After 50 years working in journalism and broadcasting, KCRW host Warren Olney is now sharing some of what he learned throughout his career with students at Santa Monica College (SMC) by teaching a current affairs class in the school’s Emeritus Program for older adults this semester.

SMC’s Emeritus Program offers free, not-for-credit classes designed for individuals aged 50 and above. The class Olney is teaching aims to increase students’ understanding of local, national and international current affairs and the way it affects their lives and shapes the world around them.

He has structured it to be primarily discussion based, with the students largely determining what they want to talk about. However, there are certain topics he said he will be sure to cover such as homelessness, Los Angeles politics and climate change.

“If you’re talking about current events and current affairs, climate change is probably the most important thing we have going on,” Olney said.

In addition to To the Point, Olney has also hosted and produced To the Point’s Climate Change update. He said he met and interviewed many interesting and knowledgeable individuals for both shows and has invited some to join his class’s discussions throughout the semester.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to call on them to come in and talk about things that seem timely and give people the opportunity to ask questions,” he said.

This network of connections coupled with his desire to create a dynamic and engaging environment are what landed Olney the job, SMC Dean of non-credit and external programs Scott Silverman said.

“We were looking for a faculty member for this class because we had a vacancy and his name came up and it seemed like a really great opportunity,” Silverman said. “He has this style and approach that students really resonate with and he has a way of presenting the material in a very compelling way that the students really love.”

When Olney was approached about the position, he thought it seemed like a great fit.

“The idea of emeritus education I think is wonderful,” he said. “I really have enormous respect for people who are, in this case, over 50 but feel that they still want to go back and study and learn more and be active in that way and so if I can help them to do that, I’m delighted.”

Olney’s class has proven to be popular, with approximately 140 students enrolled this spring, and he said he hopes to continue teaching in coming years.

In addition to political science classes like Olney’s, SMC Emeritus also offers art, health, literature and business classes among others. While they are designed for those 50 or older, Silverman said this is not a hard cut off and all interested students are welcome.

“It’s open access for anyone – it’s really Santa Monica, Malibu and beyond,” he said. “And now that we’re on Zoom people can join from wherever as long as they’re in California.”

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Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...