Message from our new President
Dear Senior College Members and Friends,
When I moved to Belfast five years ago I met a woman in a water aerobics class at the Y who not only recommended an excellent spot to get a haircut but also suggested I take a look at the website of Senior College Belfast. At home that evening, following her advice, I read about a number of interesting classes beginning the next month. Intrigued, I promptly joined and registered for two classes. Since that time I have either taken classes or taught and believe that the hours I spend at Senior College are stimulating, educational, and fun. Through Senior College I have made friends, developed new interests, and most importantly made to feel welcome in my new home. My experience is not unique and is one of the reasons that Senior College has helped build community in Belfast.
Covid 19 has brought challenges and changes to every facet of our lives. We all miss the weekly Thursday’s at the Hutchinson Center which have become virtual classes held via Zoom. Some days I find Zoom exhaustion sets in but then the next day I anxiously sign into a class or meeting to see the familiar faces of friends and fellow members. We have learned that Zoom is an acceptable substitute but one which we hope will become a mere adjunct to our face-to-face classes. We will continue planning Zoom courses until such time that we can safely return to the Hutch, greet one another, and share friendly conversation, coffee, tea, and cookies!
As the newly elected president of Senior College Belfast I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of a very distinguished group of individuals who worked collectively to assure this unique enterprise remained viable. All of us on the Board of Trustees will do our best to live up to the legacy of the founders and leaders of the past 20 years. With your help, support, and presence we will succeed. Following are comments and thoughts from the officers and leadership of the organization. Please do not hesitate to share any thoughts, ideas, or concerns you may have. We want to hear from you and urge you to keep in touch. In the meantime we will hope to see you on Zoom.
Stay safe, healthy, and engaged.
Comments and Thoughts …
Martha Laitin, Vice President
I have been missing the Thursday drives to our Hutch campus, the cookie breaks, and the familiar faces and interesting conversations during class sessions. The relationships we’ve formed earlier have made our current Zoom encounters more engaging, I think. It will be a real treat to see everyone once again. Let’s stay connected, with written words and virtual classes until that time.
Elisabeth Pollack, Office Manager
As you know, my main Senior College responsibility has been with the office which we are fortunate to have at the Hutchinson Center. With the HC closed, and no in-person classes, it has been a relatively quiet few months. Hopefully we will be able to open again (maybe Spring?) and I can go back to the usually chaotic Thursdays, with the help of the ever cheerful volunteers.
The efforts of the Board and the Curriculum Committee have been heroic throughout this pandemic, and we appreciate the great efforts of all to keep Senior College “healthy,” while maintaining social distance!
Rebecca Jessup, Secretary
I have been on the SC board for a few years now, and no previous year has been as challenging as 2020. Because of the pandemic, we had to cancel the entire Spring Semester, and adjust to offering classes by Zoom. We had to abandon in-person board meetings. Most of us have not seen each other in person for eight months! Nevertheless, Senior College goes on. The number and diversity of classes continues to be wonderful in their variety and in the excellence of our instructors, as well as the enthusiasm of our students. One advantage to our virtual life is that we can expand our reach to members of all the other SCs in Maine! We all miss live classes, and even more we miss coffee and cookies and the chance to mingle during breaks. The Hutchinson Center staff miss our lively presence. I hope we’ll be able to resume that happy tradition this year, but I suspect that Zoom teaching will be a permanent part of our curriculum going forward. We started using Zoom out of a kind of desperation, but it has proven to be a blessing and benefit to Senior College and our students.
Deirdre Good, Chair, Curriculum Committee
To me, Senior College is one of Belfast’s great assets, and one of the joys of my life in retirement as a life-long teacher of graduate students. I will never forget my first experience of the buzzing conversations in the Hutchinson Center atrium one Thursday September morning between classes. Behind the conversations in that setting lies a dedicated network of volunteer committee members, professional staff, and teachers. Senior College personnel are also charismatic evangelists: I learnt of the wonderful possibilities of state-wide offerings on a platform waiting for a Boston train in a chance conversation with a volunteer at Midcoast Senior College. Our nimble Senior College Belfast teachers, staff, and committee members have worked hard this year to make a fascinating array of well-taught courses available online, combating social isolation in a pandemic. Our course registrants and teachers have embraced, with courage and zest, challenges of online learning including Zoom bombing, older laptops, and slow internet speeds. On-line teaching creates an even wider reach, and I am confident you will see this in our future course offerings.
Brenda Smith, Treasurer
Being the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee means that I need to keep an eye on the financial health of the Senior College. We entered the pandemic in a very healthy position with cash reserves enough to last for at least a few years into the future. We weren’t sure at first whether we’d be able to even keep the Senior College operating due to health concerns. But with some creativity and the awesome power of Zoom technology we are actually thriving. The current year budget that Nancy Perkins and I put together using a considerable amount of guesswork has been exceeded for the fall semester and will need to be reworked upward for winter and spring.
I think we have the potential for growth even in the middle of this lockdown because members of the Senior College network are just starting to experiment with taking virtual classes from other colleges in the network. As a member of Belfast Senior College you are eligible to take classes at any of the 17 Senior Colleges throughout Maine. This fall I am taking a wonderful course in Writing Life Stories from the South Coast Senior College. My personal goal for this year is to finish designing and to teach a writing class on making memorable stories by influencing the neural networks of the brain for the Belfast Senior College. But already some of my classmates from the South Coast College have expressed interest in taking my class when it is offered. So I think that we are actively able to provide a much larger offering of courses across the Senior College Network that isn’t possible with just face to face classes. I expect that in Belfast we will offer hybrid classes combining face to face participants with virtual classmates once we are safely past the virus. This means that our senior college will continue to prosper and meet and hopefully exceed the needs of our members.
2020-2021 Senior College Board Members
Engaging Your Critical Thinking Skills
Just sharing another FHC professional development program that might prove interesting to Senior College folks, especially with all that is going on in the world right now! As always, we have need-based scholarship funds available for participants in Waldo and Knox County.
Engaging Your Critical Thinking Skills promises to be a very timely and relevant program. The unofficial tagline is: “How to talk to people with opposing viewpoints without losing your cool.” (Seems like a skill that could come in handy!)