SARASOTA, FL—Marking a boon to the continuing education industry of Sarasota County, Manatee County, and the greater region, Ringling College of Art and Design and the Lifelong Learning Academy of Sarasota (LLA) have reached an agreement to merge effective June 1, 2016.

Under the agreement, the Lifelong Learning Academy (LLA) will become the Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy (RCLLA) and be incorporated into Ringling College’s Continuing Studies and Special Programs (CSSP), a unit of the College’s Office of Academic Affairs. The current Executive Director of LLA will assume the role of Director of RCLLA.

The Lifelong Learning Academy is currently housed at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and will continue to offer classes there until the June transition. The merger was precipitated by the Academy’s need for more space because its programs have expanded; USF Sarasota-Manatee, on the other hand, needs more classrooms to accommodate its incoming freshmen and sophomore classes.

Ultimately, the RCLLA will be headquartered and most classes taught at the Historic Sarasota High School currently under renovation.

“We are extremely excited to have the Lifelong Learning Academy become part of Ringling College of Art and Design,” said President Dr. Larry R. Thompson. “As we have always indicated, the Historic High School will house the Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) on one floor of the building, but the other two floors will be allocated for continuing education. This merger allows the College to move forward with the excellent programming of the LLA from the moment the renovation of the high school is completed in 2017. In addition, the College will be able to provide space in the high school that is designed for and dedicated to lifelong learning.”

Dr. Thompson adds, “A clear leader in educational programming for adults and retirees, LLA brings to the table over 17 years of expertise serving thousands of students through its distinct learning programs. We look forward to working together to best meet the needs of this region’s adult learning population.”

The LLA, run by a team of three full-time and two part-time staff, processed over 5000 registrations for over 2000 individuals to 277 distinct learning programs—all in 2015. “The growing population of lifelong learners in the area has led the Academy to seek a partner that will share our vision of providing lifelong learning opportunities, while also offering the necessary additional resources and support for the expected continued growth of this population,” said Sam Samelson, Chairman of the Board, LLA

“This is an exciting time for the Lifelong Learning Academy, as we join Ringling College to better meet the demands of our growing student body,” says Janna Overstreet, current Executive Director of the Lifelong Learning Academy. “This partnership will enable us to operate in classroom spaces that are specifically created for lifelong learning, in addition to exposing our students to options for creative courses in art and design.”

Committed to building a program which supports and encourages community education for retirees and seasonal visitors, Ringling College recently hired Assistant Vice President and Director for Continuing Studies and Special Programs Dr. Jerry Bladdick. Dr. Bladdick will work with LLA to develop a cohesive Continuing Education department that serves as a resource hub for lifelong learning opportunities.

“This new partnership represents for all of southwest Florida an extraordinary educational opportunity that has not existed before,” says Dr. Bladdick. “Ringling College’s continuing education programs have long been known for their first rate, quality curriculum. Adding the wide variety of course and program offerings associated with the Lifelong Learning Academy only strengthens our combined delivery of adult learning options.”

Through this agreement, the LLA will continue to hold classes at its current locations, with the exception of those at the University of South Florida Sarasota- Manatee, which will soon take place at Ringling College.


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