CLIR: Forever Learning

By Cathleen Love and Betty Heiss


The Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) became an UConn Extension program in 2013. CLIR’s mission is to provide meaningful intellectual activities for adults from all walks of life, which closely matches with Extension’s mission to provide the knowledge and expertise of the university through outreach and public engagement. There are currently over 280 participants in CLIR and new members are always welcome. CLIR members are engaged in meaningful and stimulating classes taught by university faculty, community members, government and nonprofit agencies, legislators, clergy and experts from business and industry.

The Center for Learning in Retirement was created in 1991 based on a need identified in the community to offer educational programming for retired adults. The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved it as part of the then Division of Extended and Continuing Education. The positive response of the community confirmed the appropriateness of this outreach effort. Historical documents show that from a mailing to 600 residents within a 15-mile radius of Storrs, 200 people attended the first meeting and another 150 were interested in learning more. The program “clearly tapped a nerve and opened an opportunity for the University to serve a population we have ignored in the past.

Members of CLIR meet in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere in the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus. Ample parking is available and the cottages are handicapped accessible. There are no academic requirements to participate in CLIR and no tests, term papers or age limitations. CLIR staffing and teacher are volunteers.

All of the classes meet during the day, Monday through Friday from 10:15 am to 11:45 am or 1:15pm to 2:45 pm. CLIR operates on a three-session schedule: fall, winter and spring. Each session offers up to a dozen single classes and approximately eight courses. A course may be as short as two weeks or as long as eight.

The program offers a buffet of topics. Classes have been offered on current events like Global Climate Change and School Reform or topics related to history, literature and the arts, science and religion. For those who enjoy writing, each session has a Memoir Club that meets every Thursday morning for nine weeks. Recent speakers have included the Presidents and several Deans from both Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut.

Membership in CLIR enriches the minds and broadens the horizons of all who participate. It also affords an opportunity to meet new people and form friendships. This happens in the classroom and during the social time that is organized at each session. Participants in CLIR have the opportunity to discuss issues and concerns in a safe environment where everyone is welcome.

CLIR is a membership based, self-supporting organization led by volunteers. The cost to belong is $25 per member for each session and that allows the opportunity to take any and all courses. New members may join at any time during the year. A current schedule is posted on the website: Any questions about the program can be answered by the UConn Extension administrative liaison, Cathleen Love, Ph.D. or the CLIR staff support, Marilyn Diaz at (860) 570-9012.

Classes being offered in May and June include:

Memoir Club
Members are encouraged to write their memoirs and to read portions of their writings in our sessions.  You may request and receive critiques.  You may request and receive critiques.  All writing will be done outside of the club.
Thursdays Apr 2 – June 4,  10:15 – 11:45 AM
Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”
“May dreams lead to midsummer madness and a tempest of emotions.  Reality is “Fantasy is Imagination.”…
Facilitated by Compton Rees, English Emeritus, UConn
Tuesdays April 21 – May 5, 1:15 – 2:45
Phenomenology and Existentialism 
Facilitated by UConn professor Jerry Phillips, these four classes examine the philosophies of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. 
Fridays Apr 10 – May 1, 10:15 – 11:45 AM  
Films About Oldies…LikYou and Me
Harry and Tonto, The Butterfly, The Lunchbox, and Away from Her are the four films to be shown and discussed. Facilitated by UConn Emeritus Josef Gugler.
Tuesdays Apr 21 – May 12, 10:15 – noon  
Race in the Post-Racial United States:  From Jim Crow to the New Racism
Facilitated by UConn Professor Matthew Hughey
Monday Apr 27, 10:15 – 11:45
Reflections and Confessions of an Educational Leader
When it comes to meaningful school reform, why must it feel as if we are walking through molasses?
Facilitated by Mark Cohan, Ph.D., author of Reflections and Confessions of an Educational Leader, based on his 35-year career in CT schools
Thursday May 7, 1:15 – 2:45
Mexican Culture, Language and Identity
Measuring identity differences across culture and language is not easy, and self-reporting presents methodological problems.  Three studies that use alternative approaches to self-reports are discussed.
Facilitated by Nairan Ramirez-Esparza, UConn Assistant Professor of Psychology
Thursday May 14, 1:15 – 2:45
Transition and Torture:  All for the Sake of Beauty
To achieve the current fad in beauty, women throughout the centuries have used artificial means, such as the corset.  Even today they continue to abuse their bodies for the sake of beauty.
Facilitated by Laura Crow, Director of Design, UConn Department of Dramatic Arts
Monday May 18, 1:15 – 2:45
Wildlife in Our Backyards
In our rural area we’re fortunate that abundant wildlife surrounds us.  What may surprise you is its diversity and what it is up to when you’re not looking.  ‘Camera traps’ capture hidden animal behaviors going on under our noses.
Facilitated by Kurt Schwenk, UConn Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thursday May 21, 1:15 – 2:45
The Logic of Russian Actions in Ukraine
Since last spring’s Crimean invasion and bloody insurgency in eastern Ukraine, the West has repeatedly rebued and sanctioned Russia.  What explains the behavior of the Russian government?  What is Putin’s rationale?  What, if anything, can resolve this conflict?
Facilitated by Oksan Bayulgen,  UConn Associate Professor of Political Science
Friday, May 22, 10:15 – 11:45
Reiki is gaining popularity as an effective, integrative health modality for stress management and relaxation.  Bette will bring her reiki table and offer the opportunity to experience a mini-reiki session.
Facilitated by Bette Giordana, Director of the Reiki and wellness Center of CT, certified in Japan and USA
Wednesday May 27, 10:15 – 11-45
Alzheimer’s:  Strategies for Caregivers
Her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease led Joyce in a new direction, extending her interest and expertise into the wor4ld of dementia and its toll on caregivers.
Facilited by Joyce Donohoo, M.A., former grief counselor, psychotherapist and lecturer on “Death and Dying.”
Wednesday May 27, 1:15 – 2:45
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Garden Pests
Insects, plant diseases and weeds may threaten our gardens.  To find ways to deal with them that are safe for our families, communities and wildlife, IPM takes a science-based approach using economically and environmentally sound methods.
Facilitated by Donna Ellis, Senior Extension Educator for UConn’s Department of Landscape Architecture
Monday June 1, 10:15 – 11:45
Being a Firefighter / EMT
Fighting fires, saving lives, ongoing training and commitment.
Facilitated by James York, career firefighter in Mansfield
Tuesday June 2, 1:15 – 2:45
American Composer Edward MacDowell
Facilitated by Herb Richardson, pianist and musicologist, who will discuss this important American composer and give a performance.
Wednesday June 1, 10:15 – 11:45