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  • March 06, 2024 2:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Spotlight on Coordinator Videos

    Did you know that course coordinators can record a short video about themselves and their courses? This is a great way for potential participants to see and hear the instructor discuss the course.

    The videos should be from one to three minutes long, and the instructor should provide a brief background on why they are teaching the course and what the course will cover. The video will be posted on the course listing and also on the course webpage. Click into the link to see an introduction to the course instructor and a description of the course in the coordinator’s own words. Here is an example of a course coordinator video from Craig Wille's Spring 2024 meditation course.

    Videos can easily be recorded using a mobile phone and uploaded either to Dropbox, Google Docs or Youtube. Jayne Fischer ( sends an email to instructors before each semester inviting them to create a recording for their courses. When they respond indicating an interest, she sends them instructions.

    The PLATO Curriculum Committee began offering this option to course coordinators when Covid hit and we were not able to hold the course sign-up session at the Madison Senior Center. That session was a wonderful opportunity for prospective students to meet the instructors – but even then, not everyone could make the session. Covid prompted us to make changes – not only in the instructor meet-and-greets, but also to the courses themselves. As an example, in the current Spring 2024 semester, there are 29 courses, and over half are held either virtually (11 courses) or hybrid (both online and in person, 5 courses).

    We are hoping that coordinators will see the value in recording a short video, and students reviewing the courses will have another way to help them decide which courses to take. There are so many good courses to choose from that sometimes it’s hard to decide! As we know, at PLATO “the love of learning never grows old!”

  • January 30, 2024 10:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Curriculum Committee (CC) had a Retirement party for Therese Stevens.  We were thanking her for all that she has done to make sure that our courses run smoothly. 


    Therese joined the CC ten years ago.  She soon became the committee secretary.  Then she took on the role of co-chair of the committee.  Each CC member is given a list of coordinators to work with as a liaison.  Liaisons are asked to gather all of the information that is needed for the presentation of the classes.  This includes Coordinator information, location, dates, and description of the course. Ten years ago all of this information was gathered on paper and given to Therese for advertising the courses.  As the PLATO website matured, the job became more complicated and Therese became the website presence for the CC committee.  She gathered all of the needed data and made sure that it was correctly put on the courses page.   Therese was Co-Chair of the CC Committee for years while doing these other jobs.  That meant meeting with the Board of Directors to report on the work of the CC and report back to the CC what was needed.  Therese set up the agenda for the meeting and supervised the minutes.


    More recently, Therese became the Course Planner.  She wrote the articles spotlighting many different coordinators. At first we were changing the articles every two weeks, then three weeks, then once a month. During the pandemic Therese was very involved with Paul Thompson (then Committee Chairman) in preparing coordinators and PLATO members on using Google Meet, including meeting in groups online with coordinators and meeting individually with coordinators to practice having a course online or hybrid.


    As PLATO has about 50 courses a year, that often meant working many hours to get the work complete.  In addition, Therese worked to get the CC members to do their part of the plan.  Lots of calls and emails were completed. Some of us depended on Therese to have answers to all of our questions. Of course, she always knew what we were to do.


    At the retirement party, as we were discussing all that Therese has done, I was thinking about a talk that I had just heard in one of my classes.  I am thinking of all the time and energy it takes to present an hour’s lecture with pictures and various items that go with it.  That was just one hour in one class.  Then, I began to think of all the lectures given in a week, in a month and in a year.   It is amazing.  PLATO is run by volunteers and they are willing to give of their time and energy just for the fun of it.


    A big thank you to Therese and all who give so much to PLATO, where the love of learning never grows old!


  • December 07, 2023 1:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Please note that these protocols are specific to each host site and subject to change.

    Capital Lakes – Masks are not required at this time.

    Christ Presbyterian church – Face masks are optional. Individuals are encouraged to assess their own risk factors and follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison Dane County if community levels increase.

    Covenant Presbyterian Church – Masks are recommended but not required. It is up to each group meeting to determine their own protocols in their assigned space.

    Madison Senior Center – Individuals are encouraged to do what makes them most comfortable – wear a mask or not. In most of the rooms, depending on how the tables are configured, there is about a 15 person limit. 

    Oakwood Village West – Masks are not required. Individuals who feel ill should not visit to protect Oakwood residents. Should there be an increase in cases at Oakwood, signage will be posted to encourage mask wearing as a precautionary measure.

    UW Space Place – No COVID Protocols.

    Vista West – Masks are not required of visitors.

    WI Bank and Trust – No COVID Protocols.

  • September 09, 2023 4:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO member, Fay Ferington has been a participant in Andy Millman’s Writers Workshop.  This summer Andy Millman wrote “I'm thrilled to report that Fay's journal of her time as a nurse in the Viet Nam War has just been published and is now available on Amazon. Those of you who were in any of our Writing Workshops with Fay know how gripping her narrative is. For those of you who haven't read or heard any of Fay's stories, you are in for an emotional and fulfilling experience.” 

    Fay’s book is entitled Off the Record.  It is available on Amazon or can probably be ordered through one of our local bookshops.

    Congratulation, Fay!

  • September 01, 2023 3:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO Writers Workshop Presents... Steven Wright


    We are so excited to welcome the award-winning author and man with many hats, Steven Wright, as our PLATO Writers Workshop guest speaker on Thursday, September 7, at 1 PM. 


    Steven's book, The Coyotes of Carthage, was called a "crackerjack debut political novel" by USA Today, "riveting" by The Washington Post, and John Grisham said, "With this splendid debut, Steven Wright announces his arrival as a major new voice in the world of political thrillers." He was named by USA Today as one of "100 Black novelists and fiction writers you should read." 


    Steven currently teaches in the UW Madison Law School AND the UW Creative Writing program. He has degrees from Duke (BA and MEM), Johns Hopkins (MA), UW (MFA), and Washington University in St. Louis (JD). He is the former co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. 


    I encourage you to buy and read his book, which is available here:




    This presentation will be online. Feel free to share the info with friends and colleagues.


    Author Appearance - Steve Wright

  • June 27, 2023 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The PLATO Curriculum Committee is available to support course coordinators interested in learning more about combined in-person and online ( hybrid”) access for their courses.  Here are some of the ways we are doing that:


    1.     The Curriculum Committee will host an information sharing workshop for coordinators interested in learning more about how to run a hybrid course or to share lessons learned from their experience on July 7, 2 pm at Bethany United Methodist Church.

    2.     PLATO can use a dedicated videoconference device (“Meeting OWL”) for a few hybrid courses at Bethany United Methodist Church (3910 Mineral Point Rd) or at Oakwood West.

    3.     Hybrid access is also quite feasible at many other venues, using simple equipment such as webcams, speaker/microphones, and in-room TVs or projectors.

    4.     PLATO Course Coordinators’ Guide for Hybrid Classes is available by clicking here

    5.     The PLATO Courses webpage has  a block devoted to additional information about hybrid courses, hybrid devices and course management.

    6.     If you have questions about any of the above, please contact Bill Colwell at

  • May 01, 2023 6:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Tom and Gerry Vale

    The class which we know as "Experiencing Great Literature" was initiated by Plato-notable Fred Ross in 2002.  At first it was dedicated exclusively to poetry (was it titled "Experiencing Great Poetry" at its beginning?), but within a couple of years broadened to include, each semester, a novel and a play, along with poems.  This three-part structure continued for the remainder of the class's existence.  For almost a decade, Fred coordinated the group, and he himself led all presentations.  In 2010, a few other individuals began to present some of the material.  Subsequently, within a few years, coordination passed to Phil Paulson (along with, before she moved out of state, Patricia Becker); Phil was also a frequent presenter.  Covid interrupted the class in 2020, but resumed in fall of 2021; perhaps that interruption contributed to the declining enrollment that led to the class cancellation this spring of 2023.


    It was a class of rich "experiences."  We read 34 novels (from Danel Defoe to Toni Morrison), a comparable number of plays ( from Beowolf to Athol Fugard, with at least 9 by William Shakespeare), and innumerable poems (both as individual pieces and as collections by authors and time periods, from John Milton to Robert Frost).


    Thanks to Fred for the initiation and to Phil for carrying on, heroically, to the end.  Maybe someone will think to restart the group in the future.  If not, we will greatly miss it.



  • March 27, 2023 5:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you spend some time talking with long-time PLATO members as I recently did, you may hear the word participation” a lot.  Steve Hirsch, member since 2006 and Fred Ross, member since 1996, both mentioned that discussion, questioning, challenging, and to “… encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” are key to why they have been, and remain, avid participants in PLATO courses.  (Do you recognize the quote above?  Thanks, Fred, for making me aware of this - ).

    Both gentlemen mentioned their deep affection for Norman Risjord s A Leisurely Walk Through American History,” – Michael Stevens wrote about this in 2019 – read about it here.  Other favorites from these two include: Global Affairs, PLATO Travel, Whither the State, and Continuing Philosophy. 

    Why do they keep coming back to PLATO? Social interaction and the opportunity to participate in active and lively discussion are key.  In addition, they both have been, or currently are, course coordinators.  After all, PLATO is all about Participatory Teaching as well as Learning.   I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the fact that PLATO allows you to be curious about a topic and decide to offer a course to like-minded members on that topic.  What better way to learn than to teach!   Please consider volunteering to coordinate a course.

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes …. Well, of course, there have been changes over the years.  Fred mentioned that the founders may have thought of PLATO courses in terms of small group discussion.  Now, we also offer expert-led, lecture-style formats.  Perhaps a bit more passive, but what an opportunity to deepen our understanding of a specific topic.   We also discussed the changing format of our courses, virtual, hybrid, and in-person.  The convenience of virtual classes is much appreciated but both Fred and Steve mentioned that they miss the camaraderie of in-person classes.

    Going forward our long-time members encourage the Curriculum Committee to provide interesting classes and speakers and to stress the opportunity for members to volunteer to TEACH classes. 

    Lastly, I wanted to mention that Fred stressed that the UW has been extraordinarily generous and supportive of PLATO and that we wouldn t be as successful without that support.  In appreciation let s not forget to donate to the PLATO education fund And, support the AGORA! 

  • February 24, 2023 10:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO Coordinator Retirements 2022-2023

    Every semester we have many options for intriguing and creative courses.  As PLATO members we benefit from the generosity of our colleagues, who volunteer, as they share their interests, knowledge and expertise.  We are fortunate to have numerous coordinators who return semester after semester to challenge and enrich us.

    As we begin this new semester, we would like to highlight individuals who have faithfully led  courses for many years and have now retired.  A special thank you to:

    Bob Fry (Classic Films)

    Grethe Leer (Women’s Journeys)

    Norm Leer ( Life Maps - Norm died in Spring 2022)

    Paul Brandl (Frontiers in Science)

    Judy Havens (Reminiscence Writing)

    Helen Brewster (Biographies eastside)

    PLATO depends on the generosity of people like those listed above to make our programming rich and diverse.  If you have an interest in sharing an area of knowledge with others, please contact a member of the Curriculum Committee for assistance in arranging for a new course.

    Thank you to all of those who have enriched us with their leadership in the past and to those

  • December 13, 2022 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Covenant Presbyterian Church – masks are recommended but not required. It is up to each group meeting to determine their own protocols in their assigned space.

    Christ Presbyterian church -  face masks are optional at all CPC worship services, activities, and events. 

    Individuals are encouraged to assess their own risk factors and follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison Dane County if Community Levels increase.

    Capital Lakes - on the floor with the class rooms you will not need to wear a mask – everywhere else you will need to wear a mask in the building. 

    Madison Senior Center -Individuals are encouraged to do what makes them most comfortable – wear a mask or not.  In most of the rooms, depending on how the tables are configured, 15 people is about the maximum for the room. Each course can only have one room

    Oakwood – There are no longer kiosks at the entrances.  Masks are not required in our Independent Living areas of our campus, which includes the Art Center,  though we do ask those that are feeling ill to avoid visiting our campus to protect our campus residents.

    Vista West – no masks are required of visitors

    WI Bank and Trust – no Covid Protocols

    UW Space Place – no Covid Protocols

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

for more information, contact us at:


6209 Mineral Point Road #203
Madison, WI 53705

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