When current program director
Ruth Burnham volunteered to help
develop BILL, she knew there would
be interest but didn’t anticipate the
growth of such a strong community.
315 courses in subjects ranging from
A Vibrant Learning Community
international relations to art history,
and enrolled more than 1,200 mem-
bers from across the region. Now, she
and coordinator Anne Smith work to
offer Tea & Talk and Lunch & Learn
events in addition to three- to six-
week courses and periodic bus trips.
At the request of members, they
added summer courses for the first
time this year.
“It’s fascinating to watch the value
of this program increase in ways that
we really didn’t expect,” says Smith.
She and Burnham have a trove of
stories about how the BILL commu-
nity has developed by embracing and
challenging individuals and creating
bridges between Bucknell and the
region. Classes take place at venues
The Bucknell Institute for Lifelong Learning challenges
and connects local residents
By Paula Cogan Myers
Professor Roger Rothman, art & art history, leads a BILL tour of the Met in NYC. L E W
here is a palpable feeling of excitement across campus when Bucknell classes start
each semester. Since 2009, a similar energy has reverberated among another set of
students in the area — members of the Bucknell Institute for Lifelong Learning (BILL).
such as the public library, senior
living communities, local businesses
and government offices.
“The piece we did not anticipate at
the start was the personal benefit to
so many,” says Burnham. From members who have found new meaning
and connections after losing a spouse
to those who form discussion groups
to extend classroom learning, Burnham says BILL has brought together
members and dedicated volunteers
from ages 12 to over 90. Much of
that commitment stems from motivation for learning, as members become
instructors and subject choices
emerge from community interests.
“Part of what is special about BILL
courses is students’ motivation,” says
retired Bucknell psychology professor
Genie Gerdes. “BILL students’ intrinsic interest brings them to each course
and keeps them engaged. They bring
their own backgrounds and expertise
into discussions and find material on
their own to share with other students.
I’ve seen this in BILL courses where
“BILL students’ intrinsic
interest brings them to
each course and keeps them
engaged. They bring their
own backgrounds and
expertise into discussions and
find material on their own to
share with other students.”
— GENIE GERDES