Become A Study Group Leader


The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at American University (OLLI at AU) is dedicated to the proposition that learning is a lifelong process and that curiosity never retires. Classes at OLLI are called “study groups,” and instructors, “study group leaders.” This is because what makes OLLI unique is the basic concept of peer learning and teaching. Members come from varied backgrounds, and what they have in common is genuine interest in continuing their learning experiences and intellectual stimulation in an organization of like-minded people. Members participate fully in study groups, either by leading them or attending them. 


OLLI always welcomes new study group leaders from within the OLLI membership and from the Washington, DC community who would like to share their knowledge and passion with members. There are no tests and no grades; members participate purely for the joy of learning. The goal is a high-quality learning experience accessible to all.

Before each fall and spring semester, new study group leaders are required to attend a study group leader orientation. The topics covered in the orientation include general logistics, OLLI’s unique population of learners, classroom management, and using audio/visual equipment in the classrooms. Prior study group leaders are also welcome to attend.


Please click here to download the OLLI at AU Study Group Leader Manual.

study group leader benefits

As OLLI is primarily a volunteer led organization, study group leaders teach on a volunteer basis. We provide several benefits for teaching:

  • Free classes during either the session in which study group leaders teach or the following comparable session
  • Parking stipend
  • Special recognition at OLLI’s study group leader luncheon
  • Access to AU’s Bender Library


OLLI has three types of programming from which study group leaders can choose to teach:

  • Fall Semester (Sept-Nov) and Spring Semester (Mar-May) - study groups meet once a week for 8-10 weeks
  • February Shorts and July Shorts - study groups meet 3-5 times over the course of one week
  • June Minis - study groups meet once a week for 4 weeks

Study groups meet for 90 minutes during one of three time frames: 9:45-11:15 a.m., 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m., or 1:45-3:15 p.m. Class sizes range from 120 in lecture format to 10 in small discussion groups.

propose a study group

If you would like to propose a study group for OLLI at AU, please go to "Study Groups" or "Shorts" in the bar across the top of the page. Then click on the study group proposal form. You will need to create a user name and password if you’re not already an OLLI member. This enables you to complete the online form, which is then sent to the OLLI office. Both the Curriculum Committee and Board of Directors review the proposals and approve the study groups to be offered.

Proposal submission deadlines:

February Shorts/Spring Semester – End of November (Sunday after Thanksgiving)

June Minis/July Shorts – First week of April

Fall semester – First week of May

*If you do not see the academic session listed on the proposal form in which you are interested, please contact the individual from the curriculum committee (listed below) for the academic area in which your study group would belong. He/she will get in touch with you when the proposal period opens for that session.

Politics, Law & Government
Phil Schwartz
Psychology, Sociology, & Culture
Marianne Soponis
John Peterson
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)
Suzanne Rosenthal
Visual Arts
Lisa Leinberger
Alan Frey
Jeanette Rivera & Cindy Lisec

Sandy Leibowitz
History & Geography
Bob Coe
Philosophy & Religion
Katy Adams

Curriculum  Committee Chair:  Marianne Soponis

The proposal process:

  • An online proposal form is submitted via the OLLI website. All potential study group leaders, whether previous or new, are asked to submit a proposal so that we have all their pertinent course information.
  • A copy of the proposal is sent to the OLLI office and the person who submitted it.
  • A member of the curriculum committee who over sees that particular area of the curriculum reaches out to the person to speak with them about their course, offer support if needed, and explain the next part of the process.
  • The curriculum committee meets after the proposal submission deadline to approve the final list of courses to be recommended to the Board.
  • The Board votes and gives the final approval on courses.
  • The OLLI office notifies Study Group Leaders about their course status for that session.