Continuing students find education, fellowship with ECU’s Lifelong Learning Program

A new semester on campus sees bustling streets and sidewalks filled with Pirates hustling to keep intense schedules of classes, extracurricular activities, social gatherings, sporting events, part-time jobs, and other enriching ventures. While many are on a traditional pathway between education and career, East Carolina University also provides opportunities for those seeking knowledge outside of a standard four-year degree.   

ECU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education meets those in a different phase of life by offering courses, trips and other activities through the Lifelong Learning Program. The program features low-cost, pressure-free and exam-free educational opportunities led by highly-qualified ECU faculty and other expert instructors. There are no prior education requirements to join.  

This year, the 50 or older age limit for participation has been removed to include all adult learners.  

Lifelong Learning Program participants continue their education at East Carolina University with affordable and exam-free classes. The fall kickoff event brought in over 90 students looking for continued education and fellowship opportunities. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

Annette Kariko, director of continuing and professional education at ECU, said she is looking forward to opening the program to include a larger age range.  

“We’re excited to welcome longtime members as well as new members and share our program offerings with a wider audience,” she said. 

The Lifelong Learning Program began offering courses in 2011.  

Robersonville native and retiree Phil Bullock is one of the program’s original participants and is a program volunteer.   

“I saw an advertisement in the newspaper back in 2012. I attended a kickoff event out of curiosity, signed up for a few classes, and I got hooked. I’ve been a member ever since,” Bullock said. 

“Being retired, this gives access to being able to do something. ‘Idle hands,’ you know? It keeps you occupied, and you can pick and choose what you want to be occupied with. If you can keep busy, age doesn’t creep up on you,” he said.  

Bullock said he’s always loved learning and reads every day — usually history. But he also enjoys the social aspect of the program and talking with the knowledgeable instructors about the topics he’s interested in. 

“The social aspect of it is great because you get to meet so many different people. We have excellent instructors that make the classes interesting,” Bullock said. 

Recently retired physical therapist Margaret Myers is getting back to her love of art with the Lifelong Learning Program. 

Graduating from UNC as an art major and starting out in her career as an art teacher, she said, “I took part because I was newly retired and finally had the time to enjoy things that had previously been on the back burner.”  

Prior to COVID, Myers took several stained-glass classes and really enjoyed the recent group trip to Seagrove, North Carolina — one of the largest artisan pottery communities in the country. 

“I enjoy new, creative experiences and educational opportunities. The program is stimulating, fun and inexpensive,” she said. 

This year’s kickoff event brought in close to 90 registrants. Program membership opportunities are available, and benefits provide discounted registration fees.  

Courses offered this fall will cover topics like music appreciation, eastern North Carolina history, culture and religion, healthy aging, gardening, memoir writing, and more. Trips will include the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, Cape Lookout lighthouse, houses of worship, Mumfest, and a tour of ECU’s Coastal Studies Institute on the Outer Banks.  

Staff members also accept suggestions and work to add additional offerings to the program.  

“If it’s not part of the curriculum already, we can find a way to add it in,” Bullock said. 

Learn more about ECU’s Lifelong Learning Program or register for an upcoming class, trip or event at  

Instructor George Mewborn presents the history and the culture of the Tuscarora tribe in eastern North Carolina to a class of lifelong learners in the Willis Building auditorium.

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