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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Lifelong Learners Making Great Decisions

Mankato Area Lifelong Learners book inspires discussion, debate.

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 4-8-2012

MANKATO — For 15 years, Mankato Area Lifelong Learners has been educating and entertaining its members with topics and events from Freud to Islam, from the East High School Planetarium to palliative care. So it certainly wasn’t a reach for the nonprofit organization to adopt a meaty national series of presenta­tions by the Foreign Policy Association.

The association publishes the “ Great Decisions” briefing book annually, with eight foreign policy challenges to inspire discussion and debate. Minnesota has 60 Great Decisions programs, in which mem­bers choose topics from the book to create presentations around.

Last fall Lifelong Learners began offering the programming, free of charge, to its members. Great Decisions events are held the second Wednesday of each month April through November, but are not open to the public unless someone comes as a guest.

It costs $ 25 to join Mankato Area Lifelong Learners, and with regular classes, the sessions are $ 5, or $ 30 for as many sessions as they wish to attend per year. The only cost attached to Great Decisions for mem­bers is $ 20 for the briefing book.

The group invites an outside or internal speaker who is particularly knowledgeable on the subject at hand to talk for 20 to 30 minutes, and then the topic is opened up for discussion. So far, said Great Decisions co- chair Carlienne Frisch, the discussion hasn’t gotten too heated. And the friendly discussions aren’t meant to come up with solutions for such complicated world affairs, nor does it serve as a platform for political debate.

“We don’t solve any problems,” said co- chair Elizabeth Peters. “We’re not partisan.”

The next session, “Middle East Realignment,” will be held Wednesday. About the program from the book: The popular revolts and upheaval of the Arab Spring have radically changed the face of the Middle East. What lies ahead for the Middle East’s transition to democracy? What are the prospects for the governments that have held out in this new order?

The May topic is on Indonesia’s developing democracy, and the June discussion will center on Mexico’s border issues.

“The purpose is really to be thought-provoking,” Frisch said.

Mankato Area Lifelong Learners was started by six Minnesota State University staff members and four or five community leaders 15 years ago, and “we’ve been active ever since,” said Jack Kent, the president. The group has grown to include about 200 members.

The goal of the Learners is to offer educational and social activities for its members, who must be 50 or older. The group also plans special events, such as a bus trip to the Guthrie Theater or a Twins game (cost varies). And it has pot-luck dinner and bridge-playing sub-groups that meet regularly.

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