Lively Topical Classes at NYU-SCPS Center for Global Affairs Attract Growing Numbers of Seniors

World Politics, the Middle East, and Current Affairs are Important Areas of Discussion for Older Adults


NEW YORK, January 29, 2014 – For many senior citizens, lifelong learning does not stop at retirement. Countless adults 65 and over—a group that is expected to form 20% of the population in 2050, up from 13% today, according to the U.S. Census—actively seek opportunities to go back to school to gain new skills and knowledge.

“One should never stop learning because it keeps you alert and interesting,” asserts Madeleine Brecher, a 78-year-old from Manhattan, who, along with her husband George, has taken several continuing education classes at the NYU-SCPS Center for Global Affairs (CGA), which offers a host of programs that are popular with the senior set.

“Global affairs are very relevant to all of our lives,” says Mrs. Brecher, who is deeply involved in women’s issues at the United Nations. “I find these classes are incredibly insightful, and provide us with much to reflect on and discuss.”

CGA’s daytime continuing education offerings are very popular among older adults like Mrs. Brecher. According to Michelle D’Amico, director of continuing education and public programs at CGA, a part of the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS), intellectual stimulation and social interaction with peers are the key reasons for this phenomenon.  “The majority of our seniors have an interest in staying abreast of current events, staying relevant, and talking about current affairs with authority.”

“World Politics,” taught by Ralph Buultjens, an award-winning historian and author, has one of the largest and most loyal followings at CGA, drawing at least 150 students to each of its day-time sections.

Professor Buultjens is very enthusiastic about his senior students. “Older adults are much more appreciative of the dimensions of change; they’ve seen several different levels of change and understand it better,” says Professor Buultjens. “I think older people have a sense of internationalism, which is very good because they can communicate that to younger people and encourage them to seek informal as well as formal learning.”

Another great advantage of older students is that “they are in class because they want to be there, to explore their interest in a subject, not to earn a credential,” he adds.

Such is the case with Howard Maisell, 82, a former business owner, who has taken several classes with Buultjens over the 15 years he has taught World Politics. “Professor Buultjens takes a very complicated subject and makes it comprehensible to his audience,” says the retiree, who enrolls in three NYU-SCPS classes a semester, providing a routine to his days. “When you are older, you still feel part of the world,” he states. “It is so important to have structure, and these classes are part of my structure.”

Another well-attended course at CGA is one taught by Alon Ben-Meir, an expert on Middle East politics. Each fall and spring he offers a course that delves into the critical issues facing the Middle East. “For any student who follows current affairs, the Middle East is a prominent fixture in daily news coverage, which is why the area remains a source of inquiry and curiosity,” says the professor, who will teach “The Arab Spring: Three Years Later” this spring. “The feedback I receive from students is overwhelming; they enjoy not only learning about an oft-misunderstood part of the world, but also the new insights about many critical issues.”

In addition to these courses, seniors thirsty for still more learning can take CGA’s series on “Global Issues: Critical Topics, Expert Lecturers.” This year, the day-long seminar will focus on women's advancement and empowerment, and will take place the day before International Women's Day.

For more information and to register for any these courses, visit or call 212-998-7150.

World Politics – A New Balance of Power?                          Ralph Buultjens, starting January 28

The Arab Spring: Three Years Later                                   Alon Ben-Meir, starting February 5

Global Issues: Critical Topic, Expert Lecturers (seminar)         March 7

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