Do I have to be a former student or UW alumnus to join PLATO?

No. PLATO membership is open to anyone who has an interest in being part of a participatory learning organization. UW-Madison Continuing Studies supports PLATO as one means of fulfilling the "Wisconsin Idea" of extending the University’s resources beyond the boundaries of the campus.

When can I join PLATO?

You can join PLATO at any time, but all memberships renew on August 1. If you join between April 1 and November 30 you will pay the full membership fee, which is $60. If you join between December 1 and March 31 you pay half the membership fee, which is $30. Renewal notices are sent out at the end of June.

Does the membership fee cover all PLATO activities and events?

For the most part, yes. The membership fee covers attendance and participation in all courses. But for some special events, such as the annual luncheon or a bus trip, there may be an additional fee and some courses require that you purchase a resource book.

Is PLATO’s membership fee tax deductible?

No. PLATO is a nonprofit corporation organized under Wisconsin law and is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code.

Is there a minimum age for me to be a member of PLATO?

No. While PLATO focuses on serving 50+ learners, people of all ages are welcome to join. The only requirement is the love of lifelong learning.

Can non-members attend and participate in PLATO’s activities?

Yes, but there are limits. PLATO provides two types of activities, courses and special events. If you are not a PLATO member, you can attend a course on a trial basis before joining. In that case we ask that you decide whether to join after one or two attendances. For special events such as the annual luncheon or a bus trip, a PLATO member may bring non-member guests.

Is there a limit to the number of courses a PLATO member may attend?


Am I required to pre-register for PLATO courses?

In some cases pre-registration is requested; in other cases it is not. The decision one way or another is made by the course coordinator. Each semester’s course schedule will indicate the courses in which pre-registration is required. However, even when it is not required, you will have the opportunity to pre-register at the Preview session.

How do I find out what courses are being offered and what they are about?

Each semester’s course offerings are listed on the schedule page. The course schedule lists the course offerings and includes links to the course description, location, and coordinator. The week prior to each semester there is a Preview session. Course coordinators present brief descriptions of their offerings. This gives provides the opportunity to meet the course coordinators, ask questions, and sign up for courses.

What if I miss the Preview session or the start of a course? Can I join a course after it has started?

The course structure is very informal. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the course coordinator. Coordinator names, phone numbers, and email addresses are shown on the course schedule.

For some courses a schedule is prepared and distributed that indicates the topic for each week of the semester; in other groups there is no schedule. Why don’t all groups have a schedule?

There is considerable variation in subject matter, format, and educational approach in the different courses. In some groups, a schedule is prepared in advance and distributed to participants. For other groups an advance schedule is not possible, since the weekly discussion is dictated by participant interest. In short, one size does not fit all.

I see that PLATO is affiliated with UW-Madison. Do University professors teach the PLATO courses? If not, who does?

PLATO members lead or “coordinate” each course. In some cases these members may be UW-Madison emeritus faculty, but this is coincidental. As our name indicates, PLATO attracts individuals who are interested in teaching as well as learning. Thus any member can propose to teach or, as we prefer to say, “lead” a course.

Who determines what courses will be offered each semester? Can I suggest one, and how do I do that?

PLATO’s curriculum is totally created by PLATO members. Any member can propose to lead a course. If you are interested in developing a course, you can complete a Course Proposal form and submit it to the Chair of the Curriculum Committee.

Where do PLATO activities take place?

PLATO activities take place in a variety of community locations throughout the Madison area.

I’m uncertain about what “participation” means for PLATO. If I join a group, will I be required to answer questions? Can I participate just by listening carefully?

There is a range of levels of participation. The week prior to each semester there is a Preview session. Course coordinators present brief descriptions of their offerings. This gives you the opportunity to ask the course coordinator.

Do the courses require homework?

In some courses there is outside reading, and participants are expected to have done this reading. For other courses there is no outside work. PLATO’s diverse educational activities have no set pattern.

How can I become involved in PLATO’s administration?

The short answer is simply to ask. Contact any Board Director or Committee Chair. PLATO is always looking for more members to become involved in its activities.

Are meetings of PLATO’s Board of Directors and committees open to all members? If so, how do I know when they are held, so I can attend?

Members are welcome to attend PLATO’s Board and Committee meetings. Contact any PLATO Board Director or Committee Chair.

I understand PLATO Members can use UW-Madison libraries.  How do I get a Library Card?

Procedure for PLATO Members to obtain a UW Library Card
(revised 6/18/19)

As a membership benefit, PLATO Members are eligible to receive a UW-Madison Library Courtesy Card.  The Card offers borrowing privileges at all UW-Madison Libraries.  To apply for the Library Courtesy Card:

1. Your PLATO Membership must be paid for the current Membership Year if you are applying before April 1st; it must be paid for the upcoming Membership Year -- August 1 through July 31 of the following calendar year-- if you are applying for a Library Card after April 1st. For example: If your library card is expiring in June or July 2019, you must renew your membership in PLATO for the 2019-2020 year--even if you have not yet received a renewal notice from PLATO. Simply go to MEMBERSHIP, log in, and renew online or mail a check with your membership fee.

2. Complete the Library “Community Borrowing Card Application” online:

  • Be sure to select “PLATO” at the last question – Affiliation – on the Form.
  • Proof of your PLATO membership status will be provided directly to the Library by the PLATO Office.

3. You will receive email notification directly from Memorial Library when your Library Courtesy Card is ready for pick-up.

4. Your Library Courtesy Card must be renewed each year. 

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For more info about PLATO contact:

Louise Fowler
UW-Madison Continuing Studies
21 N. Park St, 7th Floor, Madison, WI 53715

Email: info@platomadison.org
Phone: 608-262-5823
Fax: 608-265-4555

PLATO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

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