Learning is driven as much by nurture as by nature.
That's Lori Swinney's take.
The director of the UND Center for Instructional & Learning Technologies holds a PhD (from UND) and is an active OLLI learner, along with her mother, Maxine Rasmussen, who holds a PhD in counseling psychology. Swinney says she grew up in a learning-supportive environment. Her dad, a chemical engineer, started his own fertilizer and chemical business, where Swinney worked for 20 years before turning back to her original love—teaching and learning (she still does the books for her mother's business).
Swinney and her mother don't just learn together.
"For years we also taught communication classes to young people who wanted to get married," said Swinney, whose master's degree included designing a curriculum for her mother's online intro to psychology course at the University of Minnesota, Crookston.
"We've also done workshops on creativity, and working with difficult children," she said.
When OLLI came along, Swinney and Maxine joined up right away.
"My mom and I took the first course together," she said. "It's one of the things that I love most about UND—it's having close access to lectures and special programs such as OLLI."
"Learning is a quest I have always followed," Maxine said. "I like filling up space in my mind with new ideas and concepts, it is exciting."
Since then, it's been an ongoing interest.
"We love the environment," Swinney said. "For example, we took two history courses during the same semester that were taught by historians Hans Broedel and Bill Caraher—Hans about witchcraft and the Middle Ages, and Bill about the fall of the Roman Empire. They worked very well together, they were both very engaging."
Learning is where it happens, Swinney says, and it's not always a classroom.
"When I was working with my dad in the feed and fertilizer business, when we did a lot of deliveries to farms, I learned a lot of things about animals that I didn't know," Swinney said. "For example, I learned what 'settled' means—when you say a cow is settled, it means she is pregnant."
When she came back to UND, she started taking advantage of the policy of one free course per semester—it's how she got through her master's and PhD programs.
"I learned about how to engage learners and all about content delivery, and how to teach with technology," she said.
Once she was done taking the free classes to get her advanced degrees, Swinney turned—with her mom—to OLLI.
"She and I both love to do that," she said. "We both love learning."
Learn more about the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UND by visiting UND.edu/olli.