OLLI Courses

SUMMER 2018 SESSION is Jun. 25 - Aug. 3. Make-up week is Aug. 6 - 10. Download PDF schedule.

View the Summer Session 2018 Schedule. Click on each title at the link to the left to view course descriptions in the catalogue. View the Summer course catalogue.

About Fall 2018: There is a delay in finalizing dates. The earliest any Fall session has started (since 2014) has been the 4th week of August and this year it will not begin any earlier than towards the end of August.


Healthier Living Workshop

with Debra Varner and Melinda Barnes

  10:00 am-12:00 pm

SF State

SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

Many people have a chronic health condition or lengthy recovery in which they have become the manager of their own situation, partnering with their doctors and other health care providers who only step in as needed. This interactive workshop provides adults with a wide range of very effective tools and techniques, developed by Stanford School of Medicine.

Students are introduced to techniques--such as fall prevention, mind-body activities, communication, and action plans--which are also demonstrated. They then work together with each other and the facilitators to try each technique and learn how to incorporate the tools best suited to their various situations. The workshop is designed to leave students with many new ways to self-manage their condition after the workshop ends, and the means to develop new habits including setting goals, solving problems, developing a partner relationship with their doctors, and seeking out health information.

Debra Varner retired as Director of SF State OLLI in late 2012.  She currently serves as a volunteer mediator with Community Boards of San Francisco and the Office of Citizen Complaints, is President of Bethany Center Foundation of San Francisco, takes OLLI classes and continues to follow her passion of serving our elder community towards living well and flourishing. She looks forward to working with the OLLI community once again as a Healthier Living facilitator.

Melinda Barnes effectively uses her corporate world presentation skills to create a workshop setting conducive to learning, sharing, listening. She has facilitated many Healthier Living workshops held by the San Francisco Healthier Living Coalition with diverse participants during the past 2 years. Her energy and empathy help make the workshop a successful one for participants.

Printmaking Today

with Lola Fraknoi

  1:00 pm-4:00 pm

SF State

SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

Explore different ways to create images inspired by the materials and by the work of contemporary artists today. Techniques of contemporary printmaking, will be used such as Monotypes, a one of a kind, hand-pulled print where you create an image with etching ink on a smooth glass plate, and transfer the image to paper; Collagraphs, a printmaking process in which materials are applied to cardboard; and Soft-Kut carving (a much softer linoleum).

These techniques can be used at home and do not require special equipment.

Lola Fraknoi was born in Lima, Peru and educated in the U.S., she holds a BA from Rice University and an MFA from the California College of the Arts. Trained as a professional artist, she has always found ways to bring art, music, and creativity of all kinds into the programs she has led. She founded and directed Ruth’s Table (a center for multi-generational creative learning, rooted in the life and work of artist Ruth Asawa). She is the developer of Lola’s ArtKit, a innovative series of activities designed to open creativity in people with memory loss, and current faculty in the Art Department of City College of San Francisco.

$30 materials fee payable to teacher on 1st day. Bring from home: Old shirt or apron, masking tape, roll of paper towel.

This class does not begin until July 23.

Lab on Fridays from 10am -12pm available separately through the same 4 week period. $85. Minimum 3 enrollees. Email to olli@sfsu.edu to sign up.

Create Your Own Photo Book

with David Casuto

  1:30 pm-4:00 pm

SF State

SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

Create beautiful bound books that tell your stories and memories using content from your digital and printed images, photographs, and text. We will learn scanning, editing, enhancing, and touching up, with the ultimate goal of adding your content to a customized online photo book full of your images, text, stylized graphics, professional backgrounds and more. Students may choose to make their books as gifts, personal memoirs, travel journals, family heirlooms and more!  
This course is open to both Mac and Windows users. The class will be held in a Mac lab on the Main Campus, but all are welcome as it will be Web-based so it does not matter if you are on a Mac or PC. Laptops welcome.

David Casuto is the founder of San Francisco Computer Training and Senior Surf (senior-surf.org), a Bay Area nonprofit that empowers older adults to become tech savvy and computer whizzes. He also teaches at OLLI Berkeley, AcademyX and Synergy School and runs his own training, support and design consulting firm.


Glamorous Depravity: A History of San Francisco Crime

with Paul Drexler

  9:30 am-11:30 am


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

San Francisco has always been a city of poets and criminals. Local poet Kenneth Rexroth put it best, “San Francisco is the only American city which was not founded overland by the westward spreading puritan tradition. It was settled mostly by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals, immigrants and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn.”
The California discovery of gold in 1848 brought a different group of immigrants.  They were not running from persecution and tyrants.  They  were racing toward riches.  The freedom they sought were open spaces, open attitudes, cheap land and, in many cases, freedom from legal authorities.

Each week we'll explore Crimes of All Nationalities – 1850-1950, Serial Killers, Masters of Escape, Dangerous Dames & Con Artists and Unsolved Mysteries.

Paul Drexler is the Director of Crooks Tours of San Francisco. He has written extensively on the history of San Francisco crime and currently writes a column “Notorious Crooks” for the San Francisco Examiner. He has given walking tours on crime history to over 1,000 people and have appeared on The Discovery ID Network show Deadly Women as an expert on San Francisco murderesses.

Writing: The Gentle Art of Haiku and the Haibun

with Diane Frank

  12:00 pm-2:00 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 


Explore the Japanese tradition of haiku, using images of nature to express human emotions and the miracle of the moment.  Learn to write haibun – a brief memoir, prose poem or travel story – where 2 or 3 short paragraphs culminate in a haiku. The haiku takes the story of the haibun even further, to an epiphany, a mystery, or a koan. It's a magical way to explore your life experience and express it with power and beauty.

Whether you are a beginner or have been writing for years, the subtleties of the haiku and the haibun will free up the writing process, develop a more expressive writing style, express the amazing and challenging moments of your life, and have fun with word in a helpful and safe environment.

Each session includes the Writer’s Toolbox, techniques to make your writing more expressive, a writing session with an inspiring seed idea, and a workshop with the opportunity to share your writing.

Week 1: Japanese tradition of haiku uses images of nature

Week 2: The Haibun is a very short memoir, travel story, flash fiction or prose poem

Week 3: The Japanese sensibility of beauty & The Art of Concision

Week 4: Subtext, starting with a quote from Logan Pearsall Smith: “What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.”

Week 5: Writing from body, mind, heart and soul.

Week 6: Light as an important element in painting, photography and poetry.


Diane Frank is an award-winning poet and novelist. She lives in San Francisco, where she dances, plays cello, and creates her life as an art form. Blackberries in the Dream House, her first novel, won the Chelson Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her new book, River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century, features more than 100 poets, with the poems they would most like to be remembered for.

Vaudeville, Mickey & Judy

with Bonnie Weiss

  2:30 pm-4:30 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 


Beginning with an exploration of the fascinating world from which two Hollywood legends – Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland emerged – Vaudeville, we will then learn what made them such a memorable duo.

Highlights:  Rare clips of iconic vaudeville stars,  Mickey’s film debut at age 7 and Judy in her family’s vaudeville act at age 6, and the impressive screen test that won her a movie contract at age 12.  Plus: captivating musical moments from the films they appeared in together (staged by the wildly inventive Busby Berkeley), and a TV reunion in their 40’s where they playfully mocked those early flicks.


Class 1 The Crazy Conglomorate Know As Vaudeville


Class 2 Babes In Arms


Class 3   Strike Up The Band And Babes On Broadway (Special Instructor Favorite clips)


Class 4  Girl Crazy and Words & Music

Class 5  A Walk Down Memory Lane


Bonnie Weiss, M.A. is a seasoned theatre educator and professional speaker. She teaches musical theatre appreciation for S.F. State, U.C. Berkeley and Santa Clara University OLL. She has taught at S.F. Conservatory of Music, and has written for The Sondheim Review and Stage Directions.  Bonnie holds a B.A. in theatre education and an M.A. in counseling psychology, both from NYU.


More details in course catalogue linked above.


Human Evolution: The First 150 Years of Discovery

with Charles J. Vella, PhD

  10:00 am-12:00 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

This is a journey through the well-established information and many discoveries in the field of human evolution leading up to 1970. The incredible history of discoveries, major researchers, the controversies, and many famous discovery stories will be included; along with the major types of ancestral hominins.

After an initial review of general evolution and the paleoarcheology of human evolution (dating techniques, fossilization, etc.), we’ll proceed to very beginning of discoveries, 1820, and continue through the first 150 years. This will include the major evolutionary types of ancestral hominins, including the Australopithicines, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Homo heidelbergensis. We will review how this first group of homins affected our understanding of human evolution.

Week 1: General Evolution (belief in evolution, creationism, processes, etc.)

Week 2: Basics of human evolution (dating techniques, fossilization, etc.)

Week 3: Early Hominins: Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus

Week 4: The Australopithecines

Week 5: Transitional Hominins: Homo habilis, Homo erectus

Week 6: Homo heidelbergensis

Charles J. Vella, PhD is a neuropsychologist and an amateur human evolution enthusiast. He received his PhD in Counseling Psychology at UC Berkeley in 1977 and worked at Kaiser Hospital, Dept. of Psychiatry from 1978 to 2009 as Chief Psychologist and Director of the Neuropsychology Service where he continues to volunteer in the Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Training program as its senior consultant. An expert in most brain related topics, he lectures to the public in this area. Since his retirement in 2009, Vella has been active as a docent at the California Academy of Science, specializing in the human evolution area. While he's not an anthropologist, he has become an amateur expert in field of human evolution and has taught a variety of docent classes in this area at the Academy. He has read extensively on most of the topics in human evolution, taken a variety of courses on this topic, and enjoys teaching this subject.


Modern Political Theory: Rise of the Individual & Problems of Authority

with David Peritz

  10:00 am-12:30 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 


Political theory consists in a discourse of thinking about the nature of political power, the conditions for its just and unjust use, the rights of individuals, minorities and majorities, and the nature and bounds of political community. Rather than tackling pressing political problems one at a time, political theorists seek systematic solutions in overall visions of just societies, or comprehensive diagnoses of the roots of oppression and domination in political orders.

We will trace the course of modern political theory, our focus will be modern writers who shaped the terms and concepts that increasingly populate political imaginations the world over, that is, the conscious and unconscious ideas about rights, power, class, democracy, community and the like that we use to make sense of our political lives.

In this course, we will examine the theory of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau,  the great originators of the social contract tradition, a troika of thinkers who agreed that, in order for it to be just and stable, modern political order had to be justified to the individuals whose loyalty it claims—a right to consent captured succinctly in the metaphor of the social contract in which each is free to accept or reject the basic terms that structure their association.


No prior familiarity with any of the works referenced is assumed in any of these lectures.


David Peritz holds a DPhil from Oxford University where his studies were supported by a Marshall Scholarship. He is Co-Chair of the Politics Department at Sarah Lawrence College, and a regular visiting faculty member in the Master of Arts of Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth. He has also taught at UC Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell and Deep Springs, and was a visiting scholar at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the London School of Economics. His research specialization is modern and contemporary political philosophy, especially contemporary theories of democracy and justice and their relations to issues of diversity and inequality.


5 Weeks begin July 6.

The Comic Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan

with John Prescott

  1:00 pm-3:00 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

The comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan were the Beach Blanket Babylon of Victorian London.  This class will explore these operas as masterworks in their own right as well as the way in which they affectionately poke fun at the musical, social and political world of their time and place.  

The composer Sir Arthur Sullivan created multiple levels of musical parody referring to the music from renaissance madrigals to Japanese marches.  No person or institution, from the Queen herself, to the Royal Navy, to the church, to the class system, was safe from the sharp-witted satires of W.S. Gilbert who wrote the sparkling words to these operas.  We will learn about what made these operas so topical and explore how and why they have stood the test of time. No previous musical experience is necessary for this class. Come, listen, learn, and join in the adventure.

Week 1.  The beginnings of the great collaboration:  Trial by Jury

Week 2.  H.M.S. Pinafore:  Hilarity on the high seas.

Week 3. The Pirates of Penzance:  or The Slave of Duty.

Week 4.  The Mikado:  Issues of cultural sensitivity in modern staging.

Week 5.  The Yeoman of the Gard:  Gilbert and Sullivan’s move towards serious opera

Week 6.  The Gondoliers:  Making a mockery of monarchy.

John Prescott received his Ph.D in Music History and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on John Stanley, the 18th-century blind organist, conductor, violinist, and impresario. His academic honors include post-graduate study in music as a Marshal Scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, England. In addition to delivering pre-concert lectures, program notes, and for musical performance groups throughout the Bay Area, he has taught at UC Berkeley and at The Crowden School in Berkeley, OLLI at UC Berkeley as well as OLLI at SF State, and was the musicologist for the San Francisco Elderhostel Arts and Humanities Program.


Sketching SF State with Pencil & Watercolor

with Karen Bash

  1:00 pm-4:00 pm

SF State

SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

In this class we will explore how to create lively pencil & watercolor sketches of SF State campus. You will learn tips for sketching architecture, trees, etc., and how to develop an
interesting composition. Then, by adding some watercolor to your sketches you will make them come alive! Instruction will be given in watercolor techniques such as washes and glazing, along with basic color theory. After we have finished our sketches we will meet at one of the coffee spots for goodies and art sharing.

Note: This class will take place on the SFSU campus at various locations and you must be comfortable carrying your art supplies while walking on paths and using stairs. We will work
outside, and if the weather is inclement inside the library coffee shop.

Week 1: Introduction to designing a composition and how to perceive perspective, tips for drawing architecture, plants and people

Week 2: Basic color theory and watercolor techniques, including understanding light and shadow

Week 3: Architecture studies

Week 4: Landscape Studies

To introduce students to plein air pencil and watercolor sketching with easy and accessible techniques. By developing their skills in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, they will feel comfortable continuing to use these skills on their own after the class is finished. Sketching the SF State campus will help them see familiar views with new eyes and encourage them to look at their surroundings with greater visual understanding. This will help them to better understand the paintings and drawings they view in books, galleries or museums.

Materials: In the first class we will just be drawing. Sketching materials will be provided. Painting materials will be on hand if you’d like to see what your options are. You could #1. View the options on the first day and bring painting supplies you have to show me or #2. View a full materials list.

Karen Bash obtained her B.F.A. in Studio Art from San Francisco State University. She is a landscapes artist working in pastel, watercolor, ink and graphite. Her work has been published,

and shown in Bay Area galleries. She has been an art instructor for more than 20 years in the Bay Area, and currently works at Sharon Art Studio in San Francisco. View Additional Artist Statement & Bio


Lighten Up: A Creative Writing Course

with Sarah Broderick

  10:00 am-12:00 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” –Vincent van Gogh
While literary fiction tends to be bleak (and some might say that it must be bleak), we will approach this class in opposition to this notion. In short: light matters.
That is not to say that we will be discussing puppies and kittens, rainbows and smiley faces. While those are nice, our examination of light in life will delve deeper. Each week, we will be reading and discussing short stories that capture the complexities of hope, love, goodness, happiness, friendship, and endurance. We will use these readings and their writers to inspire creative writing of our own. Students will generate 1-2 double-spaced pages to be shared and responded to in-class weekly as part of our supportive community.
All students are welcomed, those who are new to creative writing and those who have been writing most of their lives. However, please be aware that our focus will be on narrative craft.

Week by Week Outline
Students will:
            --generate new material for future development.
            --share their creative work and provide feedback to others.
            --build a repository of writing prompts.
            --read exemplary writers.
            --receive feedback from the instructor.
And learn to:
            --trust in their natural abilities as writers and artists.
            --find material to write about that suits their interests.
            --think creatively as well as critically about written creative work.
            --experience the world anew.
Sarah Broderick grew up in the Ohio River Valley and now resides in Northern California. Holding an MA in humanities and social thought from New York University and an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, she works as a writer, editor, and teacher, and served as Diaspora Editor for Lavil: Life, Love, and Death in Port-au-Prince published in 2017 by Verso/Voice of Witness. Her fiction and nonfiction pieces have appeared in Moon City Review, Atticus Review, Necessary Fiction, Cleaver Magazine, and elsewhere. She can be found online at perfectsentences.org, Twitter @sebroderick, and The Forge Literary Magazine.

Hidden History Hikes

with Peter Tannen

  10:00 am-12:30 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

Learn about more SF neighborhoods and their parks and open spaces during these five 2.5 hour hikes (not covered in prior 4 classes.)

We will HIKE (not walk) 2 to 4 miles on trails/stairs/streets & and climb up to 600 feet. Hiking boots strongly recommended.

Park/area history will be explained & guest speakers featured where possible.

Transit directions/parking advice provided. All are one-way hikes. Optional post hike no-host lunch.

Session 1 - The Castro to Cole Valley via Interior Greenbelt: The longest single block in SF, Vulcan and Pemberton Stairs, Mt. Olympus – the Geographic Center of SF & site of former Triumph of Light Statue, 1911 Auxiliary Water Supply System Ashbury Water Tank & valve control house, & Tank Hill.

Session 2 – Glen Pk. BART to Balboa Pk. BART via Erskine Park, Sunnyside Conservatory,  & City College: secluded hilltop Erskine Park Natural Area, 1898 octagonal redwood Sunnyside Conservatory with hundred-year-old succulent and palm garden, SF City College with Diego Rivera Pan American Unity Mural, Giant Olmec Head, & Bufano’s St. Francis Made of Melted Guns.

Session 3 – Golden Gate Park: Stowe Lake, Strawberry Hill, remains of 1891-1906 Sweeny Observatory, Huntington & Rainbow Falls, Chinese Pavilion, hidden site of 1881-1896 Casino, Conservatory of Flowers, remains of Arizona Garden, New Deal-era horseshoe court, 1896 McLaren Lodge (home of John McLaren until 1943).

Session 4 – Presidio from Palace of Fine Arts to Golden Gate Bridge: 1938 Richard Neutra modernist house, Lawrence Halprin’s Letterman Digital Arts Center Campus with Yoda Fountain, Main parade grounds, Main Post Chapel with 1935 Victor Arnautoff fresco, new Korean War Memorial, San Francisco National Cemetery, 1914 Cavalry Stables, Pet Cemetery, Presidio Nursery, Dragonfly Creek, historic Fort Scott Log Cabin, & Golden Gate Overlook.   

Session 5 - Pine Lake to West Portal Station via St. Francis Wood: One of few remaining natural lakes in SF, 1892 Victorian-style roadhouse, Lawrence Halprin’s  redesigned Sigmund Stern Grove, Willis Polk’s 1936 Merced Manor Reservoir Pump Station, & 1912 St. Francis Wood Residence Park with fountains & original sales office.    

Students will become familiar with and gain a greater appreciation of “off-the-beaten-path” parks in San Francisco that they have probably never visited and may be unaware of; learn about the history of each park, from the Native American period to the present day, including any current issues concerning park usage; learn about the basic geology of each park and it has influenced how humans have used the land; and be able to return on their own for further exploration and enjoyment and to share their knowledge with others.

A San Francisco resident for 35 years, Peter Tannen is a retired transportation planner and engineer, with a M.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He has hiked and bicycled extensively in San Francisco, exploring out-of-the-way places. Peter has led hikes and bicycle rides for the Sierra Club and the Friends of Recreation and Parks (now SF Parks Alliance.)

How the Brain Works: Disorders

with Natalia Caporale., PhD

  2:00 pm-4:30 pm


SUMMER SESSION 2018 (Click to see dates of session and classes) 

If you are fascinated and curious about the human brain and how it works, this course is for you. It will give an overview of our current understanding of several neurological disorders. The course will provide an introduction to brain function and then jump to discuss what we know about Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Schizophrenia and Depression.

While we won’t be able to find solutions to these problems, we will discuss what is known, what the challenges to treatment are and some of the novel strategies being explored. Some history of neuroscience will be incorporated, as well as case studies from Oliver Sack’s books to exemplify phenomena and TED talks on specific topics.

Meeting 1: Introduction to the Course and the Brain

Meeting 2: Diseases of the Basal Ganglia, Depression & Anxiety

Meeting 3: Disorders of wiring and Schizophrenia

Meeting 4: Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Meeting 5: Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury and Recovery

Note about the style of the course: Due to this instructor’s enjoyment of student driven focus and questions, this course will not only consist of the instructor “transmitting” knowledge; but will encourage questions, dialog and exploration. Readings will be provided to supplement class presentations.

Natalia Caporale., PhD is an Assistant Teaching Professor (LPSOE) at UC Davis in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. Originally from Argentina, where she did her undergraduate in Biological Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, she came to the US to conduct her graduate students at UC Berkeley, where she obtained her Doctorate in Neuroscience. She then conducted research at UCSF and became an adjunct lecturer at SFSU and UC Berkeley, as well as teaching science classes at OLLI. She is a CAMPOS scholar at UC Davis, committed to the success of women in science in academics and her current research focuses on the assessment of neuroscience-based and pedagogically rooted strategies to
improve student self-efficacy and success in college, with a focus on minority students, students with mental health issues and transfer students.