Written by Pat Getter

School. It’s not just for kids anymore.

Woodworking. Horticulture. Personal fitness training. Hollywood musicals. Cartooning. What do all of these have in common?

Several universities and colleges in Las Vegas offer more than 1000 non-credit or certificate courses every year from which to choose. If you live to learn, I bet at least one of these schools has a course that will interest you.

Looking for adventure and need a way to use that sub-zero parka? Try UNLV’s continuing education trip to Antarctica. Too cold? Try rafting through the Grand Canyon. Courses as diverse as business writing, barbecuing, breaking into stand-up comedy and LBD—yes, create your own version of the iconic little black dress. This fall’s new programs include one to help pass basic math tests. Dr. Peg Rees, vice provost of UNLV’s division of education outreach, says, “The need in the valley for this kind of help is staggering.”

UNLV also offers certificate programs. Student Astra Herzlich enrolled in one from the Society for Human Resource Management to improve her chances of getting a better job. “The second I updated my resume, I got emails like crazy and tons of offers,” Herzlich says.

One free certificate program in partnership with Workforce Development is gap training for RNs who have been unemployed for one year. “We are seeing virtually all of them get hired,” Rees notes of the nurses who spend 13 weeks of hands-on training at a local hospital.

“There’s a trend in continuing education called ‘just-in-time learning.’ Even students getting a degree will look to get a specific skill to get a specific job.”
— Dr. Peg Rees, UNLV

Other certificates include the high demand paralegal program and how to design and operate unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones). But if you want to earn a certificate that is, shall we say, a little tastier, enroll in the sommelier academy. Not only will you learn how to make wine, you’ll learn how to speak French and Italian—at least enough to pronounce Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon and know the differences in those wines.

UNLV’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program is member-led and specifically aimed at retired and semi-retired adults. Psychoanalyst Cameron Ashby Jr. started with OLLI as a student and now leads two courses including How to Work with Your Dreams. To him, OLLI is… “a gift for older adults because there is a difference between getting old and growing old. There is a joy that comes with these classes, making friendships and having memorable experiences.” Other courses include Perception vs. Reality, What’s News, and the ever-popular Soapbox where students have the opportunity to thoroughly grill the week’s guest speaker.


Mike Smith, editorial cartoonist for the Las Vegas Sun, was a guest speaker in the “So, What’s New(s)” class for OLLI.

UNR’s cooperative extension in Las Vegas offers courses in six major areas: agriculture, horticulture, health and nutrition, natural resources, community development, and children, youth and families. “Wherever we can find space to bring the university to the community, that is our model,” says Marilyn Ming, UNR’s cooperative extension marketing/public relations specialist. There is something for every age group: Little Books and Little Cooks addresses literacy and nutrition for preschoolers and their parents. The master gardener volunteer program will turn you into a certified green thumb and then put you back into the community to share what you learned. The 4-H flagship youth development is their longest-running program, and in the robotics club, kids learn how to develop robots from Legos and other materials.

CSN is willing to try anything—I should know since they currently offer three courses I teach: Trouble with Typos, Deposition vs. Root Canal, and Customer Relation Experiences: Can YOU Top Santa Claus? Woodturning, photography, and golf classes are all popular. Line dancing, natural childbirth, and beginning guitar are new this year. “We are always looking for fresh class ideas,” advises LeQuanda Cole, CSN community and personal enrichment coordinator. “We offered youths creative hands-on engineering because it was new and different, but we didn’t think it would work. It ended up being a full class with a wait list.”

CSN knows many of us find changing technology, shall we say, challenging. In addition to offering various levels of computer instruction, you’ll find software courses including Adobe, WordPress, and Excel, and simpler ones that instruct us how to navigate iPhones and iPads.
Whether you are eight or 80, the world is your oyster, and each school has a course that you probably didn’t realize is just what you’ve been looking for. Look hard enough and one of these schools might teach you how to catch, clean, cook, or consume that oyster.
Continue learning. Your course awaits.