Class diversity is aided by the Senior Scholars program

In professor Ashley West’s Northern Renaissance art history course, a few students congregated in the back row instantly stand out. What is different about these students is that they graduated many years ago – they’re even retired from their respective careers. 

Joan Markoe, Arlene Holtz and Rich DiLullo are Temple alumni who are taking advantage of the “Senior Scholars” program offered by the university. There is an array of classes available in the program, such as Art of the 20th Century and The Art of Sacred Space, as well as courses in departments like economics and philosophy.

“When I found out about this program, taking part was a no-brainer,” DiLullo said. “You’ve spent 20 or 30 years of constant work, so it’s a nice step away from that.”

All three scholars are retired from their respective professions and have decided to spend their free time continuing their educational journey. The art history course is something they each said has always been of particular interest in their lives, but they have never had the opportunity to pursue it academically until now.

“[Art history] was the kind of course I couldn’t take in school, but it has turned out to be really fun,” Markoe said.

Now that they have enough time on their hands, they said they’re jumping at the opportunity to go back and learn about subjects they’re interested in.

“This is the most nourishing learning I have ever done,” Holtz said. “Without the pressure of exams and making the grade, you can really take in all the information.”

West said she enjoys having elderly students enrolled in her classes, because while she said all of her students bring something unique to the table, the maturity and experience of those with perspective of post-career lives can significantly expand class discussions.

“Everybody is able to bring fuller experiences, which adds so much diversity,” West said. “It makes the class even more challenging and rewarding.”

As it stands, the only requirements for interested seniors is that they must be at least 50 years of age and they, or their spouse, must be a graduate of Temple. The cost of enrollment is $100 per course, intending to provide affordability for the nontraditional students. The cost allows some participants, like Markoe, to take more than one class per semester and return year after year.

The options in the Senior Scholars program include courses offered at the Ambler and Center City campuses as well.

“Every semester we’re sent a brochure with all of the courses offered,” Markoe said. “This is my fifth year, and I have taken a course in American art, Roman art, architecture – all kinds of classes.”

Having the opportunity to be a part of a class comprised of both alumni in the Senior Scholars program and traditional-age undergraduate students is particularly important for the older students. DiLullo said he took a class in the past with all seniors, and the experience was not quite the same.

“I feel like they kind of dumbed down the material [in that class],” DiLullo said. “There is really nothing like a lecture to fully understand the material better.”

Holtz said she is impressed with her own experience so far.

“I was an educator myself and I am so pleased with the quality of education I have received here,” Holtz said.

The three alumni said they have fond memories of their own undergraduate educations at Temple, and they are happy to be back at the place that prepared them for adulthood.

“As an [undergraduate student], I was part of a research study and I aced the art history part,” Holtz said. “I knew I had to make a living though, so I never took it any further. Now I have the chance to study something I really enjoy. I feel like this is who I should have been.”

Alexa Bricker can be reached at alexa.bricker@temple.edu.

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