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Lifelong learning opportunities abound at Nicolet College

Jan. 17, 2014

Northern Wisconsin is rich with retirees. Some relocated here following their careers while others have spent much, if not all, of their lives in the beautiful Northwoods.

To serve this growing population, Nicolet College has created numerous learning, cultural, and social opportunities designed to enrich the lives of seniors.

While many people know Nicolet first as an institution that offers college degrees, “it is so much more than that,” explained Nicolet College President Elizabeth Burmaster. “Nicolet exists to serve all the people of northern Wisconsin, and this includes retirees, which is one of the largest and fastest growing demographics in the Northwoods.”

Retirees look to Nicolet for opportunities in four main areas: Continuing Education classes, the Learning in Retirement program, the Creative Arts Series, and traditional credit classes.

Continuing Education

Want to learn how to use a computer, perfect your culinary skills, study wildlife rehabilitation, or fine-tune your golf swing? Maybe learning Swing or Ballroom dance, yoga, or mastering digital photography is more your speed.

headwatersThese classes, and hundreds more, are available through Nicolet’s Continuing Education program. “What really makes this program work – and makes it so popular – is the wide variety of classes we offer,” said Jodi Fox, Continuing Education specialist at Nicolet.

“I look through the course catalog and am constantly amazed at the diversity of offerings. Most people are inquisitive by nature. They like to learn new things that are of interest to them. These classes allow them to do that in a relatively short period of time and typically in a casual setting.”

General categories include Arts and Crafts, Computers and Technology, Dance, Food and Cooking, Gardening, Health and Fitness, along with special interest classes. The catalog also features professional development offerings in Business Management and Certification and Licensing.

Classes are held at locations throughout the Nicolet district, including many in Vilas County. They are held throughout the year and divided into three sessions, with the Spring and Fall sessions offering the most classes and slightly fewer offerings in Summer.

Many people gravitate to the out-of-doors through the Outdoor Adventure Series. These courses offer residents the chance to learn a wide variety of outdoor recreation skills such as sea kayaking and canoeing while at the same time exploring the scenic lakes and rivers that are the hallmark of northern Wisconsin. The series also offers numerous hikes throughout northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as well as many natural history hikes and paddles that cover such topics as wild flowers, birding and geology.

All classes are rated on how strenuous they are and range from very easy to difficult and challenging.

For more information about these offerings, call Nicolet at (715) 365-4493, 1-800-544-3039, ext. 4493, TDD 711 relay. 

Learning in Retirement

      Many of today’s active older adults enjoy lifelong learning, and no place is this more evident than in Nicolet’s Learning in Retirement program.

Membership has grown from a handful of retired and semi-retired individuals when the program started in 1995 to about 300 individuals today from throughout the Northwoods.

The program is structured around two semesters with one covering the fall and early winter seasons and the other running from mid-winter through spring.

stained glassEach semester features several dozen different classes and discussion groups with topics covering a wide variety of subjects. Topics commonly include nature studies and outdoor activities, world travel, current events, history, theatre, health and financial issues that affect seniors, along with numerous other offerings.

What many enjoy about LIR classes is that they are presented in an easy-going environment. “There are no tests and no grades. All you need is a desire to learn,” said Sandy Kinney, Nicolet College executive director. Each class typically meets once a week for anywhere from one to six weeks.

Along with opportunities to stimulate the mind, the Learning in Retirement program features social activities each semester.

Annual membership is $35 and runs from July 1 to June 30. This allows participants to attend as many discussion groups and events as they want each semester.

Creative Arts Series

Nicolet has a long history of offering arts events that are popular with seniors and the Creative Arts Series continues this tradition. The series is comprised of three main areas: theater events in Nicolet Live!, Art Gallery exhibits, and library-based presentations.

travel filmEach year Nicolet Live! features about 20 different performances that include national touring theater troupes and musical groups, documentary films, and community theatre plays produced by the Nicolet Players. Many events in the series are free.

The Nicolet Art Gallery features about 10 exhibits every year. The annual highlight is the Northern National Juried Art Competition, which attracts entries from professional artists from around the country. Other exhibits include themed works by local and regional artists and touring exhibits. The Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the Learning Resources Center on the Nicolet campus. Admission to all exhibits is free.

The Library Series is in its third year and includes Tech Talks to help people better understand computer technology as well as the annual November as National Novel Writing Month where participants strive to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

More information about Nicolet arts series events can be found at

Credit Classes

For seniors seeking academic rigor, Nicolet offers enrollment opportunities in traditional college credit classes. Semester class schedules can be found at

“Serving retirees is important to Nicolet College,” President Burmaster said. “We put significant effort into offering learning opportunities that cover a broad range of topics so that there will be something of interest to everyone. We encourage all residents to explore what’s available to them at Nicolet and take advantage of the many, many different offerings.”