“Who knows only his own generation remains always a child.”
With this inscription above the west entrance to Norlin Library, it’s only fitting CU Boulder is one of the first universities to offer an intergenerational writing class.
So what does the class of 2023 have in common with local community members whose last college class may pre-date the moon landing? The parallels are sometimes uncanny. Students discover a new richness to topics such as birth control, racism and the war on drugs when they have a chance to explore them alongside members of older generations who have lived through similar social upheavals.
Community members attend all class meetings, complete select writing assignments, participate in discussions and collaborate with their student partners on a research project and a biographical essay.
“It’s fun to watch students’ expressions when they sit down on the first day of class,” says Teaching Associate Professor Eric Klinger, who has taught with the Program for Writing and Rhetoric since 2004. “Some don’t realize they’ve signed up for an intergenerational writing class and are confused to see so many folks with white hair when they enter the room.”
By the second week, any shyness has given way to curiosity and conversation. “The connection is magical,” says Klinger, who is teaching the class for the fifth time this fall. “Once we start discussing the class theme, ‘Exploring the American Dream,’ the conversation just flows.”
Students long for meaningful connections during their time in college, and an intergenerational writing class offers just that. One former student wrote, “I really appreciated the opportunity to connect with an actual member of the community and not just someone passing through for school. As a college student here, it's very easy to get caught up in the college environment without getting to know the other people who call Boulder home. I've also been able to expand my writing skills beyond just purely academic work.”
Community members also report meaningful connections: “I learned a lot about the [younger] generation and how each student is unique. I especially enjoyed the students from more diverse backgrounds and learning about their views of the world.”
The writing class is currently accepting applications for the fall 2022 term from members of the local community who are 60 years or older. Please contact Richard Stansbury at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.