University offers new program for baby boomers

Participants take classes in the fall and have an internship in the spring.

by Helen Sabrowsky

A new University of Minnesota program aims to bring baby boomers back to school.

In its inaugural year, the University’s Advanced Careers program allows ten fellows aged 55 and up to take classes at the University this semester and participate in an internship this spring. Organizers say the program’s focus is to help baby boomers interested in nonprofit work transition to careers. 

The program is less focused on teaching participants new skills, but rather on helping fellows use their skills in new ways as volunteers or nonprofit employees, said program organizer Kate Schaefers.

Fellows are required to take one class for the program, but are encouraged to audit and enroll in other classes, Schaefers said.

UMAC fellow Michele Eggenberger said while she was apprehensive about being in sociology and public policy classes with undergraduates, her college-age peers have been welcoming. And this semester, Eggenberger’s two daughters also attend the University. 

“There are a lot of similarities between my experience and my daughters’,” she said.

Harvard University and Stanford University also have programs that bring older adults back to school. The University of Minnesota looked to these for inspiration, and combined some aspects of both in the nine-month program, Schaefers said.

One of UMAC’s goals is to create a model that is easily replicable at other public universities, said program founder Phyllis Moen. Organizers also aimed to make the program affordable for many who want to participate. 

Moen said she hopes the program and others like it will “challenge the typical clocks and calendars of when people are supposed to get an education.”