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Sources: Gayle Doll, 785-532-5945, gdoll@k-state.edu;
Paul Hunt, 785-532-3813, phunt@k-state.edu;
Cam Beatty, cbeatty@sisna.com;
and Kay Shanks, rkshanks@sbcglobal.net
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Monday, July 12, 2010

COURSE AUDITING BRINGS A DIFFERENT TYPE OF STUDENT TO K-STATE CLASSROOMS

MANHATTAN -- Cam Beatty is not your traditional Kansas State University student. He doesn't worry about his grade on the next big exam, he's not declaring a major anytime soon, and he's 68 years old.

Beatty, a resident of Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community in Manhattan and a former English as a second language professor, is one of several older Manhattan community members who currently audits courses at K-State. The Kansas Board of Regents allows any Kansas resident 60 or older to audit courses at a regents' university for free, provided there is sufficient space in the classroom.

Participants auditing a course are allowed to do as much or as little work as they choose.

So far Beatty has audited a Chinese course and is currently auditing a K-State music theory fundamentals course.

"It's part of my continuing education, and that's the main reason I'm doing it," he said. "I'm learning new stuff. The music class in particular is useful for me in the real world because I sing in a couple of choruses but I still can't read music. I hope to be able to read enough music to be able to do more than 'ear sing.'"

In addition to learning about music, Beatty said he has learned a lot about "life as it is currently lived" simply by interacting with his younger peers in class.

"They are doing a lot of things that I find interesting but have no other way of finding out about other than by hanging with them," he said.

Kay Shanks, a resident of Meadowlark Hills and former school psychologist, also decided to take advantage of the opportunity to take courses she was too hesitant to take while in college. Shanks is currently auditing an online creativity and aging course through K-State.

Beatty and Shanks heard about auditing after participating in a student mentor program facilitated by Gayle Doll, director of the Center on Aging at K-State. Doll said she thinks having older students like Beatty and Shanks auditing courses at K-State benefits the university in multiple ways.

"I think it's a way of bringing fresh ideas into the classroom because older adults tend to be strong contributors in the classroom -- they are not silent," she said. "It also enhances the class because it puts another adult in the classroom. Many of us see ourselves as having two generations in the classroom -- the instructor and a much younger student -- but with another older adult, it bridges the gap."

Paul Hunt, professor of trombone at K-State and Beatty's music theory fundamentals instructor, said one of the benefits he sees to having older students in the classroom is the example they provide undergraduate students.

"This class is a 100-level class," Hunt said. "I have a freshman new to K-State this summer, and this is his first class. He's experiencing college classes for the first time, and I think that he's probably learning by example from Cam, who is willing to ask questions and be involved in the process."

According to Doll, the older adults are benefitting just as much as the younger students. She said research shows that learning stimulates new cell growth in the brain, which contributes to healthy aging. There has even been speculation, Doll said, that continued education reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer's among older adults.

Shanks and Beatty agree that auditing courses has been a beneficial and positive experience. Shanks hopes to audit more courses, particularly in astronomy and philosophy. Beatty said he plans to take another music course and also is interested in anthropology.

Beatty said his message to older adults interested in auditing courses would be to take advantage of every opportunity for continued education and to use K-State as a resource in this learning.

"I think anybody who is interested in continuing his or her education really ought to do so," he said. "You hear and read lots of things about how keeping your mind active keeps your body active, which keeps you healthy and helps you live a longer better life. Frankly, I'm just in it for the education and the learning. I would encourage anybody who's interested in learning things to do it."

More information on auditing courses at K-State is available at http://courses.k-state.edu/catalog/undergraduate/enrollment/