Celebrating 25 Years of Lifelong Learning

2013-2014 Issue 2
25 Years of MCLL

25 Years of MCLL

This summer, the McGill Community of Life Learning (MCLL) returns to its birthplace, the Stephen Leacock Building on McGill’s main campus, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The community will host a one-day conference, Celebrating Lifelong Learning, on August 20.

“We’re planning sessions on social media, exercising your brain, distance learning technologies – a lot of different things,” says Fiona Clark, Conference Committee Chair, MCLL founder and Champion of Lifelong Learning.

In 1984, Clark, then Assistant Director of Continuing Education, was responsible for organizing Elderhostel courses at McGill. “It seemed a pity to me not to do something for our own Montreal seniors.”

She created a subcommittee of McGill’s Senate Committee on Continuing Education to develop a daytime program for seniors. After researching possibilities over several years and involving senior students in planning, the subcommittee chose a peer-learning format, modeled after an innovative Harvard University program.

In April 1989, the subcommittee got the green light to hold the founding workshop of the Montreal Institute for Learning in Retirement (MILR). “We started in October with 15 study groups and about 180 members,” says Clark. “We met in little classrooms all over the campus.”

Twenty-five years later, MCLL has a name that reflects its community spirit, 632 members, up to 49 study groups in the fall semester, and a home base at the School of Continuing Studies (SCS). It hosts a Friday lecture series and, in summer, Wonderful Wednesdays. Popular outings and social events are organized every semester.

Champions of Peer Learning

Lifelong Learners

Lifelong Learners

MCLL is a member-driven organization, supported by SCS. Seniors from 60 to 90 years of age pay a small membership fee to attend two study groups per term, where they share their experiences and knowledge. As volunteers, they may give back to the educational community, if they choose, by serving on MCLL’s core committees.

“Our basic goal is to provide an interactive atmosphere,” says MCLL Past President Tony Wait. “It’s not like going to a lecture. We’re here to have fun. It may sound corny, but even though I’m 75, my natural curiosity is kept alive in this learning environment.”

MCLL doesn’t offer courses. Members moderate study groups, based on their educational interests, “often as a result of the inspiration and confidence that they acquire through participation,” says Alex Megelas, Personal and Cultural Enrichment Program (PACE) Coordinator.

Every semester, MCLL members propose ideas to the Curriculum Committee, which lends a helping hand in their development. Study groups require different levels of participation, and members get involved as little or as much as they want. Topics range from literature and the arts, science, politics and current events to “just about anything”, says Wait.

“It’s definitely an active environment,” adds Clark, who moderates a Science & Society study group. “The whole concept of MCLL is to learn from others. Anyone can give presentations or participate in research.”

A Bloomin’ Kick-Off

MCLL’s Bloomsday celebration, June 12-16, will kick off the 25th anniversary. Patterned after the Dublin wanderings and stream-of-consciousness meanderings of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Bloomsday Montréal celebrates Joyce’s body of work, local Irish heritage, and the unique character of cities worldwide.

Chris Joyce, great grandnephew of James Joyce, will participate in this year’s Montreal festivities. Events will take place on campus and at local libraries, pubs and other city venues.

A 25th anniversary art exhibit, honouring the creativity of MCLL members in the fine arts, will be held on August 28-30, 2014, at the McClure Gallery of the Visual Art Centre, Westmount.

Plans for a film fest, cabaret and closing celebration are in the works. Other events will be announced throughout the academic year, says Megelas, as MCLL plans to continue its celebration until summer 2015.

For information about:
MCLL: www.mcgill.ca/continuingstudies/programs-and-courses/mcll/about-mcll
Celebrating Lifelong Learning: www.mcgill.ca/continuingstudies/programs-and-courses/mcll/conference
Bloomsday: www.mcgill.ca/bloomsday

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