Putting together a CRI curriculum

By John Nadeau | Sep 23, 2010
Ever heard of the Society of Left-Handed Glockenspiel Players?
No?  Well, neither have I. However, if I do, I won’t be surprised.

This country has to be the most over-organized society in the history of the world. There’s an organization, it seems, for every occupational and interest group conceivable.

But I would like to tell you about one I think is truly remarkable, namely the Creative Retirement Institute (CRI) at Edmonds Community College.

This lifelong learning program offers non-credit, college-level courses every year to hundreds of local residents, regardless of educational background. Generally, the subject matter appeals to people over age 50.

CRI isn’t unique; on the contrary, it’s part of a national trend. But it is remarkable because of the degree of volunteer involvement. It’s definitely a “member-driven” organization.

CRI participants staff all the committees, which deal with policy-making, finance, marketing, audio-visual support, and social get-togethers.

Perhaps the most important of them, though, is the curriculum committee, which is responsible for arranging about 30 courses each term.

“Two subcommittees, one dealing with arts and sciences, the other with current issues, hold brainstorming sessions, then before each term we all come together for final course approvals,” says Carol Crawford, Stanwood, the curriculum committee chairperson.

She says there are lively discussions about course topics, number of classes, and instructors.

“Of course, we must decide how popular a course or instructor will be,” she adds. “We try for a balance of subjects to appeal to our students’ wide range of interests.”

For example, the fall term course brochure lists courses ranging from Foreign Policy to Rumi: Poet of the Heart.

Student evaluation forms, filled out at the end of each course, receive careful scrutiny.

“Besides comments about the classes and the instructor, we also get suggestions for future courses,” Crawford notes.

Curriculum committee members are always on the lookout for new instructors who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and willing to try a different teaching experience.

“We strive for a balance,” Crawford says. “We want to retain popular instructors, but we also want new people to fire students’ imaginations.”

The CRI volunteers are resourceful in finding these people. Committee members are great readers and have broad interests. They often know the right person to teach a course. Sometimes, he or she is a retired academic or else someone who has specific knowledge or experience to share.

“We attend lectures, plays, concerts, and so on and frequently recruit people we meet in those venues,” Crawford says.

One of her committee members became engaged in a conversation with a stranger in an airport passengers’ lounge and actually wound up recruiting him.

Because they receive only modest honorariums, or serve as volunteers, what motivates instructors to teach at CRI?

Lynn Lagreid, Edmonds, the CRI coordinator and its only paid employee, holds the whole program together with the assistance of a volunteer office staff.

She says instructors find their students well-read, well-traveled, enthusiastic, and inquisitive.

“They are also appreciative,” she adds. “Faculty find them a delight to teach.”

Everyone is at CRI because he or she wants to be. There are no exams or grades. Just the enjoyment of learning – and an opportunity to help run the program.

“If you’d like to join the curriculum committee, or any of the committees, you’ll receive a warm welcome,” says Crawford. “Just contact me, Lynn Lagreid, or any of the other chairpersons.”

There’s a lot to like about CRI.
For more information, phone 425-640-1830 or go to www.cri.edcc.edu.



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