unning the Middlesex Institute for Lifelong Education for Seniors or MILES has taught
Marci Barnes three things: listen, listen, listen.
Targeting active older adults age 55 and up, MILES offers stimulating, interactive daytime
study groups and workshops on the Bedford campus with no term papers, tests or grades.
When Barnes, MCC's "40-something" Director of Lifelong Learning, took charge of the program a
few years ago, she wanted to know more about her audience. "I don't know what kinds of programs
people in this age group want," said Barnes, laughing. "I'm not there yet."
So, she decided to reach out and ask. By holding regular feedback sessions with MILES members
and implementing their suggestions Barnes has doubled enrollment in three years.
"Member feedback has been the key to our success," she said. "I try to do everything they tell me."
And what she's hearing is that MILES regulars like good instructors and challenging content.
"Our instructors are key. I recruit mostly college faculty and staff who teach subjects they are
passionate about," Barnes explained. "And, MILES members want meat history, politics, current
events. They like the classic, liberal arts academic subjects: poetry, literature, art, film."
Most MILES members hail from Bedford, Billerica and Lexington, she explained, and are well
educated. "We have a lot of retired teachers and engineers. They have so much life experience and
bring so much to the discussions. There's a lot of value sitting in our MILES classrooms."
Despite being eager to please, Barnes admits there is one recurring suggestion she won't be acting
upon. "Everybody wants me to take the `S' out of MILES. They hate the word `seniors'! So, we use
`active older adults' whenever possible."
To learn More abouT
These prograMs, visiT:
Changes Everything for MILES
Investigative reporter and best-selling author Hank Phillippi Ryan spoke and signed books at the
spring MILES Opening Session.