University News

L.I.F.E. "Women in 21st Century" Features Western's Women's Studies Faculty and More

September 23, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - "Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die." -- Tom Clancy
Every spring and fall semester, the Macomb-based organization L.I.F.E. (Learning Is ForEver) manifests the novelist's maxim by keeping learning alive through its dedicated adult-education program, which offers a variety of non-degree learning opportunities.

According to John Hallwas, Western Illinois University's Distinguished Professor Emeritus and the president of the L.I.F.E. organization, L.I.F.E. is affiliated with the national Elderhostel Institute and has been operating in Macomb for 13 years.

"The Macomb organization was launched in 1995 through an initiative of the WIU School of Continuing Education. That initiative allowed the L.I.F.E. program to develop its own leadership, without administrative salaries in the WIU budget. Western has remained the chief and indispensable sponsor of the organization, actively promoting and supporting the local program, by providing information, registration, classroom space and secretarial assistance," Hallwas explained.

Since its inception in the mid-1990s, L.I.F.E. has steadily grown in the number of classes offered as well as in overall enrollment. These days, L.I.F.E. is affiliated with WIU through Western's Center for International Studies (CIS), and Carolyn Bowman from CIS serves as the L.I.F.E. registrar and University liaison.

"This semester's course list has 24 offerings," noted Hallwas. "Some of the classes -- such as 'The Book Class,' devoted to the discussion of a significant intellectual or cultural work, and 'The Armchair Traveler,' offering travel accounts by area people -- have been popular over several years. Some programs, like the popular 'Cook's Tour of Chicago,' take participants on day trips."

Integrated Learning
During Fall 2008, L.I.F.E. will also offer such new classes as "Jesus, Rome and Justice" and "Women in the 21st Century," which will involve almost every faculty member from Western's women's studies department.

L.I.F.E. curriculum co-chair Kathy Nichols, a library specialist in WIU's Archives and Special Collections Unit, developed the "Women in the 21st Century" offering, which will be held 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesdays from Sept. 24-Nov. 12, as well as Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the Wesley Village Retirement Center in Macomb.

Nichols' mission in planning the series was to develop classes held in senior living centers as well as to help meet a goal set forth in WIU's "Higher Values in Higher Education 2008-2018" strategic plan.

"I'm quite impressed by this plan, including the portion of it that calls for us to involve ourselves in public service -- 'reach[ing] out to the region, the state of Illinois and beyond by serving as a vital economic, educational, cultural and social resource.' It seemed to me one way for L.I.F.E. to consciously foster that kind of public service was to involve an entire department of the University in a series of classes. I chose women's studies because it was one of the areas that seemed to have a pronounced interdisciplinary approach," Nichols said.

According to Nichols, "Women in the 21st Century" will draw on that interdisciplinary approach to highlight the role of women, as well the perception of modern women, in wide-ranging contexts. The series will also feature faculty members from other WIU departments.

"It brings together an unprecedented number of WIU professors for one series -- nine, from women's studies, sociology and anthropology, political science, English and history -- and it will explore how women have been impacted by traditional gender perceptions, how they have dealt with those perceptions and transformed them and how changing perceptions continue to enrich the lives of both men and women in the 21st century. Topics include traditional and contemporary roles of women in managing the world's natural resources and the changing roles of women in politics," she said.

Realized Dream
Hallwas and Nichols agree that L.I.F.E. benefits citizens of Macomb and surrounding communities, providing the area with an inexpensive, non-degree learning opportunity. According to Bowman, this sustains the original vision for the well-received and growing program, which was conceived by a Western faculty member.

"Linda Stickney-Taylor, a retired WIU dean, had a dream to provide the retirees of the community an opportunity to keep their minds working by offering classes for fall and spring semesters. The enthusiasm of the groups who have participated throughout the years have made the L.I.F.E. program very successful," she said.

For more information about L.I.F.E.'s Fall 2008 courses and costs, contact Bowman at (309) 298-2501 or

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing