The NIU Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI), established in 2000, is a member-directed group of individuals primarily age 55+ 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.

Fall 2024 Classes

The fall 2024 term will run from September 10 through October 31, 2024. LLI will be offered in-person for the fall 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.
  • Note: NIU Retiree Parking Passes are not valid in the Visitors Parking Lot nor AIMS (hourly parking) locations.
  • Non-NIU retirees can purchase a 3-month pass online for $15. This parking pass is specialized for LLI members and valid in the Visitor’s Parking Lot.
  • Alternatively, visitors may purchase a daily pass for $6.00 or $12.00 for the week.

Why Do the Greeks Matter?

Tuesdays, September 10, 17, 24 and October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

As Western civilization comes to grips with challenges to its core values including, of late, the very notion of democracy, it seems opportune to reexamine the debt we owe to the ideals of ancient Greece. We will explore the unique aspects of Greek civilization, and how our modern concepts of science, philosophy, pedagogy, civil liberty and constitutional government substantially derive from it.

Convener: Christopher Nissen is Professor Emeritus of Italian at Northern Illinois University. His previous contributions to the Lifelong Learning Institute have included courses on Venice, Italian Civilization of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and the Art and Literature of European Decadence and Symbolism.


Tuesdays, September 10, 17, 24 and October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
1 to 2:30 p.m.

If you had come to every Notables talk since LLI began, you would have heard over 350 speakers! This fall, we continue the tradition of weekly talks, primarily by NIU faculty, with time for questions.

Among this term’s topics are the art and science of translation, the November 2024 elections, and filming with drones, including intriguing footage of DeKalb County from the air.

Over the years, attendees have found that they always learned something new at Notables, often about a topic that turned out to be surprisingly interesting or relevant in ways of which they weren’t previously aware. So join us every week or occasionally; each week is an independent topic.

Conveners: LLI Notables Committee: Linda Schwarz, Ginny Omerod, Elizabeth Bass.

A Great Time Out on the Prairie

Wednesdays, September 11, 18, 25 and October 2
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Today approximately 2,000 acres of prairie remain in Illinois. Native prairies are exceedingly rare in the Prairie State; in fact, we rank 49th in the U.S. in uncultivated land. It is time for more prairie!

In these four meetings, we will discuss many aspects of Illinois prairies:

• Prairie history and ecology
• Typical plant types and their propagation
• Creating prairie plantings, small to large 
• Prairie gardens: hummingbird, butterfly, rain, etc.
• Maintaining a prairie and seed collecting
• Prairie sites near DeKalb, with a possible field trip

Convener: Michael Haines is retired as director of The National Social Norms Resource Center and a former administrator at the Health Service at NIU. He has created and maintained a 45-acre prairie in northern DeKalb County for over 24 years.

How Elections Work

Wednesdays, October 9, 16, 23, 30
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

This year, we are going to take a close look at the electoral process itself rather than focusing on elections in key states. Since states are the ones that run elections, we’ll take a look at how they differ from one another.

We’ll discuss early, mail-in, and absentee voting; election hours; voter identification laws; and much more, as well as the varying impacts they have on voting experiences and turnouts. We’ll take a look at the historical roots of things like why we vote on Tuesdays. We’ll also check out what we can learn from how elections and voting are done in other countries.

Conveners: Carol Zar and Elizabeth Bass have convened an elections class every fall since 2010. Both are self-declared political junkies who have also led LLI sessions on other topics.

Henry VIII’s Six Wives: Then and Now

Wednesdays, September 11, 18, 25 and October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
1 to 3 p.m.

The hit Broadway musical, Six, has revived interest in the six wives of Henry VIII, King of England from 1509–1547. These women and their children shaped the history of England, and their rich stories continue to fascinate us today. We’ll look at what we know about each of these intriguing women and also how the story of each has been created and recreated through the centuries. They come down through history to us as wives of the monarch, but they were so very much more.

Convener: Lise Schlosser is excited to return to LLI where she has previously led discussion groups on a variety of topics from Medieval English royalty to sensational crimes in early twentieth-century Chicago. Lise has an MA in literature and is currently pursuing a masters in social work.

A War Without End: Understanding the Conflict Between Israel and Palestine

Thursdays, September 12, 19 and October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 (No class 9/26)
9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

For more than seven decades, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have targeted and terrorized ordinary people caught in the crossfire and the air raids and set off shock waves across the middle East. Nearly everyone who follows the news has some opinion about which side is right and which is wrong, yet few of us think that peace will ever come. How did this long struggle begin? When and how will it ever end?

Together, we’ll explore the roots of this conflict, its major milestones, and the ways it’s been remembered and interpreted by Palestinians, Israelis, and the great powers. We’ll compare the dueling narratives of Israeli and Palestinian nationalism, which combine tales of suffering, redemption, and victimhood.

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.

Psychedelics & Spirituality

Thursdays, September 12, 19, 26 and October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
1 to 3 p.m.

What are the religious and spiritual implications of psychedelics? Do drugs have religious import? What about mystical experiences? These are among the issues this class will consider. Convener Tom Roberts has edited a book on the topic, based on an academic/religious retreat sponsored by the Chicago Theological Seminary. He’s looking forward to more lively discussions, this time with fellow LLI members.

From time to time, Tom will recommend online videos. If you‘re curious, here’s a good 51-minute warmup video for background: Science and Sacraments: Psychedelic Research and Mystical Experiences. You can scroll down to find it from a list.

Convener: Tom Roberts is editor or author of scholarly psychedelic books on medicine, religion, intellectual development, and psychedelic policy. He taught the world’s first psychedelic course at an accredited university, an Honors Program seminar at NIU.  Tom is a retired NIU professor.


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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