Harpswell Anchor MSC Article
Located in Harpswell, Maine, the monthly Newsletter, the Harpswell Anchor, covers local issues such as the fishing community, land conservation efforts, and town government in a thoughtful and often amusing manner. Following is a reprint of an article in the March edition about Midcoast Senior College. To see the article as published, visit www.harpswellanchor.com and become a subscriber for only $11.99 per year for unlimited online access to all issues dating back to 2007!
MSC at Forefront Of Lifelong Learning For Local Seniors
by Amber Skinner
Many recent health studies are indicating that lifelong learning is beneficial to the brain, improving memory and cognition, while warding off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. As Maine maintains its status as the state with the oldest median population (with Harpswell’s at least 30 percent higher than the state’s median), it’s critical that our local elders be effectively engaged—for the benefit not only to themselves, but our vibrant community as well.
One resource regional seniors use to stay active and informed is the Midcoast Senior College (MSC), open to anyone 50 years and older. The school requires “no papers, no exams, no grades,” MSC President Dr. Tony Belmont explained. The only requirements are a $15 membership fee and the cost of each class taken, usually between $30 and $55, which includes the required books. Financial aid is available.
MSC, which opened its doors in 2000, offers “college-level courses designed to be of interest to seniors, topics seniors find provocative,” Belmont said.
It “provides a tremendous opportunity for people to go in depth with a subject they’re not that familiar with,” MSC faculty member Dr. Bruce MacDougal of Harpswell described.
Plus, students are “in the company of other students who are (their) own age,” Belmont added. Post-secondary education is not required and, for many MSC students, this is their first foray into a classroom since high school.
Twenty-four classes are on offer for the spring semester, which starts March 14. They range from Harnessing Ocean Energy: Tide Mills Past, Present & Future, to The Gods and Us: Religion and the Human Career, to It’s All About the Story. Classes meet for two hours once a week for four to eight weeks each term.
Belmont has taken several classes himself, including ones on opera, altruism and spies throughout history, he said. They’ve been “fascinating, a lot of fun and a great social opportunity.”
Belmont is a retired Navy captain and medical director who moved to Maine in 2000.
“It is exciting to discuss course material with other people my age. I feel the social aspect is important to everyone involved with MSC,” Joyce Bessen, also of Harpswell, said. “Many long-term friendships are formed,” she added, in addition to “ongoing study groups.”
Bessen, who worked as a family nurse practitioner, moved to Harpswell in 2002 and has been taking classes at MSC since 2004. She has also served on its Board of Directors and edited its newsletter.
“I have benefitted from the intellectual stimulation and…have been introduced to new interests such as poetry writing,” Bessen continued. “It is a joy to be introduced to the literature, history and science which I did not study while I was younger.
“I consistently find the quality of the teachers and students well above my expectations,” she said.
“The base of knowledge is one of the strengths of MSC,” MacDougal said, matched by the “extremely capable people who take the courses.”
MacDougal is a retired surgeon and professor who moved to Harpswell full time 11 years ago. Believing climate science an important topic to understand and one “most don’t have a good grounding in,” he “audited a lot of courses (on that topic) at Bowdoin (College)” after moving back to Maine. He started teaching climate science at MSC last year.
“Lively discussion in all of our courses is welcome, and the students, as much as the professor, define each course,” Belmont explained, through sincere “back and forth.”
The teachers, who are all volunteers, are culled from the local population. “Midcoast Maine is a delightful place to live,” Belmont said. “We benefit from academics, teachers and faculty from schools around the country who have retired here.”
MSC’s fall semester will start in mid-September. In the periods between semesters, the school offers free Summer and Winter Wisdom series, as well as a year-round Current Events Forum, all held at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick and open to the public.
MSC is located at 10 Tibbetts Drive, Suite 210, Brunswick, in the Southern New Hampshire University building next to Walmart. “It’s an easy place to take a class,” Belmont said, with “excellent facilities and plenty of parking.”
For more information, call 725-4900 or visit midcoastseniorcollege.org.