By Debra Bell
Of the Weekly Staff
On a sunny spring day, nearly a dozen seniors sat at rapt attention as their instructor, Gordon Bronley, a post doctoral candidate at the University of Maine, showed them graphs and other visuals about abrupt climate change.
Next door, another class listened to stories about Maine wildlife from Bucky Owen, Jerry Longcore, and Bill Krohn.
Hands were raised, questions were asked, and information was digested.
And it was all in a day’s work for students enrolled in the Penobscot Valley Senior College.
But this college isn’t for high school seniors or even traditional college seniors. It’s for people ages 50 and older.
For Christina Diebold, chair of the curriculum PVSC committee, the senior college is an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.
“I have enjoyed senior college,” she said. “I’ve taken classes all along. They’re so interesting.”
Membership in the senior college costs $25 a year for individuals or $40 for two people at the same address. Tuition for each course is $30 and includes books and most supplies. Courses are offered at the University of Maine, UMA Bangor, and other sites.
One benefit of membership, Diebold said, is advance notice of spring and fall course offerings, and the ability to participate in one-day events and field trips through PVSC or the Maine Senior College Network.
Instructors for senior college courses are professionals in their fields. Bronley is a post doctoral candidate at the University of Maine’s climate change institute. The 2013 spring semester of Penobscot Valley Senior College was his second time teaching a class for it. He chose to teach for senior college to gain experience that will help him when he finishes his doctorate at UMaine.
“The students are so focused, and they bring a lifetime of experience to the classroom,” Bronley said. “They’re so much more excited to be here because they want to be here.”
That’s because senior college offers an opportunity to pursue lifelong learning opportunities in a setting where there are no tests, quizzes, studying, or grades. Instead senior college offers learning opportunities in a stress-free environment.
“When I was in school, I never dared take astronomy because I was not good at math and felt I wouldn’t do well,” Diebold said. “They offered it here, and I took it. It was fascinating.”
And a college degree isn’t a requirement for admission into senior college. Instead, it’s life experience and a thirst to learn that are the main requirements.
“It is such a gift to be able to learn things you’re interested in,” Diebold said. “Plus you meet people who are nice and engaged. I’ve made friends through senior college.”
For information on PVSC, visit umaine.edu/mainecenteronaging/seniorcollege.htm or call 992-0118.
For information about Maine’s Senior College Network, see the Life and Learning issue of Perspective in the Bangor Daily News on April 20.