touts with her art, but is instead a philosophy
that infuses her entire life. She lives completely off the grid with her family in
Wimberley, TX and consults with individuals and businesses that want to switch to more
sustainable practices through her website www.greenguru.org.

“Lifeboats” is on display in the Southwestern Fine Arts Gallery through
Sept. 29. For more information about Carter and her artwork, visit her website at
www.heathercarter.info.

Explore the Hill Country on horseback

Austin offers horse-back riding opportunities.


Horseback riding is a classic pastime, and trail riding in particular invokes visions of sunsets and open land. Southwestern University is surrounded by the famed Texas Hill Country, and a trail ride is one way to take in the scenery, particularly as the days grow longer and the weather warms.

In addition, riding a horse has a multitude of physical benefits. Though it may seem like all that the rider does is sit, horseback riding exercises abdominal muscles that are otherwise rarely used, promotes balance and causes less stress on joints than walking or running.

Luckily, there are a number of opportunities to go horseback riding in the Central Texas area. For a basic group trail ride that offers a view of prime Texas countryside, head out to Post Oak Farm in Burnet. Bee Cave Riding Center in Austin also provides trail rides for riders of all skill levels. The Nameless Horse Center provides this service as well. Lack of experience should not discourage anyone from trying out a trail ride, as all three stables provide instructors to guide the more inexperienced rider.

For something a little more adventurous, try White Fences Equestrian Center in Manor. They provide trail rides of all sorts, including one that has a picnic in the countryside. Silver’s Trails has a special trail for the more confident rider that includes going through a creek. Finally, for the truly dedicated, Colbert Ranch in Bertram has trail packages that allow riders to explore the ranch and participate in a variety of activities throughout the day, including a home cooked lunch.

SIRA recently organized a trip to Colbert Ranch. Senior Callie Paige went on the trip and said that it consisted of a two and a half hour trail ride and a picnic.

Paige said, “It was loads of fun, and it was really nice to get away from campus out in nature. It’s always fun to be around horses.”

If you are interested in going on a trail ride, it must be scheduled via phone or email, and further information is located on each ranch’s website.

For those who are feeling truly philanthropic and want to be around horses, there is also the Ride on Center for Kids (ROCK), which provides therapeutic horseback riding services for individuals with cognitive and physical challenges. Check out the ROCK website to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

Science explains why love makes the heart go aflutter

Stomach Butterflies. Courtesy of Google Images.

Many people would probably agree that butterflies do, in fact, exist somewhere in our abdominal region and that they only become active when they sense the presence of somebody special. Whether you have labeled them as parasites or welcome insect companions, it is interesting and helpful to understand why they exist, how to invoke their metamorphosis and how to keep them from migrating when a relationship starts to go cold.

Human emotion is thought to break down into two parts: the physiological arousal that we experience and the belief or cognition as to what caused that arousal. Sometimes the process is simple. When you see someone ride away on the pirate bike you were about to grab, your heart may beat faster and your temperature may rise. You might think, “I am feeling angry because that jerk just stole my pirate bike.”

Other times the experience is more ambiguous, such as when we are affected by multiple things at once. Excitation transfer theory says that sometimes excitement or arousal from one experience may enhance or amplify the excitatory response to another. For example, studies have found that if people are aroused by an activity such as exercise or riding a roller coaster, they will rate strangers to be more physically attractive afterwards. This idea suggests that because someone’s heart is beating faster from one activity, they may feel more of an attraction towards another person. This sensation may be caused by a misattribution of their arousal.

There is still much to be discovered about how humans perceive themselves, specifically regarding the question of what comes first, the physical feeling or the thought. Some believe that we learn about ourselves the same way that we learn about other people, through observing ourselves. By applying this idea to our sentiments, is it possible that the emotions we experience are just our best explanations for what we are feeling?
Regardless, this misattribution is frequently seen in dating and, in fact, might be one of the most important components to a successful date, and especially a first date. As important as it may be to talk to someone and get to know them over a meal, if you want to evoke the butterflies’ kiss, you may need to come up with a more elaborate game plan.

A good first date or a date intended to re-spark a stagnant relationship should be something fun that evokes feelings or emotion. Also, whether it is physical activity or active thought, a good date should require action that someone will be able to remember not only by what they saw or did but by how they felt. Chances are some aspect of that memory will be associated with you.

Keeping this in mind, a pair could go on a bike ride, play racquetball, go for a run, go horseback riding, watch a thrilling movie, go to an amusement park, go to a comedy club, go camping, go for a hike, go to a slam poetry event, go bowling, go kayaking or go dancing.

Also effective but not recommended, two could take ecstasy which was once prescribed to couples with marital problems before it became illegal in the mid 1980s. Its euphoric and arousing qualities are easily and often associated with one’s partner in crime. The bottom line is that whatever you two are into, pick something that will evoke a feeling you by which you would like to be remembered.

New tools added to voyager catalog

The Voyager space ship.  Courtesy of Google Images.

The Voyager space ship. Courtesy of Google Images.

This week two new tools were added to the Smith Library Center’s Voyager Catalog:

Cite This Item is located in the Actions box on the right side of all item records. The Cite This Item link will open a new tab in your browser, containing formatted citations for the item in APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, and Turabian styles.

Browse This Shelf is located at the bottom of nearly all item records. With the bookshelf, you can scroll to the left or right down the shelf to browse the materials that are nearby the item, based on call number.  The shelf combines items in the Main collection, Special Collections, Curriculum, and A/V Materials.  By mousing over the cover image for each item, you can see the title, author, location, and availability information, as well as link to its item record. Browse This Shelf is currently supported by Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Some of the Best Free Web Sites


Websites.  Courtesy of Google Images

Websites. Courtesy of Google Images

These are some of my favorite websites that make me stay around, either for the content, the graphics, as well as the amount of information available to me.  And of course, credibility of the website is always important to me.  Take a look at these and enjoy. –Joan Parks

Encyclopedia of Chicago (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/)
“The Chicago Historical Society, The Newberry Library and Northwestern University
Welcome to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, an online resource dedicated to becoming a dynamic and unprecedented collection of metropolitan history. Visitors will find thousands of historical resources, including photographs, maps, articles, and newspapers. Visit the user’s guide section before you begin to learn about methods for browsing, searching, or purchasing elements of the encyclopedia”.  –MARS Best Free Reference Web Sites

Images from the History of Medicine (National Library of Medicine)

http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/luna/servlet/view/all

“Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM). The collection includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century.”– MARS Best Free Reference Web Sites

Picture History (http://www.picturehistory.com/)
“Picture History is an on-line archive of images and film footage illuminating more than 200 years of American history. Included in its holdings is the acclaimed Meserve-Kunhardt Collection of 19th century photography as well as thousands of images that have been researched and acquired by Kunhardt Productions for use in historical documentaries over the past fifteen years. Picture History is intended for the personal use of students, educators, scholars, and the general public curious about the past”. – MARS Best Free Reference Web Sites.

PAA plans events for Asian American Heritage Month

A map of Asia.  Courtesy of Google Images.

A map of Asia. Courtesy of Google Images.

This semester at Southwestern University, April is Asian American Heritage Month. Previously ASIA Club (Association for Students Interested in Asia), Pan Asian Association is revamping its mission and activities along with its name.

“We changed at the end of last semester,” said sophomore Simon Tian, president of the organization. “We felt that the name ASIA wasn’t accurate for where we were going any more. We are less of a student interest group for entertainment purposes, aiming more towards social awareness and social justice.” Pan Asian Association hopes to have activities that reflect this change. “It’s not just about entertainment any more,” Tian said. “[We want] to educate people about the Asian-American community and make people more aware of the issues that affect the Asian-American community.”

The Pan Asian Association hopes that the name change will encourage new membership and activism on our campus. “We needed a term that was more inclusive, because some people did not identify with our previous name,” said Tian. “Pan Asia can be perceived as all of Asia – the whole continent of Asia. This name just fit in more with the new direction we’re moving in, and we hoped this could be a catalyst for change within the SU community regarding these social justice issues.”

Each Thursday of this month, Pan Asian Association is hosting an event to bring awareness to these social justice issues.

Guest Speaker: Smita Ruzicka

When: Thurday, April 15th

Where: Olin 105

Time: noon

Smita Ruzicka is a woman from South Asia, and will be speaking about issues pertaining to South asians.

Movie Showing: Vincent Who?

When: Thursday, April 22nd

Where: Olin 105

Time: 5 p.m.

Vincent Who? is a documentary about the murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin. In 1982, Chin was murdered in Detroit by two white autoworkers at the height of anti-Japanese sentiments. Following his assassination, Asian Americans around the country joined forces to form a true community in America. This documentary is based on a series of town hall meetings organized by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress on the 25th anniversary of the murder, features interviews, and presents a perhaps little known history of civil work in the Asian-American community.

Guest Speaker & Stress Reduction Workshop

When: Thursday, April 29th

Where: TBA

Time: TBA

The guest speaker is a professor from UT who will likely be speaking in the evening, and the lecture will be titled, “Asian-Americans 101.” The stress relief workshop will likely be occurring during lunch hours. “SU Peer Health Services does a stress reduction workshop, and starting last semester we collaborated,” said Tian. “We’re continuing with that this semester. We’ll have some stress reduction tips, some brain food, and a message therapist.” Yes, you heard me correctly, folks: a message therapist. What better way to go into finals week than with some helpful stress reduction tips and a free message? Come on. Awesome.

Keep an eye out for times and places of events this month through campus notices and advertisements. For more information about Pan Asian Association, contact Simon Tian at tians@southwestern.edu.

Relay for Life, because cancer never sleeps

Logo for Relay for Life.  Courtesy of Google Images.

Logo for Relay for Life. Courtesy of Google Images.

On April 17 to 18, The American Cancer Society Relay For Life will give Georgetown and the surrounding area a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease. At this event, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event with the catchphrase being, “Because cancer never sleeps.” The relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.

“The reason I’m involved and keep working is because almost every member of my family has had cancer and I really would like for a cure to be found,” said senior AJ Andreola, who serves as the Relay for Life committee chair within the student organization Colleges Against Cancer.

In 1985 Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, ran and walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Since that time, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life has grown from a single man’s passion to fight cancer into the world’s largest movement to end the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, “Everyone’s reason to Relay is as unique as their own personal story. At Relay, you can find healing, comfort, and support from others who have faced cancer or who have lost a loved one to the disease. You have a chance to meet people in the community who are equally as passionate about finding an end to cancer in our lifetime. You can thank all the people who have done so much to support you through your personal cancer experience. And you can gather together with friends, family, and colleagues to laugh, cry, and create lasting memories.”

Each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States, along with additional communities in 20 other countries, gather to take part in this global phenomenon and raise much needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer.

“Relay For Life is our big Spring event.,” said Lauren Kjolhede. “A big focus for this year has been getting campus involved and getting a good representative Southwestern groups at the event. It is a chance for Southwestern organizations and students to get involved with the Georgetown community and show our enthusiasm, energy and youth for a good cause. We always bring a different, youthful and energetic element to the event that the other participants always comment on and enjoy. Plus we have the energy to stay up all night and be loud!”

This year, several Southwestern student organizations are making teams to contribute their efforts in helping cancer victims. Not only will these organizations be fighting cancer, they will be given an opportunity to spend time together apart from their organizational causes and meet other people who will be involved with similar passions. The Christian sorority Sigma Phi Lamda, the campus service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and Colleges Against Cancer will all have teams participating for the night.

“We (CAC) have also done several fundraising events to donate to Relay For Life for our CAC team through Shakes,” Kjolhede said. “We also are having a campuswide water balloon fight next Thursday at 5:30PM out on the mall to raise funds and awareness for Relay so be on the lookout for that!”

The American Cancer Society stated, “With every step you take, you are helping the American Cancer Society save lives. With your help, we aren’t just fighting one type of cancer – we’re fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. Each person who shares the Relay experience can take pride in knowing that they are working to create a world where this disease will no longer threaten the lives of our loved ones or claim another year of anyone’s life.”

“Almost everyone is touched by cancer in some form or another either personally or through a family member or friend and they are not alone,” said Kjolhede. “There is always hope!”

Relay For Life is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and seeks to promote awareness, raise funds and honor survivors through the all-night event. It will take place on Friday April 16th-17th at Forbes Middle School from 7PM to 7AM.

Saving money while in school

You too can have cash and fancy glasses.  Courtesy of Google Images.

You too can have cash and fancy glasses. Courtesy of Google Images.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can rent a good replacement. Here are a few ways that you can save some cash and allocate it towards more appropriate goals, such as a 2 a.m. Jack-in-the-Box run.

FOOD – We all “gotta” eat, but you don’t have to throw money away on it.

1. On the official dining website, a small advertisement features prominently on each page stating: Save money – Buy a meal plan! Noticeably absent though are the actual prices for the three meal plans listed.  Instead, your correspondent had to dig through the catalog to find the only apparent location of said pricing. The five meals a week plan is $840 a semester. This spring semester has 17 weeks, including spring break. Subtract the $100 Pirate Bucks to get $740. Divide $740 by 17 for weeks, then divide that by five meals a week and you get approximately $8.70. That’s assuming you use every single meal every single week (unlikely given holidays and the desire to occasionally eat somewhere besides the Commons – especially since you have $100 in Pirate Bucks to spend).  However, if you simply buy these 85 meals with Pirate Bucks, it would only cost you $530 (85 x $6.25 for lunches) or $550 if it were dinners instead of lunches (unlikely again as this plan is aimed at off-campus students who would probably use it for lunch).  So, there is no conceivable situation where the five meals a week meal plan is a good investment, in fact you are throwing away a minimum of $200. Do the math!

2. You should not be spending so much on coffee. Let’s say you buy a three-dollar coffee three times a week. This is probably on the low end for some people, but it’s just an example. A year of spending nine dollars on coffee a week is $468.  Compare this to buying a Keurig style coffee machine (easiest solution but also one of the more expensive) for around $120 (more or less depending on model) and the equivalent 150ish cups for it which is about $80 depending on brand, and you’ll already be saving approximately $250 in the first year of owning it – more if you and a friend/roommate to split it, much more if you actually go through the process of brewing it.

3. Go to Costco and throw a dinner party. Buying in bulk saves money. While you might not have room for a 30 pack of paper towels, a group effort can make the trip to Austin’s Sam’s or Costco well worth it. Pooling resources to cook together accomplishes the same thing.

BOOKS – Textbook publishing is a huge, booming business – for a reason.

1. You want your books to be cheap, right? Nothing is cheaper than free. If the book is old enough for the copyright to be expired, more than likely it’ll be on books.google.com.  Another option to check on is simple – the library. While classic textbooks (math, science, foreign language, etc) are typically not in the library (and don’t ask me why they aren’t – I’m of the opinion that any book assigned for a class should be required to be available in the library), pretty much everything else is. Obviously class books might be in high demand from SU’s library, but don’t forget that the Georgetown library is just a few blocks away.

2. If you do have to buy the book, keep in mind that SU’s bookstore is one of the most expensive sources possible.  You can save a ton of money just ordering your books off Amazon, AbeBooks, or other such sites. You can also keep track of friends who are taking the classes you are going to take and buy books directly from them. This has the added effect of them being able to sell it for more than they would otherwise (typically). One caveat: This method is much more unreliable in terms of time and quality of the books, so in regards to convenience the SU Bookstore still comes out on top. Don’t forget to check edition numbers, although if you can get away with it, the previous editions are usually much cheaper.

3. Before making a decision, I’d recommend talking to your professor. Believe it or not, professors are highly sympathetic to a tight book budget. They’re also the best source for finding out if you can get away with an online version of the book, or a book that’s a few editions old. Finding a way to get around needing a book the class uses for a week is a whole lot simpler than a book used throughout the semester.

As with saving money anywhere, if you do the research and make a little effort, you can easily reap the benefits of being frugal.

Career Services begins to prepare students for alternative careers

Courtesy of Google Image SearchThe current economic turmoil has taken a major toll on SU graduates who are looking for jobs once they earn their degree. The state of economic affairs is so bad that when asked what liberal arts degrees would be desired in the current job market, Career Services said, “none.”

This has led them to revise their system of internships to include the world’s first ever “Ghetto Connections.” According to that lady that works at the front desk,  “we are now offering internships with whorehouses, drug dealers, smut peddlers, pornographers, hustlers and gangsters.”

While students will have a hard time with the learning curve initially, they will do well in time.  In order to assist the transition, Career Services is offering a new Strengths Quest assessment. Students will be tested on how well they handle firearms and speak slang. They will also have to learn how to use a social networking system that they are most likely not familiar with. According to Career Services, “it’s called the ways of the street and it’s actually very similar to Facebook. In fact most of the features are pretty similar. For example, instead of Facebook stalking someone, you actually stalk them. Your wall is literally a wall, most likely behind some building where people spray graffiti. Farmville is replaced by marijuana growing. Instead of having a Facebook status you just yell really loudly so everyone can hear you. And instead of defriending someone you just murder them.”

In addition, all that literary and sociological theory comes in handy. “Roland Barthes’ essay on the Death of the Author is particularly useful during graffiti operations because most of the time rival gangs are wanting to bring about the death of the author of the graffiti. Foucault is also useful. You can quote Archaeology of Knowledge during a shootout to confuse rival gangsters.”

Almost every degree is useful as well. According to them, “your degree is probably applicable with these occupations. Art majors can do graffiti for gangs. Business majors can keep track of a pimp’s income. Chemistry majors can help supervise in meth labs. Religion majors can help pray for a gang’s victory during a shootout. Environmental Studies majors can find the best places to grow weed. Anthropology majors can study the other gangs as if they were cultures and give kingpins their reports while maintaining that no gang is superior to another. Pre-med majors can treat bullet wounds. Theatre majors can learn how to act cool during a gang war. And International Studies can students can assist in smuggling operations.” The one degree that has no relevance is Philosophy, according to Career Services.
“Philosophy will make you think life is so pointless you shouldn’t go into any career.”

Field Trips

by Ellen BurtnerRemember those field trips you used to take to the zoo in elementary school? Yeah. Like everything else, the college version is so much cooler.

Feel like taking an overnight trip on your own private beach, looking at endangered species and going kayaking? I thought so. Meet: the awesome professors of Southwestern’s Environmental Studies Program.

“I’m an ecologist, and ecology happens in all environments,” said Dr. Romi Burks of various field trips. “In ecology, part of it is common sense when you’re looking at the text, but the text is not the same as observing it in real life.”
It’s this real life experiential work where many feel the students benefit the most.

The most recent adventure was one taken by Dr. Jinelle Sperry and Dr. Gavin Van Horn to Port Aransas, which boasts itself as one of the most popular vacation spots in Texas. Interested in studying the endangered Whooping Crane, a troop of nearly 30 students traveled for an overnight stay to the Port Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

“We can go and see the strengths and weaknesses of the conservation efforts that are happening,” said junior and Animal Behavior major Morgan Mingle. “We saw probably at least six whooping cranes, and there’s only about 300 left in the world, so we saw like…2% of the whooping cranes left in the world. It was awesome.”

It’s these opportunities that make the field trip such a unique opportunity.

“The only wild reproducing self-viable population is here in Texas,” Dr. Sperry said of the cranes. “We drove down there, immediately got on a boat, and went on a three hour tour of the bay. We saw over 35 species of birds, and we saw a Peregrine Falcon fighting with a White Tailed Hawk over a dead duck. We saw bottle nosed dolphins right beside our boat, and we camped at the Wildlife Refuge there. It’s supposed to be a boy scouts camp, but they let us stay there. We had our own little private beach at the same time we were camping in the woods.”

What makes the field trips worth the cost and effort for both faculty and students?

“There’s a contextual element that you simply can’t replace in content,” said Dr. Burks.

The field trips beat the hell out of sitting in a classroom all day.

“It’s really worth it because particularly when you’re trying to grasp and idea and you don’t actually see the reality of it. You can get an awful lot out of the reading, but I think it just adds another component that makes the reading and discussions have more meaning,” said Dr. Hobgood-Oster.

“For my course, you could actually see the species that we’re talking about, which makes a big difference,” said Dr. Sperry.

“There’s a big difference between showing a picture up on a PowerPoint and actually being out on a boat. I think that’s a big part of it. And I think it’s also nice to get other people’s perspectives. The boat captain talked a lot about wildlife conservation, and about the species we were seeing. The Port Aransas employee talked a lot about conservation. So, these are totally different perspectives. You get it from a boat captain, you get it from a federal employee. They undoubtedly have a different perspective than I do, so it’s nice to have students here it from every angle,” said Dr. Sperry.

It takes extensive collaborative effort among administration, staff and students to pull together some of the larger-scale overnight trips that frequently occur.

“We just had a wonderful time,” said Dr. Sperry.

“What’s nice about Southwestern is that for these overnight trips, we got all of the equipment from SIRA. They are incredible in terms of the amount of equipment that they have. They had enough to outfit our entire group of 26 people. It’s really nice that we have that resource here on campus and that they’re willing to loan in out for field trips like that. The gear would be way too expensive for people to purchase on their own, so it’s really the only way that we could have done it.”

“I think that the type of trip we actually did is perfect for conservation type things, no matter what the degree is, because you really get to see what’s happening and talk to people that are involved from the different perspectives,” said Mingle. “So you can’t just be like, ‘We need to get rid of dams because dams kill wildlife habitat when there’s people starving and need the energy from the dams.’ You can’t fully read about all that in a text book.”

SU helps support Senior University

Local seniors return to the classroom with Senior University

Local seniors return to the classroom with Senior University

If you feel like you’ve been seeing a lot more old people around campus lately, you’re observations are not unwarranted. Residents of Sun City are moving in and becoming your classmates. Okay, not really, but they are taking classes here. It’s called Senior University, and 600 residents of Sun City are enrolled.

“The program has been in effect for 12 years,” said Mary Kay Pierson, the president on the board of directors for Senior University. “There were about six or seven people who lived in Sun City that wanted some kind of intellectual stimulation rather than just golfing and cards. So they formed this club where people would come and give lectures.”

The program quickly grew from 200 students to its current 600, and needed a new home for its 38 classes.

“It seemed to me that there was a separation between Sun City and Georgetown. I kept thinking, ‘We can’t have this!’ Sun City is a neighborhood, not a town.”

Pierson quickly met with Ron Swain and President Schrum about the possibility of housing classes here.

“The 10-year plan stated that there would be more community involvement. It’s taken about two years, but it has finally worked. We have this connection with Southwestern, and I’m thrilled.”

Sitting in on one of the Senior University classes was an interesting experience. The class I attended was entitled, “Great Decisions.” It was a discussion-based class taught by Dr. Jay Pierson, and that evening’s topic was Russia’s past and future. It was the sixth week in their semester, which is not particularly far off from our current eighth week. There were 20 or so students in the room, not far off from our 13 student average. In fact, nearly everything about Senior University is the same. Held in Olin 111 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., the room was filled with lively discussion, coffee, note-taking, a Powerpoint presentation and a 15 minute movie.

There were quiet students sitting in the back, talkative students sitting in the front and no texting or ringing phones. Each and every student was actively engaged in the lecture, and the life experiences of each student contributed something amazing to the discussion. At one point, I forgot entirely that I wasn’t sitting in one of my regular classes, and only snapped back to consciousness with the realization that I had begun taking notes.

“We are so fortunate that we have a wealth of retired professors here living in this town as well as in the neighborhood of Sun City,” said Pierson. “Professors from University of Michigan, University of Arizona, New York…it’s just incredible. They love teaching, but they don’t want to do it full-time, because they’re retired. But they miss the classroom dynamics, so they teach for us. Being on the campus with younger students keep them vital, keeps them alive, and that’s something I firmly believe in.”

What do programs like Senior University mean for the rest of us? “When I tell my granddaughter that I’m taking classes and she says, ‘Maymay, you’re still in school?’” Pierson said, laughing. “It makes the grandchildren of these people realize that school is something you value the rest of your life. It’s not something that stops when you’re 23 or 24, and you’ve gotten your degrees behind you. It’s a lifelong thing.”