left) Curtis Smith. (right) Susie Graham. Photos by Rodney Margisn


This year, the Ivy Tech Center for Lifelong Learning celebrates its 10th anniversary. And while its founding executive director says she modeled the center on similar programs from around the country, it’s customized for Bloomington.

“From a program perspective, we were able to do really whatever we felt reflected the learning needs of the community,” says Susie Graham, who launched the program in 2007.

Until 2006, continuing education at Ivy Tech Community College–Bloomington fell under the broader scope of workforce and open-enrollment programming. Graham, who moved to the Ivy Tech Foundation in 2013, says then-Chancellor John Whikehart asked her to create a separate lifelong learning program focusing on enrichment. As such, the program moved from being centered on computer training to classes in homesteading and urban farming, personal health and nutrition, fishing, selling on eBay, limestone carving, humanities, and more.

“I’ve always felt society’s approach to education is limited and short-sighted. It’s defined through fixed, age-centered lenses,” Graham says, describing the educational system in terms of elementary, middle, and high schools. “Those are fine, except those experiences time out, while life continues to move on. If we actively acknowledge that learning is a lifelong process, I think we become more active learners, and, in turn, model that same behavior for future generations.”

Current Executive Director Curtis Smith says enrollment at Ivy Tech’s Center for Lifelong Learning grew exponentially after moving to the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, which he attributes to its downtown location and hands-on art curriculum. The 2016–17 academic year finished with about 2,300 students enrolled, and Smith expects the numbers in the kids’ summer camps to exceed last year’s approximately 570, which surpassed the year before.

“We’re growing a lot,” he says. “Bloomington is an example for what lifelong learning and enrichment learning could be for Ivy Tech campuses across the entire state.”

Two of Smith’s goals for the next 10 years are to create an organizational model for other campuses and to offer more lifelong service learning opportunities combining philanthropy and lifestyle improvement. An example of such a class is KonMari for a Cause, based on the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. At the end of the class, students donate items from their “tidying up” to local charities.

Visit ivytech.edu/bloomington/cll for more information.