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Westfield State College proves learning is life-long endeavor

Date: 10/27/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Learning is life-long and the students in Westfield State College's Community Education and Learning in Retirement programs are proving just that.

People of all ages are tapping into their creative genius this semester without having to take out thousands of dollars in student loans: courses can cost $19 or $149 depending on the program. Students are learning how to navigate wine; basic sign language; organic skincare techniques; or how to publish a book, among a catalog of other courses.

"My students don't like [the semester] to end," MaryAnn Walsh, coordinator of the Learning in Retirement program and professor of upholstery, said. "I have probably the best group of retired people ever.

"I think that my students come back because they get good, quality instruction for a very reasonable price," she continued. "It's a wonderful way to improve connections with other people [as well]."

Burns added the Community Education program allows for "networking" and "skill building for jobs."

Linda Siska, professor of pottery, explained those in her class range from the novice to advanced, using the course to experiment with a new medium or as a means of therapeutic recreation.

"I love the program because it is such a strong connection between community and the college," she said. "[Some] people come from full days of work and then one evening decide to learn something new [in my class]. We have a married couple that has since bought a [pottery] wheel and a kiln because they've caught the [pottery] bug."

Siska noted her favorite students are those who believe they "have no artistic talent" until they learn how to manipulate clay.

Tara Conant, professor of digital photography, explained she's been teaching photography at the college for about 10 years. She noted her courses have evolved from film and darkroom instruction to the basic and advanced techniques of digital photography.

"The software is constantly changing," Conant said of digital photography. "It's important to keep up with the technology."

She added she takes her students out of the classroom at least once for a photo shoot and hands on technical training.

To learn about the remaining courses offered during the fall semester and for a complete catalog, visit their Web site at

For additional information about the Learning in Retirement program, contact Walsh at 572-8033.

To learn about the Community Education program, contact Jonathan Berman, manager of Community Education, at 572-8034.