Lifelong Learning that Never Grows Old
PLATO is a community of intellectually curious adults, typically 50 and over, which explores subjects of interest through member-led discussion groups, lectures, travel, and cultural activities. “Really, the name of the organization summarizes us nicely,” Kathy Brown, PLATO Board President, explains. “Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization–each of those words has meaning and value.”
As of this past fall, PLATO’s office can be found on the Oakwood Village University Woods campus, on the second floor of the Tower building. This is convenient for the many Oakwood residents who are PLATO members, and it also builds on the longtime relationship between the two organizations.
“There is a strong natural connection between Oakwood and PLATO,” Kathy says. “Both organizations have a commitment to individual wellbeing and keeping people engaged.”
The partnership between Oakwood and PLATO began years ago when Oakwood Village University Woods became a host location for PLATO classes. That relationship grew when Prairie Ridge began hosting courses. While PLATO also offers classes at other locations such as the Madison Senior Center and Capitol Lakes, four classes are currently being offered at Oakwood Village University Woods this spring semester. PLATO has strengthened the partnership further by moving its office onto campus.
Kathy, who is also a member of SAIL, credits AgeBetter Executive Director Ann Albert with connecting her to Oakwood Management when PLATO needed to find a new office.
“Relocating our office to Oakwood has been a very positive experience for us,” Kathy says. “This is a very friendly and welcoming community. It’s a beautiful campus in a convenient location. There’s plenty of parking and our office space is larger. We’re close to the Oakwood life enrichment staff, so we can schedule programs and reserve rooms easily.” PLATO currently has around 1,000 members who pay a $60 annual fee to access an amazing array of classes, lectures, and other special events.
Members can participate however they choose. There is a volunteer spirit and so many opportunities to get involved.
There are 40 courses being offered this spring alone, which cover topics such as film history, environmental sustainability, jazz, and philosophy. Classes are offered in virtual, in-person, and hybrid settings, and members can also attend events such as theater trips and breakfast gatherings throughout the year. To keep track of all the opportunities available, members receive weekly emails about upcoming activities and other topics of interest.
Just as important are opportunities for members to contribute to the organization with their time and knowledge, whether through joining a committee, teaching a class, helping to organize trips, or sharing their talent in the Agora, a juried literary magazine featuring original writing and art by PLATO members. PLATO also gives back to the community through an Education Fund that supports educational opportunities for low-income youth and adult students.
“It’s very easy to get involved,” Kathy says. “Not only are there great courses to take advantage of, but members can join discussion groups, one-time lectures, writing, and art classes; not to mention all the teaching opportunities.”
While Kathy serves as Board President, her experience as a PLATO member is common.
“I’m a teacher by background; I taught at the high school and college level and in the business community,” Kathy shares. “I joined PLATO in 2014 because I really value the concept of lifelong learning. My first course was current events, and I was immediately hooked. What I quickly discovered is that PLATO is also a great way to meet people.”
Members of PLATO will meet many more Oakwood residents and staff as the partnership between the two organizations grows. When Kathy describes the many benefits of her organization, it’s difficult to tell whether she is describing PLATO or Oakwood Village.
“Our tagline is ‘where love of learning never gets old,’” Kathy explains. “Members can participate however they choose. There is a volunteer spirit among our members and so many opportunities to get involved. We’ve been adaptable too; we’ve needed to evolve with the pandemic just as others have, but we’ve maintained our focus on keeping people with a love of learning connected.”
Kathy encourages others to explore everything a PLATO membership has to offer. “My experience with PLATO has truly enriched my life.”
To learn more about PLATO, visit www.platomadison.org, email email@example.com, or call (608) 572-6869.