The School of Aging Studies is among the many departments on our campus with demonstrated highly effective community-engagement programming. Perhaps because the school itself is interdisciplinary with faculty specializing in a range of disciplines, year after year, they seem to outdo themselves in their efforts to engage faculty and students with the local community.
Whether it’s Mock Interview Night (story forthcoming); the annual Careers in Aging Networking Event; Dr. Brianne Stanback’s new summer service-learning course Aging in Place and Space; or the research of undergraduate LaDonna Gleason, who just presented on the needs of older homeless veterans at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, the School of Aging Studies is always on our radar screen with its outstanding community-engaged programming.
Stanback, Instructor and Director of the Internship Program, who organizes the event, stated, “The Networking Event is important on a couple of levels. First, and most obviously, it benefits our students to see the variety of opportunities available for students with their educational backgrounds and professional goals. The event also allows our community partners to get a better sense of the diversity among our students and a sense of their individual paths to a career working with older adults. It’s so great to have an event that serves so many purposes.”
We’ve been fortunate to have partners bring our students in as volunteers, interns, and employees and be willing to help with larger research projects in the School of Aging Studies, guest lecture in classes, and provide pivotal, real-time advice when we have new ideas or questions. I think my favorite thing is that the Networking Event is turning into a reunion for our Alumni, an awesome surprise and a tradition that I hope continues to grow.
On March 26th, eager employers and students poured into the Atrium lobby of the Behavioral and Community Sciences building. Each potential employer gave a brief presentation about the work of their agency, company, or organization and then provided advice to students. The advice was so good each presenter found themselves amplifying and building on the ideas of one another.
Dani Gray, who handles volunteer management and runs the Shine program for West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging, suggested students find a good mentor and encouraged them to “believe in yourself and don’t give up”—words she lived by when she took on the challenge of running SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) a year ago.
Maria Rivera of Florida Presbyterian Homes, where Stanback will be offering her service-learning class, stressed the community’s personalized care approach and discussed their Music and Memory program, through which residents are able to utilize iPods programmed with their favorite music to tap into their musical memory and reconnect with themselves and others through this powerful cognitive tool. This program was depicted in the upcoming documentary film Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, “a powerful film about the power of music,” and Florida Presbyterian Homes is the only senior living facility in Florida to participate in the Music and Memory program.
Reginald Washington of Riverfront Nursing and Rehabilitation walked in to hear his name called and came up with these words of wisdom on the fly, “Do your job, do it so well that anyone coming in back of you can’t do it better.”
The City of Clearwater has taken the bold step of institutionalizing an Office on Aging run by Kerry Marsalek who confessed, “I live on the edge,” a state of mind, which she uses to her advantage with her mantra “always strive to innovate.”
Another great suggestion that will serve all of us to remember came from one of the youngest presenters of the Student Association on Aging Studies, “never take criticism to heart.” Instead, we ought to welcome constructive criticism as advice on how to improve one’s performance as a professional.
One of the most exciting announcements for students who want to immerse themselves in an intergenerational learning experience came from John Talbott, Executive Director of the Life Enrichment Center who stated that the organization offers free memberships to all USF students in the School of Aging Studies. He particularly suggested a class called “Pages of My Life: Writing Your Life Story” in which students in the course write about their own memories. This is sure to be a life-changing experience as students have the chance to connect creatively with the population with which they seek to work upon graduation.
Of this year’s Careers in Aging event, Stanback said, “We’ve been fortunate to have partners bring our students in as volunteers, interns, and employees and be willing to help with larger research projects in the School of Aging Studies, guest lecture in classes, and provide pivotal, real-time advice when we have new ideas or questions. I think my favorite thing is that the Networking Event is turning into a reunion for our Alumni, an awesome surprise and a tradition that I hope continues to grow.” Note: Stanback is such a superstar in building community partnerships that she is speaking on this topic at our Internship Directors Breakfast on April 30th.
Stay tuned to our website for more upcoming stories from the School of Aging Studies about Mock Interview Night, Aging in Place and Space, and a feature on Gleason’s research presentation, part of our OCEP “Peer to Peer” feature series on student engagement.