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The Encore Transition Program at Union Theological Seminary

Welcome to the Next Stage of Your Life!

Are you thinking about making a difference in the world after your current work life or career?

After a work career gaining much valuable experience, are you thinking you’d like to do something important to make the world better, but don’t know how to go about realizing your vision?


Are you frustrated that the world of your kids and grandchildren seems fraught with danger and divisiveness, especially for the younger generation still to come – and you want to do something about it now that we have accumulated so many skills and insights?

Are you feeling you could walk further on your spiritual journey—the reading, the contemplation, the meditation, the discernment of your personal values. Are you at the point in your life where you want to take action to make the world better and fulfill the dreams you have long held close?

Do you sense you are alone in these feelings and unsure about the next steps to cope with these feelings?

Many older adults are asking themselves these questions as they approach the so-called “retirement” stage of life. Some know more about what they don’t want than what they do want to do. Others are fearful of making life changes that could turn out poorly if they are not well considered.

And still, others have a gnawing sense they haven’t fulfilled that purpose-driven dream they harbor inside and that they want to do something more for their family, their friends, and their community. They can’t get away from the profound realization that the world needs more fairness, more kindness, more social justice. But how do you think about this moment of transition in your life? How do you plan for a profoundly different future, one that you laid the foundation for during your life so far?

We ask that you consider applying to be a member of the first group of The Encore Transition Program at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. This program has been designed in partnership with, the leading organization conducting research and outreach to encourage older adults to engage in “an encore stage” of social justice work.


  • The Encore Transition Program at Union Theological Seminary engages a diverse group of 12-15 like-minded 55+ adults in a four-month program of discernment, dialogue, and decision-making about what an “encore” stage of productive and experienced adulthood might look like.
  • The group will meet evenings for eight, three-hour-sessions on Tuesdays every two weeks at Union Theological Seminary at 21st Street and Broadway in Manhattan during the winter/spring semester (late January-early May 2017) to work through critical questions and develop individual plans of Encore lives in social justice and social purpose. The sessions will begin January 31, 2017. The list of all class dates is included on the application.
  • Encore at Union runs seminar style to maximize participant engagement. Assigned readings and exercises are designed to provoke discernment, self-reflection, and contemplation. Readings include spiritual selections (e.g. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton) as well as practical material (e.g. The Encore Career Handbook). Extensive time is dedicated to guided group discussion. We expect that many of the discussions will be guided by the participants themselves.
  • A key outcome of your time at Encore at Union is the development of an individual “consideration plan” for an encore stage work/activity. To help with planning, the Encore Transition Program includes an opportunity for a “shadow experience” in a work/volunteer activity providing a hands-on approach to bring one’s values and faith to work in a real life situation.
  • We ask that all applicants be serious about their intention to seek an “encore stage” working purposefully as activists in a social justice or social purpose setting. The cost of the full four-month Encore Transition Program at UTS is $3000. (* sliding scale may be available, please inquire).


  • Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a seminary and a graduate school of theology established in 1836 by founders “deeply impressed by the claims of the world upon the church.” Union prepares women and men for committed lives of service to the church, academy, and society. A Union education develops practices of mind and body that foster intellectual and academic excellence, social justice, and compassionate wisdom. Grounded in the Christian tradition and responsive to the needs of God’s creation, Union’s graduates make a difference wherever they serve.

FilipWolak_FaithBMoyers_0281_59108Union believes that a new inter-religious spirituality of radical openness and love is the world’s best hope for peace, justice, and the care of God’s creation. Empowered by groundbreaking inquiry aligned with practical realism and a bias for action, Union is charting a profound new course for enduring social change. Our graduates make a difference wherever they serve, practicing their vocations with courage and perseverance, and speaking clearly and acting boldly on behalf of social justice in all of its forms.

Participants in the Encore program at Union will become valuable members of this vibrant, growing, global community.


  • The program is facilitated by recent Union M.A. graduate, Ruth Wooden, a retired communications professional and former board chair of  As President of Public Agenda, she became skilled in leading community dialogues about complicated, even contentious, public issues. In an earlier stage in her career, Ruth was President of the Advertising Council and developed public service campaigns for organizations in the public and private sectors. At 70, Ruth is a “fellow traveler” in her own encore stage of life.
  • Faculty and administration leaders from Union participate as “fellow travelers” themselves and provide spiritual and practical insight and direction where appropriate.
  • Field Education leadership at Union, one of the Seminary’s acclaimed fields of educational expertise, helps identify “shadow opportunities” from among dozens of social justice institutions that regularly invite Union students for internships and other field education opportunities.
  • Outside guests with personal experience transitioning to their own encore stage of life will join discussions on occasion.
  • Sessions are conducted at Union’s campus, conveniently located in Morningside Heights at 121st and Broadway in Manhattan, during regular class time for current Union graduate students. This dynamic and engaging atmosphere fosters the opportunity for Encore learners to work with the entire Union community, to learn from each other, and most importantly, to plan for personal insight to the questions we’ve all been asking–how to contribute to a different future for ourselves and to contribute in new ways to our society.


If you have any questions about the Encore Transition Program, please email Ruth Wooden at