MTSU Lifelong Learning Program continues to grow, educate community

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- After having such a good time at last year's Lifelong Learning Program at MTSU, retiree Donna Tuma returned this year with husband Robert for another series of informative educational sessions about a wide variety of topics.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about all different kinds of subjects," said Tuma, a retired Murfreesboro City Schools teacher who is joining dozens of other community participants for this year's series.

The College of Liberal Arts holds the community outreach program on consecutive Mondays in May. Finishing up its second week and now in its fifth year, Lifelong Learning offers curious adults 50 years and older an opportunity to expand their knowledge about a variety of topics, but without homework and quizzes.

"The professors, I'm just amazed at how much they know. They really know what they're talking about," Tuma continued. "They make their presentations so interesting and fun."

Held at the Sam Ingram Building's MT Center, this year's sessions included: "How to Solve a Crime Part 2" by Tiffany Saul, a research assistant professor with the MTSU Forensic Institute for Research and Education, or FIRE; "The Lost Art of Listening" by Janet McCormick, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies; and "Trail of Tears Indian Removal in Tennessee" by Ashley Riley Sousa, assistant professor in the Department of History.

Tuma and her husband, a retired EMT physician, attended Part 1 of Saul's crime-solving course last year, so "we knew we were going to take that one," she said. While Robert can only attend Saul's early session because of volunteer obligations, his wife is taking advantage of all three courses and was impressed with McCormick's first session on listening skills.

"Listening is the No. 1 skill in demand by employers," McCormick told the May 6 class, explaining how employers have transitioned from seeking those with people skills to interpersonal skills to leadership skills to now, listening skills, according to a Forbes magazine report.

At one point of her presentation, the MTSU professor held up a button that displayed the Chinese symbol for listening that illustrated a "holistic nature of listening" -- ears, eyes, hearts and minds. She then held up the Chinese symbol of the Yin Yang -- to illustrate the need for "a speaking and listening balance" -- before distributing handouts that complemented her lesson as the students busily took notes.

"It's a dynamic process and we want to improve both of those skill sets," she said.

"She's really a hands-on teacher," Tuma said afterward, referring to McCormick. "You hate for (all of) the classes to be over because they're so good."

Tuma says she looks forward to Mondays and wishes the program was held twice a year. The convenient course location at the MT Center inside the Ingram Building off Middle Tennessee Boulevard means convenient parking and a comfortable environment.

College of Liberal Arts events coordinator Connie Huddleston said this year's group of participants is the largest ever and she expects the program to continue to grow. Cost is only $20 per course.

"The courses are for those that want to continue to learn, without test or homework. Too, this is a way to learn more about our state and what our university has to offer," Huddleston said. "If you didn't get a chance to attend this year, we will be back next May with three new courses."

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