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Mini University at Indiana University. Life-long Learning for 40 Years: Replicating Mini University. 1. The Team. Katherine Han Mary Kern Andrew Koop Konnie McCollum Kris Nicola Dr. Marjorie Treff. 2. Katherine Han.

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mini university at indiana university
Mini University at Indiana University

Life-long Learning for 40 Years: Replicating Mini University


The Team
  • Katherine Han
  • Mary Kern
  • Andrew Koop
  • Konnie McCollum
  • Kris Nicola
  • Dr. Marjorie Treff


Katherine Han

Over the span of her career, she has been an educator in the visual arts, reading, and math at the middle school and elementary school levels. She has worked in the Perry Township School District for the past nineteen years.

She balances being a full-time student, full-time teacher, as well as dedicated wife and mother. 

She loves to cook, garden, create art, run, speak German, and travel. 


Mary Kern

Mary began her college career at the age of 32 and got her B.S. in Education in 2001 from IU.  She taught middle school for a couple of years in Florida.  After moving back to Indiana and beginning work for Indiana University in 2004 she started in the ACE program and will graduate in May 2012. 

She has always been interested in Mini University and, through this project, learned first hand what it takes to do research at a major university and also what it is like to work with a group online. 


Andrew Koop

Andrew has been in IUPUI’s Adult and Continuing Education program since 2009. He works full-time as a web programmer at Indiana University and looks forward to a potential career in teaching and research.

His interest in adult and continuing education was sparked by building educational websites and witnessing the ongoing learning efforts of friends and colleagues.

He has learned a great deal working on the Mini University research project including the amount of detail that goes into the year round planning of a learning vacation set at a university.


Konnie McCollum

Konnie has a B.A. in English from the University of Louisville, and is currently in her second year in the Adult Continuing Education Program at IUPUI. Her career has provided multiple opportunities to combine her professional writing and love of teaching and learning. She has enjoyed working as a journalist, educator and counselor. Currently, she is an addictions recovery specialist at a medium security prison for women.During this project, she has learned how to conduct, evaluate and summarize field research But more than that, she has learned to work as a team; how to collaborate, cooperate and communicate--all key components for success in adult education for learners and facilitators. 


Kris Nicola

Kris was a nontraditional student in the IU Bloomington School of Education at age 24, and eventually earned her B.A. in History in 2006 from Indiana University.  She began in the IUPUI Adult Education graduate program in the spring of 2010 and plans to graduate in December of 2012.Kris has been employed at Indiana University Bloomington for nine years.This project opened her eyes to the reality of how many adults are interested in continuing education.  She had no idea that there is a large group of adults with a thirst for knowledge so strong that it will lead them to pay hundreds of dollars to quench it. She learned that adults with higher education are often the same adults who attend learning vacations and other continuing education that is not job related. 


Dr. Marjorie Treff

In 2001, 22 years after earning a bachelor’s in journalism at IU Bloomington, Marjorie apprehensively took on the role of returning adult student. She found a lot of support in the Master of Science in Adult Education program at IUPUI, and continued for her doctorate in Adult, Higher & Continuing Education at Ball State University in 2008. Marje’s research interests center on Participation Training, adult development, and transformational learning. Her teaching practices are supported by a desire to help learners find connections between their formal education programs and their “real-world” lives. That includes finding ways for learners to get involved with organizations, conferences, and publishing. She is looking forward to continuing the relationship between the program, the students, and ICCE.




  • IU's award-winning program was chosen by MSNBC and Frommer’s Budget Travel as one of the best learning vacations in the United States in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. And in 2006, Mini U. won the gold medal for the best collaboration program and bronze for best alumni education program from CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education).


History of

Mini University

“Mini University was the brilliant idea of two men, Frank Jones and Jim Hertling. The original concept was advertised as a “family fun and learning” event for Indiana University alumni” (Nicola, 2011).


History and


  • “Brochures boasted such things as day camps for children, family picnics, evening babysitting services, and beach parties. This family atmosphere continued through 1998, with 1999 being the first year that child-related services were not mentioned in the brochures” (Nicola, 2011).


Then & Now

Nicola (2011) found many of the course offerings forty years ago to focus on pre-retirement topics such as:- Retirement and Insurance- Personal Finance- Marriage & FamilyWhereas Mini University now focuses more on the enjoyment side of post-retirement and the intellectual issues are diverse. Classes center on a mix of liberal arts, the humanities, economics, and science and technology.




  • Field (2003) would identify Mini U participants as:
  • - those willing to participate if they see something concrete with an achievable result
  • - those who actively embrace and participate in lifelong learning


Alumni Association Director, Jeanne Madison, and Continuing Studies Director, Ron White, run a well organized program.

Time to register for classes and become a student again. Authentic experience modeled.


Classes begin at 11:00 a.m. and last until 3:00 p.m. Students attend at least three classes a day.

By the end of the week students have taken fifteen classes and learned a lot in various academic disciplines.


Professors get their students moving and engaged in what they are teaching.

Participation is 100%!



Research Methods

  • - IRB certification
  • - attend Mini U
  • - collect data
  • - prepare questions
  • - survey
  • - phone interviews, one on one interviews
  • - analyze data
  • - literature review, case study
  • - create website


Survey Results: A Sample
  • The list of statements below offer insight into the information we are seeking from the participants. The survey statements are paired with the best category of Rosemary Caffarella’s 12 aspects of the Interactive Program Planning Model (2002).


Q1. I love the course topics available at Mini University. (Discerning the context, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q2. I feel Mini University courses fulfill my need for continuous learning. (Building a solid base of support, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q 3. I learn more at Mini University than what I bargain for. (Sorting and prioritizing program ideas, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q4. I choose course topics that relate to my professional life. (Identifying program ideas, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q5. I choose topics that relate to my personal life. (Identifying program ideas, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q6. I choose course topics at Mini University that I’ve always wanted to learn more about but never had a chance. (Identifying program ideas, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q 7. I plan on attending Mini University again. (Preparing budgets and marketing plans, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q8. I have attended Mini University for multiple years. (Making recommendations and communicating results, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q9. The instructional techniques at Mini University are geared for all types of learners. (Designing instructional plans, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q10. The technology at Mini University is up-to-date. (Designing instructional plans, Caffarella, 2002).


Q11. I was disappointed in a course at Mini University. (Making recommendations and communicating results, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q12. Mini University is popular because the curriculum is centered on current social trends. (Developing program objectives, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q13. Multiculturalism and diversity are welcomed at Mini University. (Developing program objectives, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q14. Mini University is successful because the planning and development of the program is well thought out. (Selecting formats, schedules, and staff needs, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q15. Changes in the curriculum offered at Mini University help keep
  • my interest in coming back. (Making recommendations and communicating results, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q16. I like to attend the same class every year I attend. (Identifying program ideas, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q17. I choose a variety of topics at Mini University. (Designing instructional plans, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q18. I only come to Mini University for one specific topic. (Formulating evaluation plan, Caffarella, 2002).
  • Q19. Learner interests and needs are considered at Mini University. (Making recommendations and communicating results, Caffarella, 2002).


  • It is clear from the sample survey results that Mini University is student friendly, takes into significant account the feelings and comments from student input to improve and maintain a top notch quality academic program. The Alumni Association team and the Continuing Studies Director must continue open communication with participants and preserve the personalization of Mini University to maintain the program’s longevity and popularity.


The following four questions were asked in narrative form.

1) How many years have you attended Mini University?


2) How did you first hear about Mini University?
  • Categories: # of Participants:
  • Friends 13
  • Spouse 1
  • Relatives 4
  • Alumni 1
  • IUAA Magazine 9
  • Mailings 1
  • Newspaper 1
  • Technology 1
  • NA 3


  • In connection with the 1-5 and 36-40 year participants, it is clear the participants talk favorably about the Mini University program offerings to friends, relatives and spouses. The IU Alumni Association has created a quality program where participants share positive feedback with others. This is an important link to maintaining a long-term program. The IU Alumni Association magazine is a crucial publication to obtain participants each year. It also promotes the outstanding reputation of the program. Therefore, it is worth the cost and time to advertise in the alumni magazine. One area of improvement we recommend is in technology. We believe older aged students in the coming years will be more tech savvy and the program must remain current in technology. Therefore, using the internet will become the standard way to disseminate information about the program and gain future participants.


  • Our survey sample shows a broad spectrum of participant participation from the 1-5 year to the 36-40 year areas. The 1-5 years has the highest amount of participants (53%) involved in Mini University. This is a target group for the program. It is our recommendation to continue to seek out newcomers to the program. The newer participants are a wonderful asset to the program because they advertise the program through word of mouth to their friends and relatives. It is also apparent that there are a fair, steady number of participants who come every year. This certainly supports the idea of “tradition” - it is important to the older age student. Many participants in this area have formed long-term friendships and look forward to the social aspect of Mini University.


3). Briefly describe what keeps your interest in Mini University?
  • Interests: # of Participants
  • Lectures 7
  • Cont'd Learning 6
  • Current Issues 3
  • Diversity 13
  • Personal 2
  • NA 3


  • The most significant aspect of curriculum at Mini University is to continue its diverse offerings of classes. It scored the highest with 38%. The Alumni Association team does an excellent job to recruit the next year’s professors who create intriguing titles for their Mini University sessions. The results speak highly of the quality of professors at Indiana University. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see that the lecture style of teaching, with 21%, is popular during Mini University and offers a comfortable learning environment for this generation of learners. Older age learners also find continuous learning intellectually stimulating as 18% of the participants find this a very important part of their life. Self-directed learning and respect for the professor as the authority figure are held in high regard. The personal area of 6% is low because I believe participants want to diversify and take courses that provoke intellectual thinking that they may not normally do during their daily or weekly routine. Mini University is a specific and special time to branch out and grow intellectually.


4). Have you ever attended a similar learning vacation elsewhere?
  • Attendance @ # of participants
  • other programs
  • Yes 13
  • No 1
  • NA 2


  • The results of the survey sample show most of the participants, 56%, have not attended other programs. Whereas, 38% of the participants, have travelled elsewhere to a different university or to an Elderhostel program to learn something new. Overall, this solidifies our belief that such programs for retirees and older aged learners must continue locally and nationally. There is a large and growing audience for such programs. Therefore, Mini University can be replicated at other educational institutions by following and using parts of the Interactive Model of Program Planning by Rosemary Caffarella to get the program started and off the ground.


Common Themes
  • -dedication of students and faculty -well organized
  • -engagement of learning -team driven
  • -pride/friendship/camaraderie -consistency


Can Mini U

be replicated?

  • Yes, we believe it can. The closest program which resembles Mini University has been in existence for three successful years is the Mini College program at Kansas University in the Liberal Arts department.



Mini U Mini College-IU, research institution KU, research institution-a week long program in June a week long program in June-alumni, local retirees alumni, local retirees-student based format student based format-participants reserve own lodging participants reserve own lodging-proposals from profs. about topics proposals from profs. about topics -humanities oriented topics humanities oriented topics-graduation ceremony graduation ceremony


  • Mini U
  • adults from out of state
  • big classes
  • student enrollment session
  • Union Building + other buildings on campus
  • less walking
  • professors teach
  • Freshman Beanie Award
  • maintain routine every year
  • Mini College
  • teachers earning state license
  • small classes
  • no student enrollment session
  • building all over campus
  • more walking
  • Liberal Arts College deans & professors teach
  • King and Queen of Mini College
  • change routine every year


  • In closing, we want to share with you the website that researcher Andrew Koop created. The site has text transcript and audio interviews along with 2011 opening speech videos at
  • We have applications on hand to pass out for those of you who are interested in participating in the 2012 Summer Mini University program.


  • Arsenault, N., Anderson, G., & Swedburg, R. (1998). Understanding older adults in education: Decision-making and elderhostel. Educational Gerontology 24(2), 101-114. doi: 101080/0360127980240201
  • Caffarella, R.S. (2002). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide for educators, trainers, and staff developers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Chen, L.K., Kim, Y.S., Moon, P., Merriam, S.B. (2008) A review and critique of the portrayal of older adult learners in adult education journals, 1980-2006. Adult Education Quarterly59(1), 3-21. doi:10.1177/0741713608325169
  • Erickson, D. M. (2007). A developmental re-forming of the phases of meaning in transformational learning. Adult Education Quarterly 58(1), 61-80. doi: 10.1177/0741713607305936
  • Field, J. (2003). Civic engagement and lifelong learning: Survey findings on social capital and attitudes toward learning. Studies in the Education of Adults, 35(2). 142-156. Retrieved from


Han, K. (2011). Survey results. Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
    • Hodkinson, P., Ford, G., Hodkinson, H., & Hawthorn, R. (2008). Retirement as a learning process. Educational Gerontology 34, 167-184. doi: 10.1080/036012701835825
    • Koop, A. (2011). IU’s mini u. Retrieved from
    • Kressley, K.M., & Huebschmann, M. (2002). The 21st century campus: Gerontological Perspectives. Educational Gerontology , 28, 835-85. doi: 10.1080/03601270290099831
    • Lamb, R., & Brady, E. M. (2005). Participation in lifelong learning institutes: What turns members on? Educational Gerontology, 31(3), 207-224. doi: 10.1080/03601270590900936
    • Madison, Jeanne (2011, June). Blue book. Retrieved from The Indiana University Alumni Association.
    • Martin, D. M., & Lyday, J. (1997). Feelings of loyalty among members of learning-in-retirement programs. Educational Gerontology 23, 315-327. doi: 10.1080/0360127970230401
    • McCollum, K. (2011). Literature review. Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
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Narushima, M., (2008). More than nickels and dimes: the health benefits of a community-based lifelong learning  programme for older adults. International Journal of Lifelong Education 27(6). 673-692. doi: 10.1080/02601370802408332
  • Nicola, K. (2011). Historical perspective. Indiana Unversity, Bloomington, IN.
  • Russell, H. (2008). Later life: A time to learn. Educational Gerontology 34. 206-224. doi: 10.1080/03601270701835981.
  • Salter, L. (2011). Preconditions for post-employment learning: Preliminary results from ongoing research. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12(1). 24-31. Retrieved from
  • Simone, P. M., & Cesena, J. (2010). Student demographics and cognitive demand in two lifelong learning programs. Educational Gerontology 36, 425-434. doi: 10. 1080/03601270903493001
  • Sloane-Seale, A., & Kops, B., (2010). Older adults’ participation in education and successful aging: Implications for university continuing education in Canada. Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education 36(1), 2-29. Retrieved from
  • Su-Chuan, C., & Humphrey, F. C. (2006). The relationship between demographic factors and continuing education of retirees in pocatello and chubbuck, idaho. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education 35(1). 6-22. Retrieved from
  • Truluck, J., Kim, Y. S., & Valentine, T. (2010). Participation patterns and learning selections of senior members of a learning in retirement organization. Adult Learn 21(1/2). 31-36. Retrieved from