No Grades, No Problem

  • Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

Osher, MU Arts & Science collaborate on ‘potpourri’ course.

COLUMBIA, Mo.— The students let out a surprised chuckle when Amanda Rose revealed that among CEOs of S&P 1500 companies, women are not just outnumbered by men, they are outnumbered just by the men who are named John.

It was just one of many interesting statistics Rose presented during “Gaslighting Women at Work and Home,” a recent class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

“It was a pleasure to speak at Osher to a group with such great life experience,” said Rose, a psychological sciences researcher at MU. “Their sharing their experiences helps me to better understand (my) work in a broader context.”

Those students with life experience are adults over 50 looking to foster friendships and keep their brains active through Osher’s educational courses.

Rose’s class was the last of eight sessions of the MU College of Arts and Science fall “potpourri” course. Each Monday, different MU faculty members brought students up to date on the latest research in their fields. Topics ranged from archaeology at Pompeii to the presidential debates and early African-American literature.

The potpourri started two years ago as the brainchild of Patricia Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science, and Helen Washburn, who was chair of Osher’s advisory council at the time. Okker had previously taught a class for Osher, and her enthusiasm got Washburn and Osher program committee chair Carolyn Dye on board.

Dye said the collaboration made sense to both the college and Osher because both are committed to lifelong learning. “It’s the essence of what we’re about,” she said.

Osher relies on volunteer instructors to teach a myriad of classes throughout its semesters. Most instructors are current or retired university faculty. Dye’s committee works with the Osher staff to put together the schedule of courses on a variety of topics. Science, music, literature and history fit right in with more skills-based classes on financial planning, travel tips and mahjong.

While Osher members are no strangers to top-notch lecturers, this particular collaboration is unique. The Arts and Science faculty members joke that it’s because of the eager audience of students who love learning for its own sake without the pressure of grades.

Heather Hennkens, an assistant professor of chemistry, taught the first class of the potpourri and noticed the difference. “I just loved how engaged the class members were, especially given the diversity in their backgrounds and experiences,” she said.

“Our collaboration with the College of Arts and Science is a great example of how the Osher program stays on the cutting edge,” said Jennifer Erickson, senior coordinator of [email protected] Erickson has found that Osher members would rather learn about the latest academic research and societal advancements than topics traditionally taught in adult education classes.

“There’s a wealth of research, teaching and engagement happening every day at MU,” Erickson said. “We love that these professors are open to sharing their current academic pursuits with the Osher learners.”

About [email protected]

Osher is an MU Extension program for members seeking to build a community of lifelong learners. Students take classes, join clubs and attend events—all for the sheer joy of learning. Osher offers more than 75 non-credit courses over four semesters each academic year for mid-Missourians ages 50-plus. For more information, visit

Registration for the winter semester opens in early January.

Photos available for this release
MU psychology researcher Amanda Rose illustrates the low percentage of women among S&P 1500 CEOs during her Oct. 28 class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Osher member Sandy Davidson talks with Amanda Rose after her Oct. 28 class at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Osher senior coordinator Jennifer Erickson introduces Heather Hennkens, MU assistant professor of chemistry, during the College of Arts and Science Potpourri.
Osher members listen to Heather Hennkens’ presentation on radioisotopes during her Sept. 9 College of Arts and Science Potpourri class.

Writer: Katherine Stevenson

Media Contact

Jennifer Erickson

Use Tab key to loop through the section bellow. Press Enter or Space to enter content for each tab button. Press Esc key to exit and to go to the next section at any time.

Related resources