The future of lifelong learning in Sarasota will be under the Ringling College of Art and Design umbrella. Months after announcing that the Lifelong Learning Academy would become a department of the private college as soon as June, officials on Monday announced the Pierian Spring Academy would also merge with the college in June 2017. “We will be bringing all of our faculty into one place and increasing our breadth and diversity of classes,” said Janna Overstreet, who will direct lifelong learning at Ringling’s south campus. “This will benefit our students because lifelong learners like to learn in a social setting, and they benefit greatly from interaction with one another.”
Overstreet, right now executive director of the Lifelong Learning Academy, said the merger of the institutions together will greatly reduce costs of marketing and administration and allow other pooled resources to be focused on education. Both Pierian and LLA serve populations of adult learners who continue going to classes later in life “just for the pure joy of it.” As opposed to vocational adult learning that typically focuses on professional advancement and certification, the curriculum gets drawn around academic curiosity and student demand. LLA, according to Overstreet, relies on about 400 volunteers to help in the academy’s operations and had around 6,000 registrations for classes this year.
Ringing College President Larry Thompson said the umbrella of the Sarasota college makes sense for all involved. “The combining of these organizations under Ringling College and creation of a new entity, the Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy, enables us to be comprehensive and flexible,” he said. “We are not tied to one way of doing things, but we welcome creative ideas and discussions about how to bring our communities and courses together for the benefit of all of our students—young and old.”
The combined academy will operate primarily in the old Sarasota High School building on US 41, the same structure that will house the Sarasota Museum of Art.
“Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy, the product of the merger of successful independent programs, will be strong, vibrant and serve our community well,” said Pierian President Janis Cohen. And former Pierian President Dan Idzik, who served during much of the merger negotiation, said the move would improve the resources available to students and faculty at the institution.”