Answering the Call: Cornerstone Introduces Lifelong Learning Institute
by Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18)
According to Mark Tremaine, advancement advisor at Cornerstone University, the decision was a "no-brainer." What is a better way to connect with donors and community members than by offering bog walks with Professor Raymond "Gator" Gates, Irish poetry discussions with Dr. Jason Stevens and lectures on Brexit with Dr. Martin Spence?
The Welch Heritage Institute for Lifelong Learning (WHILL) at Cornerstone began with two separate conversations Tremaine had with individual donors. Both of them expressed their desire to be more involved on Cornerstone's campus and feel a deeper connection to the university.
Those conversations, along with collaboration with Spence, helped launch WHILL in summer 2019 with four, one-class courses taught by Cornerstone faculty. Attendance was strong, but Tremaine hopes to see it get stronger in 2020.
"Those conversations were really an answer to prayer," Tremaine said. "I wanted to create more community amongst our donors and the Welch Heritage Circle."
The Welch Heritage Circle are donors who have included Cornerstone in their estate planning, but WHILL is open to other community members as well. Tremaine sees this as a valuable way for the Welch Heritage Circle to gain visibility.
"Lifelong learning programs are a great way for universities and professors to expand their teaching to new audiences," said Spence, who will be teaching a British constitution class in the summer. "They are fun to teach because they allow professors to offer in-depth or off-beat topics that you don't always have time to explore in regular classes. It makes teaching really enjoyable when people interact and bring their own experience and perspective to the topic."
The classes are designed for alumni, donors and friends of Cornerstone who are 50 years of age or older. In 2020, WHILL courses will be available from January to November and will cover a variety of topics including media literacy, the history of baseball and creativity.
"This has been one of the university's long-term goals," Tremaine added. "The professors get to teach about things they want to teach and their students come with real-world experience."
Community is the main aspect of WHILL, according to Tremaine. Lifelong learning among community members and university donors seemed like a logical next step for the advancement team.
"It is an important part of our university," Tremaine said. "WHILL allows more time for these donors to develop relationships and remain connected to Cornerstone."