The NIU Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI), established in 2000, is a member-directed group of individuals primarily age 50+ who enjoy learning in informal, flexible, non-competitive groups and like connecting with peers who share their interests. No grades, no tests – just learning for the fun of it.

Our LLI is open to everyone, whatever your level of education or background. All you need is a sense of curiosity and a love of learning. Volunteers lead classes during each term and may be members or non-members.

  • Members enjoy learning, sharing experiences and making new friends in LLI’s wide variety of study groups. Typical topic areas including history, music, science, politics, movies, travel and more.
  • Each semester fee entitles you to attend as many study groups as you wish during the term; it’s an all-you-can-learn buffet.

Spring 2024 Classes

The spring 2024 term will run from March 19 through May 9, 2024. LLI will be offered in-person for the spring 2024 term.

Courses will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons for 8 weeks. Participants will receive email communications about course information each week.


All parking passes can be purchased at Parking offers a variety of options for LLI attendees:

  • NIU retirees can purchase an annual parking pass for $10. When purchasing a parking pass online, be sure to select Retiree Permits.
  • Non-NIU retirees can purchase a 3-month pass online.
  • Alternatively, visitors may purchase a daily pass for $6.00 or $12.00 for the week.

Press Censorship, Language and Propaganda: Journalism in the Third Reich

Tuesdays, March 19, 26 and April 2, 9
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The Nazis used “language Instruction” (Sprachregelungen) to influence German press publications after 1933. These secret instructions were provided to a select group of journalists, who then spread them throughout the German press with the warning that they were to share their notes only with trusted colleagues and destroy them regularly. These practices have been studied extensively by the Jewish philologist Viktor Klemperer, cousin to both the conductor Otto Klemperer and American actor Werner Klemperer (better known as Colonel Klink from the sixties TV show Hogan’s Heroes). With an emphasis on Klemperer’s writings, we will look at examples of these press instructions in translation, as well as how they were reflected in the newspapers of the period.

Convener: J. Katharina Barbe, associate professor emerita and former chair of NIU foreign languages, was the co-editor and a contributor for Modern Germany in the series Understanding Modern Nations.

Italian Language Lessons For Travelers

Tuesdays, April 16, 23, 30 and May 7
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Although Italians involved in the tourist industry often know basic English, especially in such popular destinations as Florence, Venice, and Rome, that is certainly not the case in every situation you will encounter in this fascinating country. In our workshop, participants will learn how to pronounce Italian, introduce themselves, and enhance their experiences in cafes, restaurants, hotels, and shops. Reading from store signs and menus provided on PowerPoint, everyone will become adept at purchasing items, ordering meals, paying the bill, and handling pesky Italian waiters without having to resort to English. Italians typically expect that American tourists have never studied their language; here’s your chance to make a big impression!

Convener: Christopher Nissen is professor emeritus of Italian at NIU. His previous contributions to the Lifelong Learning Institute have included sessions on Venice and Italian civilization of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Wonderment: An Exploration through Poetry

Tuesdays, March 19, 26 and April 2, 9, 16
1 to 3 p.m.

Over the last several decades, people studying wellness have found that daily doses of wonder can do a lot to improve our everyday lives and lift us out of depression, worry and loneliness. For some of us, though, that sense of enchantment – so natural when we were children – has become more and more difficult to find.

In this study group, we’ll look at easily accessible poems that try to capture or trigger our experience of wonder. What is wonder, anyway? When, where and why does it catch us by surprise, and are there ways we can better seek it out in days to come? As we talk about poems, perhaps we’ll be prompted to share more of our own wonder-filled moments and insights.

Convener: Joe Gastiger was pastor at the First Congregational Church, UCC, in DeKalb for almost twenty years before retiring in 2020. Prior to ministry, he taught English classes at NIU and coordinated the University Honors Program. These days, he serves on the LLI Curriculum Committee and chairs the Steering Committee. Joe has led more than a dozen study groups for LLI and has published four books of poetry.

This Land Is Our Land: America’s National Parks Carved By Ice

Wednesdays, March 20, 27 and April 3, 10
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Erosion, the great equalizer, perpetually wears down the land with the forces of wind and water, but the greatest erosive force on the planet is ice, specifically glacial ice. When more snow falls in the winter than melts in the summer, that snow accumulates and compresses, forming glacial ice, ice that moves over the land reshaping it often with variations beyond our imaginations. Glaciers can even move boulders the size of small houses relocating them miles from their origin. 

We begin our examination, exploration and discussion with a brief overview of the geology of the Earth’s Ice Ages and the history of America’s national parks, concentrating on those carved by ice. We will focus on Yosemite, the crown jewel and my fave. We will then traverse the continent with glimpses at Acadia, Isle Royale, Voyageurs, Glacier and North Cascades national parks. Then north to Alaska to visit Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks. The beauty of these national parks will warm your heart.

Convener: Linda Fulton is a retired middle-school teacher with a lifelong interest in the natural wonders and beauty of our world. She has led many LLI classes on our national parks and monuments.

Mystery of Sound & Ritual: Tone Bowls and Chanting

Wednesdays, April 17, 24 and May 1, 8
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

COVID-19 has presented us with challenges most of us never anticipated, including isolation, social awkwardness and depression. This class will explore personal opportunities for development using creative ways to meditate and to promote positive thinking, spiritual connection and emotional support.

The sessions will be interactive and focus on the use of meditative expressions such as chanting, sound and the use of crystal and metal tone bowls. It will offer suggestions on how to use ritual and positive mindset strategies to help build harmony and explore dissonance. We will examine the resolution of stress and process the effects of sound and vocal exercises to deepen and calm the mind and spirit.

Conveners: Rev. Linda Slabon is the minister emerita of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of DeKalb and is an affiliated community minister with the UU Church of Rockford. Linda serves as a board member on the Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois and maintains a small private practice as a clinical social worker.

Toni Tollerud is a Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita of the College of Education at NIU. She serves as president of the NIU Annuitants Board, and she leads statewide seminars on supervision and trauma. For 26 years Toni served as music and choir director at the UU Congregation of DeKalb.


Wednesdays, March 20, 27, April 3, 10, 17 and May 1, 8
1 to 2:45 p.m.

Since our beginning, over 20 years ago, the LLI has offered Notables, weekly talks by experts, most often NIU faculty. We continue the series this spring with topics including reevaluating Thomas Jefferson, the economics of immigration, railroads in World War II and more. A full schedule of topics and speakers will be available later. LLI Members often have found that topics that seemed of minor interest turned out to be intriguing. As always, we include plenty of time to ask questions.

March 20
How do we judge heroes from the past in light of today’s values? Should we? Professor Kerry Burch, from the NIU Dept. of Leadership, Educational Psychology & Foundations, will speak on Making Education Out of Jefferson in an Age of Racial Reckoning.

March 27
We are more aware of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders than ever before. NIU psychology professor Doug Wallace talks about Saving the Brain: Approaches to Preserving Neuroplasticity, what happens to the brain during diseases and possible therapeutics.

April 3 (On Zoom)
Stories about immigrants and their impact on the U.S. economy fill the media. Cornell University Professor Francine Roth, speaking on Immigration & the Economy: Impacts and Trends, will clearly explain, with lots of good graphics, why immigration, historically and today, has had a positive effect on economic growth.

April 10
Invasive species are plant and animal immigrants that often are unwelcome and are an issue world-wide. You’ll hear about Invasive Species Both Near and Far: A Peek into the Science of Studying Invasive Species from the Great Lakes to the Galapagos from NIU biological sciences professor Jennifer Koop.

April 17
World War II saw a major increase in rail traffic as trains, in addition to their usual loads, were used to move service people and war materiel around, not only in U.S. but throughout war zones. Bill Cummings, a railroad enthusiast and an emeritus professor in NIU’s accountancy department, will speak on Railroads in World War II.

April 24
Is Carl Sandburg, one of the 20th century’s best known U.S. authors relevant today? Steven Duchrow. formerly NIU Director of Cultural Arts and then Senior Director of Performing Arts at Elgin Community College, will answer this question with stories about Sandburg and excerpts from Duchrow’s work on him in Carl Sandburg: Poet of the People.

May 1

May 8
Cultural anthropologist Micah Morton holds joint appointments in NIU’s anthropology department and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Among his interests are religious and spiritual ecologies. He will talk to us on The Art of Living & Dying: A Cross-Cultural Perspective.

The Lincoln Assassination Circle: Who’s Who in Autographs, Paper Ephemera and Documents

Thursdays, March 21, 28 and April 4, 11
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

This class uses authentic period items to introduce you to some of the witnesses, conspirators, military personnel, and grievers who were key figures in the midst of and in close proximity to the Lincoln assassination. Except for a trip to Ford’s Theater, this is as close as you’ll get to the actual event.

Convener: LLI veteran Al Ottens, NIU professor emeritus of counselor education and supervision is a past president of The Manuscript Society and author of the award-winning biography, General John A. Rawlins: No Ordinary Man, published by Indiana University Press.

Birthing the Word: NIU Libraries Plans for a Book Lab

Thursday, April 18
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Although labs are common in the sciences, the humanities rarely provide spaces for researching and learning about physical materials and technology.  Responding to that lack, NIU Libraries is planning to build a book lab enabling faculty, students, and community members to gain a historical understanding of various technologies of text production from medieval manuscripts to current digitization. Our lab would join about twenty university labs nationwide and represents an increased scholarly interest in the interdisciplinary study history of the book. Let me tell you about other labs, the plans for NIU’s lab and how all of this fits with NIU’s history!

Convener: Beth McGowan is the current Curator of NIU Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections. She holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Comparative Literature with a focus on the Renaissance and an MLIS from University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Unmasking Clayton Moore: The Evolution of TV’s Lone Ranger

Thursdays, March 21, 28 and April 4, 11
1 to 3 p.m.

Return to the thrilling days of yesteryear. Hi-Yo, Silver! The class focuses on the Moore era of the masked man from 1949-57 in comics, television and movies. Early TV episodes, the full-length Lone Ranger movie from 1956, and a rare interview with daughter Dawn Moore will be shown.

Convener: Mike Korcek was inducted into the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999, plus the NIU Athletics HOF in 2003. The 1970 NIU grad was the recipient of NIU’s Outstanding Service Award in 1989 and the Donald R. Grubb NIU Journalism Alumnus of the Year Award in 1998.


Attendance for any or all LLI programs this season is $85.00 per person.


Contact Us

Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI)
Monat Building
148 N 3rd St.
DeKalb, IL 60115

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