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Off-base analysis of UI LEAP

BY GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 01, 2011 7:10 AM

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A Jan. 25 editorial provided an interesting review of the University of Iowa’s nontraditional Lifetime Enrichment Adult Program (UI LEAP) — except for a significant flaw.

The flaw is that the DI Editorial Board apparently misunderstands the program and its mission. If UI LEAP operated as the DI editorial suggests, it would be redundant, duplicating the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools as well as online degrees through the Division of Continuing Education.

UI LEAP’s concept, as the name indicates, is to provide a variety of offerings to enrich experiences and expand understanding for people seeking fulfillment over the second half of their lives.

Some of the program’s courses involve rigorous academic learning, and many others focus on a broad range of life-enriching and enhancing courses, sessions, and activities. Course offerings are marketed yearly for the fall, spring, and summer semesters to our more than 500 members who work full- or part-time or are retired.

The editorial highlighted two of LEAP’s new spring courses and events — Lunch with Medical Students and Why are Legislatures So Unpopular? — as examples of offerings termed too “rudimentary.”

Actually, they’re representative of LEAP’s programming designed to explore contemporary issues, discover new interests, and find pathways to civic engagement, as well as providing intellectual stimulation and growth.

By intention, UI LEAP doesn’t duplicate the academic rigor and objectives of the UI’s course work in degree-granting programs.

In addition to what we view as a misunderstanding of LEAP’s objective, we express at least modest concerns that the editorial misrepresents people participating in the program by describing them as being in their “twilight” years. To the contrary, they’re a diverse group of vigorous people ranging from their 50s to much older. Many are in the process of looking forward to the next 30 or 40 years of their lives.

As Virginia Jorstad, the director and educational coordinator in the UI Center on Aging, explains it, “Individuals of retirement age fair better when they participate in intellectual engagement and social networking, both objectives of UI LEAP.” She noted that courses and trips are developed with input from our Curriculum Committee, program members, and requests from the community at large.

Our spring semester offers 25 courses and activities. This course guide, mailed out earlier this month, has resulted in 75 percent of our courses and activities reaching maximum enrollment with the need to add a second class session to several activities to meet our enrollment demand.

As the Editorial Board of one of the nation’s premier college and university student newspapers, and an outstanding daily newspaper on its own, we’re disappointed that the Jan. 25 editorial failed to provide a more informed and reasoned review of the increasingly popular UI LEAP.

Sam Becker is the president ofUI LEAP and a professor emeritusof communication studies.
Bonnie Slatton is the vice president of UI LEAP and a professor ofhealth and sport studies.
Bob Elliott is a past presidentof UI LEAP.


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