LLI Spotlight:  Ara Rogers, Director, OLLI-USF

By Peter Spiers

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USF (The University of Southern Florida) was founded in 1993—with support from what was previously called the Elderhostel Institute Network—as the USF Division of Senior Programs.  The organization became an OLLI in 2005 and received $1 million grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation in both 2007 and 2008.  Entering its 23rd year, OLLI-USF has 1,500 members who pay annual dues of $40 and additional course fees ranging from $20 to $85 depending on the number of class sessions, the venue, and the cost of class materials.  While generally membership is required for class enrollment, exceptions exist where a partnership can be created and access to an appropriate venue can be secured; in a cooperative arrangement with the Tampa Bay History Center, for example, that organization’s members are able to enroll in OLLI courses offered there.  Ara Rogers describes the prototypical OLLI-USF member as a “67-year-old woman with a master’s degree.”  Unlike many parts of Florida, Tampa isn’t a retirement destination; most members are originally from somewhere else but moved to the area for work or to be near family.  Ara leads a staff of five — three of whom are full-time employees.  In addition to Ara, the other full-time staff includes Joseph McAuliffe, who coordinates liberal arts programming, and Charise Dixie, hired recently as registrar after the division of Continuing Education could no longer accommodate OLLI registration with its small staff.