MARQUETTE - As the new semester begins for schools throughout the area, so too does the semester at the Northern Center For Lifelong Learning.
The term began this year on Jan. 5 with its first course, Kick-Off 2012 with a Potluck Luncheon. Members and non-members alike took part in the potluck, bringing dishes and conversation about the new courses offered in the months ahead.
Chairwoman of the curriculum committee Paula McCormick said the organization likes to have a wide variety of courses for people to choose from.
Marquette General Hospital radiologist Heidi Henry answers questions after her presentation, “Understanding the Mammogram — Cancer or Not?” The course was offered through the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"We try to get a cross-section of topics," she said.
Courses offered include a tour of Northern Michigan University's Jacobetti Center, ballroom dancing, different wines, information on polygraph tests and therapy dogs, even writing an autobiography.
Most courses are free to members - who pay a $20 annual fee - and of minimal cost to non-members.
The NCLL has roughly 200 members who plan and provide each course offered by the center, which is a self-supported non-profit affiliated with Northern Michigan University and the Elderhostel Institute Network.
Understanding the Mammogram - Cancer or Not? was held Nov. 11 in the Superior Dome. McCormick was the liaison for the course, and said it was offered because of the popularity of the topic.
"Mammograms and breast cancer are always a hot topic," she said.
Members of the audience listened attentively during the presentation given by Marquette General Hospital radiologist Heidi Henry, whose department was just given the designation of a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.
Henry said she agreed to speak at the event because, "anywhere I worked, patients had the same questions over and over and over again."
She went on to say that one in eight women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer in their lifetime, and that yearly mammograms coupled with frequent self-breast exams can significantly lower the death rate among women diagnosed with the cancer by increasing the rate of early detection.
"One in eight is a very high percentage. If you had that high of a chance of winning the lottery, I would buy a ticket, and I don't buy lottery tickets," Henry said. "Early detection saves lives."
Henry recommended that women begin having a yearly mammogram at age 40, unless immediate family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age, in which case women should begin 10 years before the diagnosis. She also said skipping years, even when a woman has had clear scans for many years in a row, can hinder the early detection process because a cancer can grow undetected or it can be difficult to spot early on with no recent mammograms to compare to.
In a completely different field of study, this evening marks the first in a six-class series on digital photography. The class begins at 7 p.m. in the Lakeview Arena's Citizens Forum Room. The cost is $5 for members and $5 per session for non-members. The course is designed for participants who are strongly interested in photography and will focus on editing, capturing a great image and finding what the intent of an image is.
The deadline for registration was Jan. 13; however, five more classes are set to take place throughout the semester.
McCormick said the average attendance for courses is anywhere between 20-35 people, though popular subjects can garner more than 70 participants. She said food presentations and courses on local history are almost always among the most popular.
"If it's something that has to do with Marquette history, you'll get someone to bring people in to learn about it," she said. "We encourage people who have the time to come and attend. We have a lot of different times, some in the evening for people who work."
Those looking to have more direct participation in the center may get their chance this year. According to a letter in a booklet on this semester's upcoming events from current board Chair Pat Frenn, seven seats are set to open up this year, some due to term limits. Elections will take place at the May board meeting.
The NCLL has a 14-member board of directors which meets six times a year.
More information on the election or courses offered this semester can be found on NCLL's website at webb.nmu.edu/NCLL.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.