LLI Spotlight:  Katie Compton, Director, Lifelong Learning Institute, Washington University in St. Louis

By Peter Spiers

The Lifelong Learning Institute at Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1995 by a remarkable and dedicated group inspired by the LLI at Northwestern University and dedicated to the idea of peer learning.  With the strong backing of Mark Wrighton, the newly-appointed Washington University chancellor, the program began with three classes and about 20 participants and within five years, according to Director Katie Compton, was “cooking with gas.”  In 2002 the university granted the LLI dedicated classroom space in a campus building with adjacent covered parking, another spur to growth.  Today the LLI boasts 1,400 members, including 900 active in 2016-17.  Some members choose to pay an annual membership fee of $665, entitling them to enroll in three classes every semester, while others pay “a la carte.”  (More limited membership options are also available.)  The LLI’s calendar includes eight-week semesters in the fall, winter and spring, and a four-week summer semester; all classes have an academic focus and the majority of classes adhere to the founders’ vision of peer learning.  Under the wing of the university’s professional and continuing education division, the LLI is managed by Compton with the support of volunteers organized into an executive committee and other functional committees.  Perhaps the busiest group is the curriculum committee, comprising chairs of nine subject-specific subcommittees, which is constantly working to create new courses and mentor new facilitators.