Volunteering and Neuroplasticity Workshops

“My motive in taking the winter 2014 OLLI class on neuroplasticity and volunteering called “each one teach one” was to instigate a change in my life. I had finished an 8-year volunteer job that was arts-oriented. I wanted to do something more directly people-oriented. Through Amelia Barili’s OLLI course, I learned of different options and how to apply. I chose the English In Action program run through the YWCA because it offered scheduling flexibility and complemented my interest in foreign travel. I picked a partner for English conversation who could meet me downtown after OLLI classes. The support structure supplied by Amelia, the course material and classmates was crucial; it all helped me overcome inertia and actually take action.
My partner was a 46-year‐old published novelist from Seoul, Korea who had won a six-month fellowship to study at Berkeley. I expected that I would learn about Korea, and help her with English. Instead, I learned about my own values, culture and lifestyle. A writer’s life is introspective, so she wanted to know how others live. What do I do all day? Why is Berkeley so liberal? Why is it more so than Stanford? What makes this area different from Iowa City where she had attended a writer’s conference? Why do rich people give their money away to different causes? Her questions were refreshing and made me think.

We were both changed by our time together. She was surprised to discover elders living rich fulfilling lives, taking classes at OLLI, riding bicycles, volunteering, etc. It gave her a new vision for how life could be after retirement. I was changed by her probing, unexpected questions, and looking at my life through her eyes. I am grateful for the experience provided by the class, and ongoing contact with classmates through the interest group.
The positive experience led me to take on a new commitment this fall: being hosts to students living at International House. This time, my husband joined in. We were assigned a 28-year-old man from Korea studying economics and a 21-year-old woman from China who studies engineering in Tokyo. The young man returned home in December, but the young woman is still here. She will be interning this summer with Habitat for Humanity and living in our house with us. More learning and neuroplasticity awaits!” –Jane Neilson. 2014

“In January 2014, I took Amelia Barili’s OLLI Course on Neuroplasticity and the Art of Volunteering.  This course was unique and a life changing experience for me.  After retiring from a career in community mental health, working for over 30 years as director of a program for adults with major mental illness, mainly schizophrenia, I was interested in expanding my knowledge of clinical applications in the field of neuroscience, a discipline that has developed since I studied psychology over 50 years ago.  Also, I was interested in finding new volunteer opportunities in the community that would utilize my clinical social work skills, as well as challenge me in new directions.

Dr. Barili’s innovative and stimulating class exposed her students to the academic and research literature on neuroplasticity.   The class lectures and bibliography (both books and videos) introduced me to the prominent experts in neuropsychology.  Her class inspired me to continue my studies in neuroscience in the Department of Psychology. And I even got to be a control subject in a neuroscience study at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.” — OLLI Neuroplasticity Student. 2013/14

“Volunteering has been a part of my life for over 30 years in many different forms, but Dr. Barili’s course on Neuroplasticity and Volunteering and her work on integrating service learning as an educational tool, has had great influence on not only the recipient of my volunteer work but the benefit to my personal well being and in turn, that of my community as well.
The impact of service learning can not really be described in words; to integrate service learning throughout a general course curriculum takes the learning experience from a two dimensional writing and speaking experience to a third level of understanding and perception; and by more that just the student:  by the volunteer, by the recipient whether another student, family, or organization, and by the community at large for the increased awareness of the ties that hold us together.” –Debbie V. 2014