Encore Transition Program

Applications are now closed.

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?

"When I applied to the Union Encore Transition Program I was looking for a new direction. I was also dealing with issues of my aging and a spiritual hunger. The program gave me clarity and guidance so I could make decisions about the next stage." -Kathy Dean, Participant, Encore Transition Program


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?


  • 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 experience with what an “encore” stage of productive, social-purpose focused adulthood might look like.
  • The group will meet evenings for eight, 2.5 hour-long sessions, every other Wednesday on Zoom during the semester to work through critical questions and develop individual plans of Encore lives in social justice and social purpose. The list of all class dates for the upcoming semester 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.
  • As part of your time in the program, we will engage with you one on one on your specific areas of interest for your personal Encore, i.e. issues that matter, types of organizations that interest you, etc. With this information, we will suggest resources and research to help you discern this further and where appropriate, we can connect you with conversation partners and others who have gone before you on a similar Encore journey. Most of these connections will be possible via Zoom or in-person if appropriate.
  • A key outcome of your time at Encore at Union is the development of an individual experiential plan to learn more about an encore stage work/activity. To help with this planning, the Encore Transition Program includes an opportunity for field experiences or mentoring connection to provide a hands-on look at how 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 Union is $2,500. (* sliding scale may be available, please inquire as part of the application process).

"In addition to the wide array of teachers and ideas in the course, I learned a lot from my fellow travelers. I expect to maintain these friendships into the future." -Evry Mann, Participant, Encore Transition Program


  • 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.

Union 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 Encore Transition Program was designed and will be facilitated by Ruth Wooden, M.A. ’16. Ruth attended Union as part of her own “encore” after a communications and nonprofit management career that spanned more than 40 years. Ruth will have three co-facilitators, including Evry Mann and Jane Alexandre who were early participants in the Encore Transition Program.


Jane Huber works with students and faith leaders as Director of the Vision Program, Director of the Trinity Union Fellowship Program, Director of the Women’s Interfaith Residency Program, and Consultant to the Encore Transition Program. She supports students through their field placement and vocational development and teaches courses in Church History, Practical Theology, and Spiritual Practice.

Evry Mann is a musician, educator, and writer. He is the founder of the non-profit Center for Creative Education, where he served as the Executive Director from 1989-2015. In 1998, he founded Marbletown Multi-Arts, a community center in Stone Ridge, NY, and currently serves as the Managing Director. Ev holds master’s degrees in both Religious Studies and Music Composition. Ev was a member of the inaugural Encore Transition Program cohort in Spring 2017 and has been a facilitator for every session since then.

Jane Alexandre is an independent artist/scholar who has been working in the New York dance world for more than 30 years. She has experience as a performer, writer, teacher, choreographer, director, producer, and administrator. She is the author of Dance Leadership: Theory into Practice (Palgrave Macmillan 2017); is a Director at Evolve Dance Inc.; is co-founder editor of the Dancer-Citizen (dancercitizen.org); and has been involved with created numerous dance projects of every discipline, locally and internationally. She holds a BS from Queen’s University (Canada), an MA from Antioch University (US/international), an MS from Pace University (US), and a Ph.D. from Antioch University.

In Spring 2017, Alexander was a member of the inaugural Encore Transition Program cohort and then served as a resident guest artist in dance. Jane is now a Lecturer in dance at Union Theological Seminary, teaching two courses on dance in practice.

All four facilitators consider themselves as “fellow travelers” in the Encore Transition Program.

In addition, the Encore Transition Program will be facilitated by:

  • 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 experiential opportunities” from among dozens of social justice institutions that regularly invite Union students for internships and other field education opportunities.
  • Outside guests and/or former participants in the Encore Transition Programs with personal experience transitioning to their own encore stage of life will join discussions on occasion.
  • This semester’s sessions will be conducted online, from 6:00 – 8:30 pm EST. 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 woodenruth@gmail.com.