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Lifelong Learning

Retired executives bring decades of experience to Harvard program

Harvard University has become one of the latest schools to offer unique learning experiences for the baby boomer generation. Fittingly, the schools' Advanced Leadership Initiative is, like its undergrad and graduate programs, quite selective. 

Candidates who qualify must have 20 or more years of leadership experience under their belt, and be willing to learn how to use it for social causes. Each of the 55 fellows selected each year have been paid $50,000 for their unique skills in launching new and charitable ventures.

Participants in the program attend weekly seminars and take part in think tanks that focus on poverty and technology. Occasionally, fellows have gone on field trips - one adventure took them to Sao Paulo, Brazil. They also have the option to audit Harvard classes.

"This is when a good game of golf is not enough," Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter told The Boston Globe.

About 20 fellows are accepted each year. Kanter began the initiative with two of her colleagues because she recognized a need for extensive leadership experience in a world that is becoming more globalized in focus.

The diverse careers of these leaders range from a Nigerian senator to the former president of Trader Joe's, and they are all working to make the world a better place. Retired investment banker Robert Whelan, 59, is setting up a new organization that will lend $20,000 to qualified students for college.

"I have felt more passionate and connected, and I'll give the Harvard program some credit, to what I'm doing today than I ever did as an investment banker,"’ Whelan told the news source. "And I had a great career."

The Advanced Leadership Initiative began in 2009. At the end of the fellowship, students present their capstone project - a proposal for a community service project that will create a network of like-minded fellows, according to Harvard University's website.

Retirees who are looking for similar learning opportunities may find them in Del Webb retirement communities, many of which are partnered with universities that can offer a broad range of topics for study.

For example, at Sun City Anthem, residents use the Union Center for Wellness and Higher Learning, where they can attend classes taught through the Arizona State University Lifelong Learning Academy. Residents receive a world-class education without commuting and they don't have to worry about grades, so there's more time for students to bring their own diverse experiences into an environment where everyone can share ideas.

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