Academic Year 2023 Courses

Academic Year 2023 Courses

Our courses provide opportunities for our members to delve more deeply into fascinating subjects, hear from outstanding teachers, and have fun as well: no exams, no grades, but ample opportunities to participate in discussions.

You must be a OLLI member to sign up for Courses!

→ Courses are limited to 2023 members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSC. If you wish to join, go to our home page and use the section titled Join OLLI at UCSC or Renew Your Membership.  Please read the entire description of each class, as some have different enrollment procedures.

Online Registration is available.  Sign into your OLLI account and go to the "Course" button and select the courses and follow the instructions.  

For those that would like to send in your registration for any of the courses you can download a PDF Here!  For a Zoom link please include your email address on the form.  

All courses have a $20.00 fee for each course.  Please include your check or credit card information as payment for the course or courses.  2126 is free!  However, you need to send an email to to receive the Zoom link.

2031 International Affairs Fall 2021
2115 Molecular Biology   Postponed New Schedule to be determined
2120  Women in the Ancient Western World     Postponed
2121  Beauty and Uses of Mathematics:  A Mathematical Exhibit
2122   Beyond the Binary:  New Ways of Thinking About Sex and Gender
2123  Cosmology
2124 Shakespeare: The Season's Plays
2125 Toolkits in World History: The Spread of Innovation, 500-1500
2126  The Personal is Political: The Evolution of Spain and its Citizens from Dictatorship to Democracy

2031 International Affairs Fall 2021
When:  Starting Sept 13, 2021 and continuing every other Monday
Where:  Zoom online
Instructor:   Prof. Emerita Ronnie Gruhn

 We are again fortunate to have Ronnie Gruhn, Professor Emerita of Politics at UCSC, as one of our teachers. She has a passionate and undiminished interest in reading, writing, and talking about world affairs. Her courses offer powerful insights into what is happening today. Ronnie has been very generous in sharing her knowledge with OLLI members, and her courses have been exceedingly well attended.

Ronnie begins her fall series of YouTube commentaries on international affairs the week of September 13, continuing every other Monday.   Watch your inbox for an email from OLLI with a link to the commentary.

Subscribe to the OLLI UCSC YouTube channel by going to:

Click on the red subscribe button and the bell to be notified of each OLLI video. We can help if you have a problem subscribing. Let us know. 


2115 Molecular Biology

Saturdays, Postponed - New Schedule to be defined 
Location: UCSC, Physical Science Building, Room 240, and Zoom 
The course will be taught by four Professors from the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UCSC.Barry Bowman

Bill Saxton
Olena Vaske
Dan Turner-Evans

A typical plant or animal cell contains more that 40,000 different kinds of molecules. Great progress has been made in understanding how these molecules combine and interact to form a living creature. In this course four UCSC Professors will talk about recent discoveries in molecular biology.

Professor Barry Bowman, the course coordinator, will begin with a basic review of genes and proteins.   Professor Saxton will explain the basic structure and function of cells.  Professor Vaske is focused on understanding the mutations in DNA that cause childhood cancers.  Professor Turner-Evans is using marvelous new tools to see how neurons in the brain generate memories and responses. 

These talks are intended for a general audience. A scientific background or knowledge of biology is not expected.



2120  Postponed -- Women in the Ancient Western World

Thursdays, Postponed - New Schedule to be defined when things calm down
Museum of Art and History, 705 Front St.
Instructor:  Gail Greenwood

Have you ever wondered what we’re doing with bunnies bringing eggs at Easter, and pine trees covered with baubles to celebrate the birth of a Jewish baby? Gail Greenwood did, and it never made sense to her until she learned about women’s history. She is now offering us an 8-hour survey course she’s calling “Women in the Ancient Western World.” The primary idea examined will be that the story changes when the point of view of the storyteller changes; though the facts may be the same, the significance of the facts and even which dates matter alter when viewed from women’s rather than from men’s perspective. The course will begin with Prehistory — The Great Mother and her cave children, with an examination of why we don’t begin with the Greeks — followed with the Ancient Near East, Egypt, and Crete. Then we will (in a great sweep of thousands of years in an hour or two) look at ancient and classical Greece, Rome, and the Judeo-Christian heritage. 

Gail Greenwood is a retired community college history teacher. For thirty-four years, she taught survey courses in American History, Western Civilization, and Women in both American and Western Civilization. In the 1970s she created the first Women in American History courses at American River College.

2121  Beauty and Uses of Mathematics:  A Mathematical Exhibit

When:    Wednesdays, January 4, 11, 18, 25   10-12 am.
Where:   ZOOM only for the next three weeks
Instructor:  Peter Farkas

Link to presentation for Lecture 1:


This set of four lectures is entitled "Beauty and Uses of Mathematics: A Mathematical Exhibition".  The title is inspired by "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky.  We go to museums and exhibitions to admire, ponder, and think about objects of beauty or interest; we go to concerts to (re-)listen to musical pieces.  Occasionally, we read about scientific topics in the mainstream, or not so mainstream media.  In the same vein, we ought to stop and pay special attention to objects/concepts in mathematics which are of interest and beauty.  In these lectures we will examine some topics and/or biographies of people whom I consider beautiful, interesting, enlightening.

Lecture 1 will be about speed.  This will take us into astronomy, mechanics, and calculus.  We will not get too deeply into the mathematical topic itself, instead we will look mostly at history. 

Lecture 2 will contain two topics: the method of mathematical induction, and a glimpse at a family of curves (the conics).  The first one is a method of proving things, the second is a subject in geometry and algebra. 

Lecture 3 will be dedicated to prime numbers.  This is properly in number theory, but the discussion will mention algebra, calculus (again), and even complex analysis.  Lecture 4 will be a gallery of portraits (biographies) of women mathematicians from the 4th century to the present.

The only prerequisite for this class is curiosity about mathematics, and a desire to explore its beauty and history.  The talk will rarely be technical, but when needed, I will introduce and explain all the prerequisites.  No special knowledge beyond middle school mathematics will be assumed.

Peter started out as a mathematician with a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a Ph.D from the University of Chicago. He started an academic career as a mathematician but swerved at some point and became a software engineer. Throughout his software engineering career, his love and awe for mathematics persisted, and now, in retirement, he is returning to it. He had a faithful and absorbed audience for his four earlier courses for OLLI.

2122   Beyond the Binary:  New Ways of Thinking About Sex and  Gender

When:  Thursdays, February 9, 16, March 2, 9      10-12 a.m.
Where:  Museum of Art and History, 705 Front Street
Instructor: Mary Crawford

Gender used to seem so simple. Men were manly and women were womanly, and everyone was (assumed to be) heterosexual. But John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe are long gone, and today more and more people are claiming a spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations. In reality, intersexed, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary individuals have existed throughout history and across cultures. In this course, we will explore the biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors that influence forma!on of gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. We will address questions such as, what are the psychological effects of intersex conditions on identity?  Is there a difference between gay behavior and gay identity? Is there a gay gene? How does the psychosexual development of gay men and lesbians differ? We also will explore transgender and nonbinary identities?  If time permits, we will learn about societies other than our own that allow for the existence of not two but three sexes (female, male, and… another). Throughout the course, there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion. My perspectives will be grounded in empirical social psychology, and I will engage in a critical analysis of recent and current research.

Mary Crawford, PhD is Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her research has focused on women and gender, particularly in contexts of health, sexuality, and communication. A Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society, she has authored more than 120 journal articles and chapters and written/edited 10 books including a widely adopted text for students, Transformations: Women, Gender, and Psychology. (3rd Ed, 2018).

2123  Cosmology

Wednesdays, Feb. 1,8,15,22, Mar. 1; 10 a.m. to noon.
Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, 705 Front Street, and on Zoom.
Instructor: Roger Knacke

 The course will be a discussion of  transformative discoveries in cosmology, the history and evolution of the Universe.  We will include current research being conducted with the James Webb Telescope on the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the Universe’s earliest years. Background in science is not necessary.

Meeting   1. Galaxies and the Universe

  1. Cosmic Expansion
  2. Cosmic Background Radiation;  Inflation
  3. Dark Matter; Dark Energy 
  4. Formation of the First Stars and Galaxies

 Roger Knacke is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Penn State Erie, where he  retired as Director of the School of Science in 2010.  He has  AB and PhD degrees in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.  His research focussed on interstellar matter and planetary atmospheres.  He has taught nine courses for OLLI.

2124 Shakespeare: The Season's Plays

When:  Feb 28, March 7, 14, 21, 28  10 am to 12 pm
Where:  Museum of Art and History, 705 Front Street
Instructor: Michael Warren

The texts for this series of five lectures will be two plays that will probably be familiar to local audiences: The Taming of the Shrew and King Lear.

The Taming of the Shrew is an early comedy.  Set in Italy, it concerns the wooing of the two daughters of Baptista, a wealthy citizen of Padua, and in so doing explores the nature of love and marriage.  The wooing of Bianca is a conventional comic plot of disguise and deception, with youthful lovers and a wily servant.  The more famous comic wooing of the reluctant and spirited Kate by the persistent Petruchio and the early days of their marriage present a contrasting vision of human relations that merits more serious consideration than it is often afforded.   

King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.  Written at the peak of his powers, it is an intense and powerful drama about the consequences of an old king’s bad judgment in relinquishing his rule to his daughters--his suffering, his madness, and his recovery before his death of his relationship with one loving daughter.  With a subplot that concerns the painful relations of the Earl of Gloucester with his two sons, it is a profound exploration of the nature of human behavior and moral choice.  And much else.

For the first class please read The Taming of the Shrew to the end of Act 3.

If you wish to purchase editions of the plays that are both responsibly annotated and inexpensive, I recommend either the Pelican or Folger series. One can access the Folger texts online for free at <>, but they are without notes.

Michael, a very knowledgeable and entertaining Shakespeare scholar, will discuss with us the two plays that Santa Cruz Shakespeare will be presenting next summer. We will send out a notice when the plays are announced.  Over the years our members have found that taking this class greatly enhances their understanding and enjoyment of the plays.

Professor Warren is emeritus professor of literature at UCSC and Textual Consultant and Dramaturg to Santa Cruz Shakespeare since its inception, earlier as Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

2125 Toolkits in World History: The Spread of Innovation, 500-1500

When:  March 16, 23, & 30    10:00 a.m  to 12:00 p.m.
Where: Santa Cruz Museum of Arts and History, 705 Front Street, Santa Cruz
Instructor: Terry Burke

The three sessions propose some elements of a global history of technology.

It focuses upon the global transmission of innovative technologies in the period 500-1500 C.E. It seeks to answer one of world history’s most important questions: where and when did the building blocks of the modern world first emerge? The answer, you may be surprised to learn, is not Europe.

We identify the ten major technological networks (“toolkits”) that together made possible the emergence of the modern world. Rather than being of European origin, we’ll discover that, they originated elsewhere, and gradually diffused to the lands of Islam where they were identified and made available for adoption. Each session will explore the tangled histories of  two toolkits..

March 16: water management and writing/ information storage
March 23: maritime navigational and pyro-technological
March 30: medical/pharmacological and weapons/warfare

Edmund (“Terry”) Burke, III is a retired UCSC world historian with a many years of experience teaching and research in the histories of Europe,  Asia, the Islamic world and world history.

He was the founder of the UCSC Center for World History, as well as an originator of “World History For Us All,” an innovative NEH funded online world history curriculum.  (

2126  The Personal is Political: The Evolution of Spain and its Citizens from Dictatorship to Democracy

When:  Friday, March 3  10-11:30 a.m.
Where:  On Zoom
Instructor Isidra Mencos

When a country is sick, the population shows the symptoms. In this presentation Isidra Mencos examines the intersection between politics and private lives at a pivotal time in the history of Spain. Mencos grew up under the Franco dictatorship. She was 17 when Franco died in 1975. The transition to democracy took some years, but the cultural and sexual revolution happened fast. It was a time of hope, but also of political and social conflict. With democracy under threat around the world, Mencos reflects on the impact that authoritarianism has in every aspect of a person’s life, and the decades-long shadow it casts.

Isidra Mencos is the author of Promenade of Desire—A Barcelona Memoir. She holds a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Contemporary Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught Spanish language, literature, and creative writing. Her essays and articles have been published in Diálogo, WIRED, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Stirring Literary Journal, among others. Her piece, “My Books and I,” was listed as Notable in The Best American Essays 2019. Originally from Spain, Isidra lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There is no charge for this class, but you need to register in order to receive the Zoom address.  To register send an email to