Seniors from Longview
take classes at the College -- and bring as much as they take away.
by Leslie Limon
On Veterans' Day
a handful of students climbed into a College van. Their destination:
the annual Canandaigua
Treaty commemoration. "It was a great day," recalls Sue Cotton,
one of the students who made the 100-mile round trip. Staying warm
during the outdoor event, however, was a bit of a challenge "for
this 80-year-old," says Cotton.
Longview resident Claire Gilbert audits Michael Smith’s
U.S. history class
Cotton, one of several residents of the Longview senior residence
community who audit courses at Ithaca College, was enrolled in
assistant professor of anthropology Jack Rossen's Northeast Native
Peoples course. For nearly five years IC has had a unique, multifaceted
relationship with neighboring Longview, with students from all
the schools interacting on various levels with residents of the
community -- from occupational therapy and speech-language pathology
students running clinics at Longview to collaboration on research
projects to an intergenerational choir to belly dancing classes
and seminars for the residents run by IC faculty members. Longview
residents have access to College facilities such as the Fitness
Center and dining halls, and may attend athletic events and classes
|“It is hard for an
2002 to know
the deep impact that World War II
or Vietnam had
on our society,
but through the Longview residents we are able
what those times were like.”
--Holly Pietromonaco ’06
Dennis Perlus, who chose to live at Longview
expressly because of its relationship to Ithaca College, is one
of three Longview
residents who audited assistant professor of history Michael Smith's
course U.S. History since 1865 last fall. Claire Gilbert is another.
Gilbert, who holds a degree in biology from Cornell University,
explains, "I'd never taken a college course in American history,
so I thought it would be a good thing." She admits she found it
sobering. "The treatment of blacks. The Vietnam War. It's awfully
hard to recognize that this country has had some miserable leadership.
Good leaders have been few and far between."
Gilbert also engages in intergenerational discussion groups at
Longview with some of Smith's students, who participate for credit.
The idea for this project came to Smith as he sought ways to explore
the relationship between memory and history. Twelve Longview residents
and 14 students signed up, forming two mixed groups that meet once
a month. The students keep a journal and summarize their insights
on the final exam.
Professors, students, and auditors alike see
value in intergenerational learning. Smith asserts that the presence
of elders "is a corrective
to a myopic version of history. "Old enough to be his parents,
these elders don't hesitate to speak up in class, often illustrating
that firsthand experience is a wonderful complement to traditional
ways of teaching history. A person who actually lived through the
periods being studied adds a different dimension than could be
imparted by a faculty member or a textbook.
Elders also add a new dimension to classroom
diversity. Comments Holly Pietromonaco '06, "As a student, I've always been surrounded
by my peers, the only person not of my generation being the teacher.
The Longview residents give me a new perspective on [older people
and on] the past." She elaborates: "It is hard for an 18-year-old
in 2002 to know the deep impact that World War II or Vietnam had
on our society, but through the Longview residents we are able
to experience [almost] firsthand what those times were like."
Student members of the Longview discussion
groups cite a new awareness of how memory is shaped. Brad Forenza
'04 says he now comprehends
that people "interpret history differently because they experience
history differently." Jenn Sosinski '06 wonders what kinds of things
she will remember as she ages -- and why.
Discussion group participants are learning
that history is not just about major events but also about changes
in everyday life.
Students were struck, for example, by an elder's advice to document
even the most ordinary-seeming days. The subsequent discussion
led one student to reflect on the technologies he takes for granted.
Learning that some elders grew up with no electricity, he wrote, "Since
they didn't have it, they never missed it! The same applies for
radio, television, etc. What would [we] do . . . without computers?
We would be absolutely lost. However, I wonder if we would be all
the wiser for never [having experienced] the Internet."
Longview residents say they benefit from both
course content and intergenerational contact. Perlus comments
that talking with younger
students helps her look at her own experiences from their point
of view. Thomas Creamer, who audits assistant professor of politics
Beth Harris's Constitutional Law course, remarks that he's gained
insight into different views on political issues. Listening to
others' opinions, he reflects, "causes me to do a lot more thinking
than I ever did." And Cotton says that taking the course and interacting
with college-age students not only make her feel younger but have
also changed her ideas and attitudes about native peoples. (Before
taking the course, she says, she'd held "strange ideas about Indians.")
Jack Rossen sees another benefit to Sue Cotton's
presence in his class: she raises the standard. "Other students see how education
is not to be taken for granted," he says. "They see this woman
walking to campus, always prepared, who doesn't miss a class. She
pushes other students to come prepared. We all draw inspiration
The Ithaca College–Longview academic partnership
is strong, and faculty are taking advantage of the intergenerational
Smith, for example, is planning panel discussions on two seminal
events in the lives of the Longview generation: the Great Depression
and World War II. He also anticipates higher enrollment from traditional
students in his upcoming courses -- evidence that more students
are starting to see value in what junior Brad Forenza terms "a
unique learning experience: we have history in our classroom!"
Photo by George Sapio