Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PLATO Society?

We are an actively involved group of over 400 members who meet regularly for discussion groups and other activities in Westwood Village (near the UCLA Campus).


We hail from a wide variety of experiences in life and from various career paths. Although many of our members are retired, we have a large number of members who are still actively working.  The “heart and soul” of the PLATO Society are our discussion groups, which meet for two hours once a week and where we all come prepared for discussion.  In addition, we hold monthly colloquia, featuring well-known speakers, member-led lunch-time lectures, foreign travel, local cultural events, social activities and an annual retreat.


How long has The PLATO Society been around?

Begun in 1980, as part of UCLA’s Extension, The PLATO Society has evolved into an organization that governs, directs, and sustains itself. In 2013, The PLATO Society became independent of UCLA and continues as a non-profit organization, with its own facilities to achieve our goal of “furthering the intellectual pursuits of its members”


What will I get out of the PLATO Society?

-       You will have the opportunity to study subjects about which you are curious but have never studied, or you can delve deeply into subjects about which you already have some knowledge.


-       You will be intellectually stimulated by learning from a wide range of viewpoints in a collegial friendly environment.


-       You will make new friends at PLATO; as one member commented “we come for the courses and stay for the friends.”


-       You will have the opportunity to hear speakers at our colloquia, ranging from university professors to movie producers.


-       You will be able to participate in a wide variety of PLATO activities.


-       You will have fun!


What kind of discussion groups are there?

Topics for Discussion Groups are suggested and chosen by our members. There are Discussion Groups on an unlimited range of topics. Quantum physics to European history; modern poetry to Hollywood entertainment; all are on our menu. Subjects, old or new, are fodder for us to chew on. We study, explain and appreciate the world of knowledge - together.


Each discussion group has a coordinator and co-coordinator who are responsible for creating a course syllabus and bibliography and overall management of the discussion group.  They, however, are not lecturers. In fact, our discussion groups have no lectures; we learn from discussion and we take turns leading the weekly discussions.


How long are the discussion groups?  How often do they meet?


We have three 14-week trimesters.  Each term you can select from a variety of roughly 25 different discussion groups.  Most groups run for 14 weeks, but we always offer some 7-week and 10-week discussion groups to accommodate member schedules.


All discussion groups meet once a week for two hours.  Discussion groups meet from 10:00 AM to noon and from 1:00 to 3:00 PM.


Members may participate in more than one discussion group each term and members can participate all three terms. 


What does it cost?


The annual membership fee is $510.  This membership fee allows you to participate in as many discussion groups as you choose during the entire year and to participate in all PLATO activities.  Check out the cost of an individual class at your local university to see what a bargain this is.


What is the application process?


Once you complete and submit our online application form, you will hear from a member of our membership committee to schedule a time for you to visit with us at our PLATO facility.  Sometimes called an “interview,” it is actually an informal exchange of information to see if there is a fit between you and the PLATO Society. You will also be asked to audit one session of a discussion group so that you can see the PLATO reality to make an informed decision.


If I travel frequently, can I take a "class" when I am gone quite a bit?


There are 7 and 10-week classes in each of our three terms to offer flexibility to members who are traveling and have other commitments.  We do expect members to participate in discussion groups two out of every three terms.


What time commitment does membership entail?


One member of the discussion group is in charge of leading the discussion each week, and you will be expected to choose a week that you want to lead. The selection is made at a discussion group organizational meeting about a month before the beginning of each term.  The coordinator and co-coordinator will lead the first two discussions so everyone will have plenty of time to prepare for the week they are leading the discussion.


When you are not the discussion leader, you will probably spend 2 to 4 hours each week preparing for the discussion. 


To prepare to be the discussion leader one week requires additional time from you.  Two weeks prior to your discussion, you will give all the members of the group a list of topics you will cover and a set of thought-provoking questions that will guide and facilitate the discussion. 


Do you have to be retired or have a college degree?


No, you do not have to be retired.  Many of our members are retired but we have a number of members who are still active in the work-world. You just have to be willing to learn, grow and be actively involved in the process.


You also do not need a college degree, but more than half of our members do have advanced degrees. 


Just remember that our members


·         Share a passion for learning

·         Are motivated by curiosity and an intense interest in the world of ideas

·         Enjoy participating in active, informed, collegial discussions

·         Share their talents, skills and expertise to keep our organization strong


And that is what you need to join us


Other than the discussion groups, what other types of activities does PLATO offer?


-       Colloquia

-       Day Trips

-       Study Group trips abroad

-       Annual Retreat

-       Brown Bag Lunches

-       TGIF groups that discuss current events, play bridge or preview films as well as any other group a member wishes to field


Where is PLATO located? 


1083 Gayley Ave. 
in Westwood Village on the 2nd floor
Los Angeles, CA 90024


The Colloquia are held at the Skirball Cultural Center


If you have any interest in learning more, fill out an application to get the process started.