Some Thoughts From New Members


In the recent new member survey, 31 of the 63 members of the LLI class of 2021 shared their thoughts about their first semester at Bard LLI. Many were grateful for the welcome they received and they rated the quality of their courses highly. Others had some reservations and offered suggestions for improvement. As in the past year and a half, there were differing opinions about whether courses are best offered in person or on Zoom. A few even started thinking about some new courses they might teach. Here is a sample of their enthusiasms, their suggestions, and their insights.

The Mentor Program

Most new members said a mentor contacted them. Their experience was generally positive, garnering ratings of 4 or 5. 

  • My mentor was very helpful in my quest to become familiar with the college setting and the classes that I chose. 
  • Felt very connected to the community.
  • Any questions I might have going forward I will be comfortable reaching out to her.

But two people were not contacted by a mentor, and not everyone who was had a positive experience.

  • I found it intrusive as my mentor was extremely pushy. 
  • They should be more proactive. For example, it would have been good to know that some courses fill immediately.

Orientation and Campus Tour

The Bard campus tours and new member orientation received some good reviews. Ninety percent attended orientation, either in person or via zoom. Two-thirds said they attended a tour, and 86% said the information provided was all they needed to find their way around campus.

  • I loved our tour guide. 
  • Tech support was very reassuring.
  • Very helpful information and nice to meet other participants. 
  • Seeing how extraordinary the members are. 
  • I absolutely appreciate all the hard work and dedication that the orientation volunteers put into it.
  • I value the social aspect of the organization.
  • The message that this is a community that also offers opportunities to address social needs/wants came across clearly.

And some suggestions for improvement.

  • It would have been nice to see more of the campus and actually enter the library, science building, etc.
  • Incorporate walking tours that see the entire campus with orientation. 
  • The campus map was difficult to use.
  • On the campus map it would be helpful to bold the buildings that are used for LLI classes as well as the recommended parking lots.
  • Maybe arrange some time blocks to get Bard IDs?
  • If the person who prints out the IDs had the correct list, we could have gotten our IDs the day we did the orientation
  • Should not be a rehash verbatim of what I can find online.
  • Better directions to the event and signs
  • Too much back patting and soliciting for volunteers
  • It could be more focused on intellectual inquiry than simple entertainment. Made Bard LLI feel lightweight.

The Folder

Almost 80% said they used the information about LLI and Bard College that was provided in the new member folder. One person commented, “It took me a bit to read it all but all was relevant.” Unfortunately, there were not enough folders for everyone.

The Welcome Table

Of those who took in-person classes, 53% stopped at the LLI welcome table in Olin. Approximately 95% found it helpful to be welcomed by LLI members who could answer questions and direct them on their way

In Person, Zoom or Hybrid?

Almost everyone took at least one Zoom class, while only about 45% took an in-person class. Preferences about the different formats varied, with concerns about Covid being a major factor. 

  • I loved my Zoom class.
  • I would much rather have in-person classes.
  • I prefer in-class as long as the COVID risks remain manageable.
  • I would probably like a combination of classes. 
  • Both have value. I would choose based on course content.
  • Hybrid would be good.
  • NO ZOOM!

Class Quality

Most respondents rated their classes good to excellent, while some were mixed

  • Fabulous, the instructors were knowledgeable and well prepared for every class.
  • Fabulous. Highest quality, informative and fun.
  • I loved my course, even though it was uneven. 
  • One excellent, the other mixed.
  • One was very high quality. The other was good but poorly organized.

Others were unsatisfied. 

  • Infotainment.
  • The presenter and assistants had a great deal of trouble with connecting to the videos. 
  • I dropped one because it felt like a high school civics class. 
  • It would be nice to have art classes as Vassar did this semester.

Course Evaluations

Only 45% submitted course evaluations. Many said they had not received the emails with the evaluation forms. In some cases, that appears to be because the forms were put in the spam folder. 

Participation Opportunities

Almost half (46%) said they aren’t able to volunteer at this time. Others had some reservations. Of the volunteer opportunities discussed, the ones garnering most interest were proofreading an LLI publication, managing a classroom, and photographing events, people. Many needed more information.

  • Time commitment, not clear what is required for each one.
  • I need to see how the organization works before diving in.
  • Need to get to know LLI better—hard to know how to help at this point. 
  • Want more information regarding what is involved, time commitment required, frequency.
  • Still concerned about Covid, especially now with the new variant.
  • The constant hard sell is overwhelming. 

A few said they were considering developing a course. Possible subjects included geology, English paper piercing, US social and cultural history, labor and urban history, roots heritage, merchandising, gardening, cooking, geology, and music and dance from the 20s to the 50s. But one possible presenter had some reservations, commenting that, “Class members would have to be ready to do some reading and that doesn’t seem to fit the Bard LLI mode.”

As always, committee chairs are reviewing these comments, with the goal of improving the function and class offerings of LLI. Thank you to all who took the time to comment about your experience.