Pairing a Passion for Teaching with a Thirst for Learning

For lifelong learners aged 50 and over in the Puget Sound region, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW is a treasure. And so is instructor David Domke.

There’s an insatiable desire among Osher folks for more knowledge and more learning, and I’m an insatiable teacher, so that’s a wonderful pairing.

David Domke

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW (OLLI-UW) provides the opportunity for adults over the age of 50 to learn new things and meet new people with a range of exciting programs. Founded in 2006 and funded by a grant from the Osher Foundation, OLLI-UW offers thought-provoking courses and talks by experts from the community, many of whom are current or retired UW faculty and instructors — like David Domke, professor and former chair of the UW Department of Communication.

Typically, OLLI-UW offers in-person field trips, study groups and other special events around the greater Seattle area. This year, all program offerings transitioned to remote learning, allowing participants to attend lectures and courses from the comfort of their own homes via Zoom.

David Domke has been teaching at the UW since 1998, and he’s taught at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW for nearly as long.

“I’m a teacher at heart, and I’ll go anywhere, any time to teach,” David said. “There’s an insatiable desire among Osher folks for more knowledge and more learning, and I’m an insatiable teacher, so that’s a wonderful pairing.”

David’s research and teaching focuses on issues of racial and religious identity in American politics, and the experience and experiences of his OLLI-UW students create a vibrant learning environment.

“A lot of what I teach is stuff that these folks lived through and are familiar with,” he said. “When I’m referencing Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson, these are folks who are not just names in a history book for these learners. These are folks that these people voted for, maybe even campaigned for.”

After the pandemic hit, David turned a series of planned in-person lectures on the contemporary Republican party into online lectures, which worked well for an audience of learners who were eager for activity without leaving home.

“Online learning is almost perfectly set up for the lifelong learning folks who feel safer at home and can participate from there,” David said. “I feel fortunate to be able to make these offerings available in the midst of this unprecedented, completely unsettling space that we’re in.”

“I’ve had the privilege to teach a number of classes with Osher, and it’s always been a positive experience,” he said. “Folks are engaged. They’re interested. They care. They come ready to learn and wanting to know more.”