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5 Questions for Kathy Amos

POSTED: April 1, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Kathy Amos is well-known to the area’s many retirees and others as director of Brenau University’s BULLI program, which offers a wide range of noncredit courses from the academic to the technical, from the recreational to the arts. She is also an accomplished storyteller. Today, The Times asks Amos five questions.

 

1. How did your involvement with the BULLI program begin?

Jean Harris, a former Brenau professor, had hired me as an instructor for Brenau’s Elderhostel programs. I taught classes several times a year in storytelling and in the history of the Cherokee Nation. Jean and I worked well together and we both embraced the concept of lifelong learning.

Lou Fockele, who had been a friend and mentor when I was working as children’s programmer at the (then) Chestatee Library got together with the two of us to discuss the possibility of bringing a year-round program to Brenau.

Jean was working on her doctorate in gerontology, and was planning to write her dissertation on Elderhostel’s Learning in Retirement institutes. We traveled to several colleges and universities in the South, looking at each of the individual models. We then took the best parts of each program and crafted our own for Brenau. We chose not to make the Brenau program limited only to retired adults, but opened the classes to any adult who could attend daytime classes.

We had our first registration meeting in August 1994. We were hoping that we would be able to attract 75 students that first year. We had over 100 attend our registration meeting and over 175 students enrolled by the end of our first year. We’ve just kept growing from there.

 

2. Why do you think the BULLI program has been so successful?

The program’s success lies in its member-led, member-driven structure. Individuals from our original focus group pitched in to design everything from membership brochures to special events to registration to class selection. The model works very well for us, because our students are invested in the success of our program.

We would not be able to be so successful, however, without Brenau’s commitment to the community and to the concept of lifelong learning. Brenau provides our classroom space, the offices and equipment, some of our instructors are Brenau professors and we have a great relationship with Brenau’s provost, Dr. Nancy Krippel, and with the president, Ed Schrader. They know and value the community and its support for the university, and they work hard to provide opportunities for learners of all ages.

 

3. How do you decide each term which courses will be offered?

Our curriculum committee is comprised of BULLI students, or members, as we call them. They search for potential instructors in each of our four learning areas — academics, the arts, health and wellness and self-improvement. We discuss potential course offerings, measuring them against the requests of our students and the need for a well-balanced curriculum.

While some of our instructors come from Brenau, many are people with either business experience or degrees in a specific area or people who have an avocation in which they have gained some expertise. That’s why you find Dr. Bill Coates, a pastor, teaching a course in literature, or Dr. Edward Simmons, whose background was in human resources and management training, teaching courses on globalization.

 

4. You are known as one of the organizers of the annual Ghost Walk for the Northeast Georgia History Center. What is your favorite Gainesville ghost story?

That’s an interesting question. I know the expected answer would be Brenau’s ghost, Agnes. I find that my favorite story, though, will be whatever I am currently researching. Many stories aren’t ghost stories, per se, but odd and unusual stories that occurred in the area.

The one that has fascinated me the most, recently, would be the story of Dr. Hilbert Black Tingley, brother-in-law of Brenau’s second president, Dr. Azor Van Hoose. You have to be fascinated when you find record of a prominent individual from New York buried in Alta Vista Cemetery, but you find no headstone. That story has taken me down so many rabbit trails! The entirety of the story would set your head spinning.

There are always new stories to discover and always the hunt for the story behind the story.

 

5. What do you enjoy doing when you are away from work?

I guess you would say that I am a history buff. I have loved doing research about the people who live in the houses on Green Street, I’ve loved working on the Alta Vista nomination for the National Register of Historic Places, I’ve loved learning about the development and growth of Gainesville. So many people have no idea of the rich history that is here.

When I’m not doing that, I read, paint and get on my political soapbox at times. All in all, just an average life.


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