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Spring 2006 • Volume 12, Issue 2

Mastering lifelong learning

by Karen Crowley Metzinger MA ’97

Paul CooganArmed with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame, and many successful years as the founder of Aggregate Construction Equipment and Supply Company, Paul Coogan, pictured at right , set out to do something constructive with his life after retirement.

“In my downtime and within my skill level, I needed a challenge,” said Coogan. “Since I always enjoyed school to a degree, I looked through the Bradley catalog and found the Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program, a broad-based master’s degree. I also looked at the non-credit classes at Bradley’s Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR), but I needed somewhat of a challenge and an incentive to complete the work. I wanted to take classes for credit.”

Coogan had last been in a classroom setting nearly 15 years ago when he completed half of the requirements for a Bradley MBA before the format was changed and interfered with his business travel. This time around presented another set of obstacles. “My computer skills are minimal, and the course material requires a lot of writing. In 2004, halfway through the first semester of my first class,” said Coogan, “I was somewhat intimidated. I didn’t know if I could keep up, and I thought I was getting overwhelmed, but Dr. Peter Dusenbery, associate professor of English, encouraged me. Everyone at the University has been helpful.” And Coogan said Joanne, his wife of 47 years, continues to support him through the process because he finds it so rewarding.

Now, with eight courses of the required 10 completed, Coogan noted that each professor’s viewpoints and strengths make for lively discussions. Since the program is flexible and well thought-out, Coogan has had the opportunity to interact with a variety of students who bring vast amounts of information to share. This enriching experience has opened his eyes to how differently people think, and, he added, “kind of altered my old notions towards life.” While he’s always glad to hear other people’s opinions about issues and topics, he is happy to contribute his own ideas. He considers it to the advantage of the younger students to have some interaction with older students who have different perspectives. “For example,” said Coogan, “the World War II era isn’t really history; it’s virtually current events for me.”

Coogan said he is “always impressed with the means and methods the younger generation uses these days. The future is in good hands with our young people. I wish my generation wasn’t reluctant to take the first step and consider the MLS program. And talk about bargains; at $25 an hour [for a maximum of 6 hours a semester], it’s completely affordable. Seniors are urged to participate in physical exercise on a regular basis. The brain also needs to be exercised. The University is to be lauded for the MLS program and its policy toward senior citizens.”

Nevertheless, Coogan admitted some of the requirements are rather stiff, including final exams. He said his grandchildren wonder why he puts himself through the tension of finals. But, he smiled, “Now, I can relate to what two of my granddaughters are going through!”

Claire HutchisonClaire Hutchison MA ’96, pictured at left, who is also pursuing an MLS degree, considers herself a “compulsive student.” It may be a genetic trait dating back to her grandparents and parents, who like Hutchison, earned undergraduate degrees from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Hutchison later earned her first master’s degree in counseling at the University of Illinois. In 1996, she completed a master’s in English at Bradley with an emphasis on creative writing, but she began the program with “much trepidation.”

“I did a lot of creative writing. After graduating from Bradley, I left to teach English in China. I wrote a book about my experience. If Bradley had a master’s in English literature, I would take it. If Bradley offered a Ph.D. program, I would be in it. I know it’s a difficult accreditation process, but it would increase Bradley’s reputation as a school of learning.”

Hutchison has led a full life raising seven children and working in a variety of environments including city government, and the legal and educational systems in Illinois. “While I am in class strictly to learn, many students in the MLS program are here to enhance their careers,” said Hutchison. “They are all educated and fun to be with. My 10 grandchildren love that I’m in class, and I haven’t taken a single course I haven’t enjoyed.”

Graduating in the spring of 2007 is Hutchison’s goal. She may stay at Bradley and dabble in addi-tional coursework. She encourages seniors to take advantage of the MLS program that includes a senior citizen discount. Hutchison added, “If Bradley doesn’t offer another master’s I can sink my teeth in, I don’t know what I’ll do. Being a compulsive student, I always ask myself, ‘What can I do next?’”

For more information on how seniors (62 and older) can apply for the senior discount for undergraduate and graduate programs call 309-677-3089. For information on the Master of Liberal Studies program, call Max Taylor, coordinator/director of the liberal studies program, at 309-677-3026.

 

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