Clark College classes focus on joy of ‘Lifelong Learning’

New program offers homework-free night courses for dedicated learners




Tracy Reilly Kelly, Welcoming "intoxicating students"

Clark College’s new Lifelong Learning program is tearing down the barriers to adult education.

That means no busy work, no pop quizzes, no grades, no stress.

“Just the wonderful part of education: the learning, the storytelling,” said Tracy Reilly Kelly, manager of Clark College’s Mature Learning program.

Lifelong Learning, starting its first set of weekly night classes Tuesday, grew from a demand for more courses that cater to nontraditional students, specifically older working people with a never-ending thirst for knowledge.

An audience like that is a teacher’s dream, Kelly said. Those students don’t need to fulfill graduation requirements or gain a technical skill to land a job — they cheerfully take their seats for “the joy of it.”

“They are intoxicating students for the instructor,” she said.

The Lifelong Learning curriculum is meant to dig deeper than your average History 101 or Introduction to Religion. The first two topics offered are “Ireland’s History: Famine to the Troubles” and “History of Mystery Fiction.” Coming up are classes on West Africa and political cartoons.

Lifelong Learning is similar to the long-running Mature Learning program but meant for anyone interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, not only those in their retirement years.

“I’m hoping that there will be a great diversity of ages,” Kelly said.

After teaching a few fulfilling Mature Learning courses, instructor Aaron Whelchel gladly signed on to help kick off Lifelong Learning with his class on Ireland from 1800 to now.

“One of the things that attracted me to it was I had a lot of latitude in choosing what I wanted to teach,” said the Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver adjunct history professor. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Apart from the educational opportunities, Kelly said, the classes can also be an enriching experience for folks who find it difficult to connect with other intelligent people while stuck in life’s daily grind.

“People are lonely,” Kelly said. “They are both stretched and feel like they don’t have any time, and yet, they are also yearning for the opportunity to talk to interesting people.”