OLLI Courses

Summer 2019 Session begins June 10th and meets through July 19th. 

Please note that July 4th and 5th classes are affected by the July 4th Holiday. See Class Listings for specifics

When looking at a class below, please scroll to see complete description.

View catalog of all summer courses.


Summer Reruns - San Francisco Journeys

with Monika Trobits

  10:00 am-12:30 pm



*This is a five week class which will skip July 8th and conclude on July 15th. Each session lasting approximately 2 1/2 hours.


This class will revisit highlights from five previous walking history tours. Students visit and learn the history of five important San Francisco areas and landmarks by exploring San Francisco’s Civic Center, The Presidio, the Marina, Nob Hill and Sutro Heights.

Week 1, June 10: “Civic Center’s Grand Design"

Week 2, June 17: “Under Three Flags: the Presidio’s Main Post,”

Week 3, June 24: “From Harbor View to the Marina,”

Week 4, July 1: “Nob Hill,”

Week 5, July 15: “Coastal San Francisco: Lincoln Park to Sutro Heights.”

Monika Trobits has been studying San Francisco/California history since the mid-1980s, evolving into a local historian, a long-time walking tour docent/guide (since 1989) and a published writer of non-fiction works about the city. Her second book, Bay Area Coffee: A Stimulating History, was published in mid-February 2019. Monika’s B.A. in political science/history is from SFSU.



Global Lens - Documenting the World

with Michael Fox

  10:00 am-12:00 pm



Experience views from abroad, courtesy of filmmakers and television producers working in their own countries and speaking to their fellow citizens. Revealing, refreshing and occasionally jarring, this class features a variety of documentary approaches and techniques. Each film, which has almost certainly never been seen by U.S. audiences, is followed by a discussion of its goals, strategies, choices and ethics. We will examine such aspects of nonfiction filmmaking as point of view, the illusion of objectivity, journalism v. activism, the use of music and metaphor, and the blurring of fact and fiction.

Films to be announced.

Michael Fox has been a film critic and journalist since 1987; his current outlets include KQED.org/arts, Fandor.com/blog, Oakland magazine and The (East Bay) Monthly. He curates and hosts the weekly Cinema Lit series at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco, and also teaches documentary courses at OLLI at UC Berkeley. He is a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.


Global Warming: More than an Inconvenient Truth

with Warren Wiscombe

  1:00 pm-3:00 pm



This course tells the history of global warming through the people and discoveries that shaped the subject.  The focus is mainly on the science but with forays into the worlds of news, politics and energy. Our story begins over 200 years ago with Fourier and continues through several long periods of disbelief.  Historical events, current news items, and discoveries will be used as springboards for learning about related issues like greenhouse effect, paleoclimate and ice ages, the oceans, clouds and aerosols, carbon cycle, climate skepticism, geo-engineering, and fossil fuels.

(1) Why real climate problems are so difficult -- especially teasing out the human contribution -- with wildfires and hurricanes as prime examples.  Global warming research in the 1800s. Fourier, Tyndall and the greenhouse effect.  Langley and the Sun.  Rayleigh and the blue sky.  Arrhenius and the first climate model to calculate the effect of changing CO2.  Water vapor feedback.  Chamberlin and the carbon cycle.

(2) Global warming research from 1900 to 1950. Planck and blackbody laws.  Schuster and radiative transfer.  Angstrom, the first global warming skeptic. Mie, and scattering by clouds and aerosols. Dines, and energy balance.  Reasons for disbelief in the “CO2 theory of climate change”.  Callendar, its lonely defender.

(3) Research from 1950 to 1968. Plass takes on Callendar’s mantle and refutes old objections to CO2 theory.  Suess, discoverer of the fossil-fuel-burning signature in atmospheric CO2.  Revelle, and the oceans ability to take up CO2.  Keeling, and the first useful measurements of CO2 trend.  CO2 from ice core bubbles. Twomey and cloud-aerosol interaction.  Manabe, and radiative-convective climate modeling.  Budyko, Sellers, and “winter is coming”. 

(4) Climate as a simple system of forcings and feedbacks.  Global warming research from 1967 to 1990.  SMIC report.  Manabe, coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models, and 4xCO2. Steve Schneider, the aerosol-beats-CO2 confusion, and “The Genesis Strategy”.  Warren Washington and sea ice modeling.  Kutzbach and paleoclimate modeling.  Bryson and aerosols (“the human volcano”).  Mitchell and climate “noise”.  Ramanathan, and the recognition of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.  Cess, and the role of clouds.  Imbrie, and proof of Milankovitch theory of ice ages.  US national climate research begins in earnest.  Hansen, and his congressional testimony that “global warming is here”.

(5) Global warming research from 1990 to 2000.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) begins.  Pinatubo eruption confirms climate modeling.  CO2 from “land use change”.  Cess, and climate model intercomparison protocols.  Aerosols come back from obscurity.  SHEBA, and the beginning of rapid Arctic sea ice decline.  El Nino, and natural variability.  Fossil fuels and the carbon cycle.  Oreskes, and the roots of the climate denial campaign.

(6) Global warming research from 2000 to the present.  Global fingerprints of warming.  Ruddiman and early anthropogenic warming.  Paleoclimate analogues for a warmer climate.  Abrupt climate changes of the past.  Causes of mass extinctions, and the current human-caused extinction.  Geo-engineering.  Ocean acidification.  The next 100 years.  The next 2000 years.  How long till next ice age?  How long before Earth becomes a hothouse like Venus?  The bigger picture, beyond global warming. 

Dr. Warren Wiscombe has done research in the climate science field since the early 1970s, specializing in the interaction of solar and infrared radiation with clouds and aerosols.  He worked in climate science from the early 1970s until his retirement in 2013 from NASA Goddard. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society.



American Classical Music: A History of Music by American Composers from the Colonial Era to the Present

with Richard Aldag

  10:00 am-12:00 pm



This class will introduce students to the rich tradition of American “classical” music including music by many composers ignored by our contemporary cultural institutions. Class sessions will take students on a journey from the humble beginnings of our nation’s music history, through the creation of an infrastructure to support the professionalization of music as an art form, to the emergence of the U.S. as a major contributor to music on a global level. Composers and their work will be placed into the historical and social context of their times. Key compositions will be presented in class, via both videotaped and audio performances.

Week 1: Colonial Era – William Billings and the First New England School/Alexander Reinagle & John Antes: Gentlemen Immigrant Composers and the Moravians

Week 2: Post-Colonial Era to the Civil War – Anthony Philip Heinrich and Louis Moreau Gottschalk

Week 3: Second New England School – John Knowles Paine, Edward MacDowell & Amy Beach

Week 4: America at the Turn of the 20th Century: Charles Ives

Week 5: New York Emergent: George Gershwin & Aaron Copland

Week 6: American Modernists and Post Modernism: Roger Sessions, Elliott Carter & Ruth Crawford Seeger, Terry Riley, Joan Tower, John Adams, etc.


Richard Aldag is an American-born composer, educator, and arts administrator. Aldag holds a Ph.D. in Music from the City University of New York Graduate Center and has served on the faculties of San Francisco State University, San José State University School of Music and Dance, Pacific Union College, the Aaron Copland School of Music of Queens College, Fordham University, and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

Locally he has served as the Executive Director of the Napa Valley Symphony, the Lincoln Theater Napa Valley and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. He has also served as a Composer in Residence for regional music festivals.



Song and Dance Men of the Silver Screen; Their Artistry, Originality and Surprising Avocations

with Bonnie Weiss

  2:30 pm-4:30 pm



Learn about the fascinating lives of the marvelous men of the movie musical who have enchanted us with their fabulous feet and way with a song. Discover which of them was also a classical composer, which was a jazz pianist, which was a lion tamer, and which was a political activist and (closet) intellectual!

The course covers legends like Fred Astaire – where you’ll learn not only what makes him unique as a dancer but why songwriters like Irving Berlin preferred to have Fred sing their songs over more powerful singers. And you’ll get to see why Gene Kelly was not only a terrific dancer, but a great choreographer and director as well.

You’ll get to enjoy the contagious warmth of hoofer, Bill Bojangles Robinson, famous for dancing in four films with adorable child star Shirley Temple. And you’ll see why Ray Bolger was dubbed the greatest comic dancer of all time.

You’re bound to be wowed by the amazing Nicholas Brothers, who were considered by both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to be the most brilliant and dazzling dancers to ever hit the silver screen. And then there’s the delightful Donald O’Connor, who was not only a skilled dancer and comic actor, but also had a lovely, lyrical singing voice.

You’ll have a taste of a number of other performers whose fancy footwork has graced the silver screen, including Gower Champion and Tommy Tune, both of whom went on to become successful Broadway directors and choreographers. And, you’ll see the work of a very young Bob Fosse, who later, as a choreographer and director, has won nine Tony Awards, three Emmys and an Oscar.

So come to the class that participants have described as giving them the urge to start singin’ in the rain and dancin’ in the sun!

Bonnie Weiss, your instructor has lectured on the legends of Broadway and Hollywood for over 30 years and for OLLI since 2004. Besides her extensive research on the dancers presented, she has met and talked with three of them, has had long conversations with two of their widows, and has interviewed one of them for a feature story in TheaterWeek Magazine.



Celestial Mapping

with Nick Kanas

  10:00 am-12:00 pm



*This class skips 4th of July. Final class will be held July 25th


All maps tell a story and are products of their times.  Maps of the heavens are no exception.  Star maps show the relative locations of the stars in constellations and are useful for planting, navigation, and storytelling.  Cosmological maps depict the position of the Earth in the heavens according to then-held views of the Solar System.  Planetary maps define the surface of the planets and moons as seen through telescopes or visiting space probes.  Class lectures will trace the fascinating story of how the heavens have been mapped from antiquity to the present day.  Through the use of beautiful images from antiquarian and modern sources, how these maps relate to cultural, artistic, and scientific ideas of their times will be discussed. 

Week 1:Constellations and Early Star Maps

Week 2:The Golden Age

Week 3:Frontispieces and Title Pages; Early American Star Maps

Week 4:Transition to Modern Star Atlases

Week 5:Solar System Maps

Week 6: Pictorial Maps; Celestial Images in Art


UCSF Professor Emeritus (Psychiatry), Dr. Nick Kanas is a collector of celestial maps and author of two books on star and solar system mapping. Dr. Kanas is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (London) and has collected antiquarian star maps for over 35 years.  He has given talks on celestial cartography to amateur and professional groups, including the Adler Planetarium; the Lick Observatory; the California Academy of Sciences; and annual meetings of the International Conference on the History of Cartography, the Society for the History of Astronomy, and the Flamsteed Astronomical Society in Greenwich, U.K.  He has published articles on celestial cartography in magazines and journals and has written two celestial map-related books:  Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography (now in its 3rd edition), and Solar System Maps: From Antiquity to the Space Age


Rivals & Conspirators: Five Great Renaissance Masters

with Karen Lee McSorley

  1:00 pm-3:00 pm



* This class skips 4th of July. Final class will be held July 25th


Rivals and Conspirators: Great Renaissance Masters will focus on the Italian Renaissance (1300-1600 CE), a remarkable period which completely transformed the collective history of art production, cultural and scientific discourse, patronage wars and ultimately the global art world.

Lectures will focus on important innovations in both composition and iconography, as well as new forms of patronage and the rise of the status of artists. The investigation will include painting, sculpture, and architecture in relation to their original location, function, style, and construction. The lecture framework is based upon in-depth biographies of five great Italian masters: Giotto, Boticelli, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian.

To better understand the cultural context of these artistic commissions, lectures will focus on the economic influence of the Papacy, the House of Medici, and others. This will be an important thread by which myriad rivalries & conspiracies propel individual artists to reach their maximum potential of inspiration, productivity, and infamy.

This course includes classroom lectures, visual slide projections, assigned readings, and active class discussions. 


Week 1: “Proto-Renaissance: Vasari, Giotto, House of Medici & Other Pioneers”

Week 2: “Sandro Boticelli (1445-1510 CE)”

Week 3: “Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)”

Week 4: “Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)”

Week 5: “Raphael Urbino (1483-1520)”

Week 6:“Titian Vecellio (1490-1576)”


Karen McSorley holds advanced degrees in both Art History and Econometrics from Northwestern University and Yale University. Additionally, she is an 11-year veteran of SFMOMA’s museum guide program and has developed and delivered over 100 tailored tours to a wide array of audiences across the Bay Area.




Writing the Personal Essay

with Cary Pepper

  10:30 am-12:30 pm



* This class skips 5th of July. Final class will be held July 26th

*This class is considered a Specialty class which is smaller and more hand-on. Note the price is $145.


Everyone has stories to tell. What’s yours? This course will explore how to tell your story through the form of the personal essay. Lectures and discussion will focus on structure (beginning, middle, end), content (how to choose it, how to focus it, how to use it to best advantage), and techniques that put the “personal” in personal essay (dialogue, descriptive details, self-revelation).

In-class exercises will focus on these specific elements. Through in-class readings, students who choose to will share what they’ve written. Previous writing experience is not required.

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Structure

Week 3: Content

Week 4: Dialogue

Week 5: Details

Week 6: Language


Cary Pepper is an award-winning playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and nonfiction writer.
His plays have been presented throughout the United States and internationally, he’s published dozens of articles as well as other nonfiction, and he’s a four-time contributor to Applause Books’ Best American Short Plays series.


Drawing Light and Shadow

with Karen Bash

  11:00 am-1:00 pm

SF State


*This class meets on the Main Campus, 1600 Holloway Ave, Fine Arts Bldg. 282

*This class will be 5 weeks, skipping July 5th. Final class will be held July 19th

*This class is considered a Specialty class which is smaller and more hand-on. Note the price is $145.


In this hands-on drawing class students will develop technical art skills, and gain a better understanding of how our vision interprets the world. Students will learn how to see the subtlety of light and shadows on objects, and draw them accurately. Lessons in understanding the characteristics of light and shadow, such as reflected light and core or cast shadows, will be given. Students will also learn techniques for observing and developing basic value relationships. Starting with simple objects such as balls and boxes, students will develop skills to draw the light and shadows on complex forms and will be able to draw objects that look three dimensional and realistic!

This class will be held on the main campus.

Week 1: Drawing light and shadow on basic shapes

Week 2: Drawing light and shadow on basic shapes on toned paper

Week 3: Light and Shadow on more advanced shapes

Week 4: Light and shadow on more advanced shapes on toned paper

Week 5: Light and Shadow on multiple objects together

Download Materials List (pdf)

Karen Bash obtained her B.F.A. in Studio Art from San Francisco State University. She is a  landscape artist working in pastel, watercolor, ink and graphite. Her work has been published, and shown in Northern California 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 as well as other Bay Area organizations.


Sketching SFSU in Ink & Watercolor

with Karen Bash

  2:00 pm-4:30 pm



*This class meets on the Main Campus, 1600 Holloway Ave, Fine Arts Bldg. 282

*This class will be 5 weeks, skipping July 5th. Final class will be held July 19th

*This class is considered a Specialty class which is smaller and more hand-on. Note the price is $145.

This class will introduce students to plein air sketching in ink and watercolor, with the focus on the SFSU campus and people. Our first few classes will be in the studio where students will learn how to draw in a quick and lively style with ink. They will learn how to sketch people sitting and in motion, and learn various mark making to indicate trees, plants and buildings. Basic composition techniques will be explained, as well as how to apply simple watercolor washes. By adding a simple splash of watercolor students will be able to add light and shadows, and bring their sketches to life with color! When we have learned these techniques, we’ll take them outside to one of the campus cafes to sketch plein air! And when we do students can sip a drink and nibble a snack while working, or enjoy it at the end of class when artwork is shared.

Week 1: Learning the basics of composition and mark making to suggest trees, plants, buildings, etc.

Week 2: How to draw simple, quick images of people

Week 3: How to effectively mix watercolor and create washes for varied effects

Week 4: Putting it all together to create a sketch of SFSU campus life

Week 5: Putting it all together to create a sketch of SFSU campus life

Download Materials List (PDF)

Karen Bash obtained her B.F.A. in Studio Art from San Francisco State University. She is a  landscape artist working in pastel, watercolor, ink and graphite. Her work has been published, and shown in Northern California 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 as well as other Bay Area organizations.