Every September since 1946, Joan Kilgour has gone back to school. Now 76, the Kitchener resident says she has no plans to stop.
Kilgour is a participant in the Laurier Association for Lifelong Learning (LALL) program at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus. LALL offers condensed, university-level courses for adult students free of admission criteria, assignments and final exams. Local professors and community experts teach the not-for-degree-credit courses on topics that span the arts, music, social sciences, hard science and business.
“You don’t have to be afraid of these courses,” says Kilgour, who has participated in nearly 40 LALL courses since her retirement from Laurier in 2008. “You can put up your hand if you have a question or comment while the professor is talking. People aren’t shy to participate.”
Kilgour attributes voluntary student participation in LALL classes to the smaller size – about 30 students per course. Whether students choose to participate in classroom dialogue or just listen in, the LALL classroom offers a stimulating yet comfortable learning atmosphere for Kilgour.
“You’re not just sitting in a large lecture hall,” she says.
The small class sizes also give LALL instructors the opportunity to get to know their students, many with relevant life experiences to share. That is one of the reasons Laurier History instructor Andrew Thomson enjoys teaching LALL’s older student demographic.
“LALL students often have life experiences that are touched by discussions we have in class, and their questions and comments help me see things in different ways,” says Thomson.
LALL student and Irish immigrant Morris Twist (MSW ’72) is one of those students.
During a lecture on Canadian retail history, Thomson recalls Twist’s story about landing his first job upon arriving in Canada. Twist worked as a clothing buyer for the T. Eaton Company and was offered the job because he was from Ireland like company namesake Timothy Eaton.
“It was a great story and added a very different dimension to the class,” says Thomson.
While students like Kilgour enjoy exploring topics from the past, Twist says LALL courses are a chance for him to keep up with current events and offer some insight about the future.
“I don’t want to live in a world where I’m seen as this old guy living in an old world,” says Twist, 76, of Guelph. “This helps me keep in tune with what is going on.”
Twist, who texts and uses email, participated in Artificial Intelligence (AI): Science, Application and Issues, a winter 2018 LALL course offering. AI can be a daunting topic regardless of age, but Twist says approaching the course from his social work roots gave him a new perspective.
“I found myself questioning who controls this kind of technology, and how it impacts us as a society,” says Twist. “Artificial intelligence may seem scary, but the first car coming down the road probably seemed scary, too, and we got used to that.”
Twist says topics such as Canada-US relations and future forms of conflict also interest him. But the one topic he is particularly keen to explore further is colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“That’s a story hasn’t been fully told,” says Twist, who hopes an Indigenous faculty member could lead the potential course offering.
LALL courses are offered at Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses, with previous offerings held at Laurier’s Milton campus and in Port Dover. Courses are $70 each and run for 12 hours over a six-week period in the spring (early April), fall (late October) and winter (early February). The fall 2018 semester begins the week of Oct. 22. Tentative course offerings include philosophy, poetry and history. A complete menu of course offerings will be available by Sept. 1 and posted to LALL’s course offerings page.
Questions about LALL, including requests to receive course registration email updates, can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 519.884.0710 x6036.
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