The name and acronym - Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization, or PLATO - defines us well.

PLATO is a self-directed, volunteer-led, nonprofit organization serving more than 1,400 lifelong learners living in and around Dane County.  Most members are approaching or actively enjoying retirement.  All share a passion for learning and a desire to stay engaged with the world and with others who share their interests. No formal education or university affiliation is necessary to join.

If you enjoy self-directed, volunteer-led lifelong learning, PLATO is an ideal way to learn, contribute to others’ learning, enjoy new experiences, and meet new friends.

Members enjoy:

  • 40 or more participatory courses each fall and spring
  • Lectures, socials and special events
  • Guest Courtesy Card from UW Libraries (a $50 value)
  • Weekly electronic newsletter and digital notices of courses, lectures, and special events

PLATO is about more than information.  It’s about interactions.  Meet other people with curious minds through classes, special events, bus trips, and member committees.

“We especially value the in-depth friendships we’ve already made, the intelligent curiosity and openness of the people we’ve met, and the wide range of classes.”


PLATO, the Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization, is a learning-in-retirement organization that relies on active member involvement to develop and provide participatory learning, teaching, and social opportunities for members.  PLATO also financially supports educational opportunities for learners of all ages in greater Madison.  PLATO provides these services in association with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.             

Core Value

Be an inclusive and welcoming organization to all members of the greater Madison community who wish to continue learning and/or teaching in retirement.

PLATO is a member run organization

PLATO is a 501(c)(3) organization run by its members who contribute their time and effort to carry out the administrative tasks. It is affiliated with the Division of Continuing Studies of the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-DCS), which provides programmatic and administrative support.

PLATO members share their expertise, skills, and talents to keep the organization strong and vibrant. We are always looking for more members to help keep PLATO running. If you would like to become involved in PLATO’s administration, contact any Board Director or Committee Chair.

Learn more about the History of PLATO

Talking About PLATO

Your neighbor asks “So what is this PLATO thing you go to?” Do you find yourself stumbling through an explanation? You’re not alone. The Communication Committee found that members were wanting a concise and easy description of PLATO that would help them explain its benefits to friends and acquaintances.

There already are a number of formal descriptions of PLATO, including a comprehensive mission statement, but our goal was to give you a short, compelling sentence (see Descriptor below) to express your experience with PLATO and its offerings.

So whether you show someone the PLATO Logo that spells out our full name or share the Descriptor sentence below, be sure to add what PLATO has meant to you -- courses, lectures, plays, tours, meet-ups with colleagues -- however PLATO helps spark your love of learning.

Our Logo:


Our Descriptor:

PLATO is a community of intellectually curious adults, typically 50 and over,
which explores subjects of interest through member-led discussion groups, lectures, travel and cultural activities.

Today PLATO has about 1,400 members.  That's an impressive number of individuals who value how PLATO enriches their lives.  Imagine how many additional people could join and enjoy the PLATO community if they were aware of it and understood its potential.  Please tell your friends about PLATO and share the experience!

PLATO Turns 30!

In 2017 PLATO marked its 30th anniversary with the largest course line-up and roster of lectures, trips, and other special events we've ever offered.

Jeff Russell, Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning & Dean of UW-Madison Continuing Studies is offering his congratulations and thanks to PLATO for our 30th Anniversary.  Click here to view or here to read a transcript of his message.

PLATO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in association with:

For more information about PLATO, contact:

Christine Bartlett
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

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