Summer is history.
Most of UMass Boston’s gerontology students enjoyed the vacation break and hopefully some even found their way to chairs on a beach. But many also worked on gerontology research projects, attended professional events or participated in fellowships at some point during the summer.
Haowei Wang, Adrita Barooah and Nidya Velasco Roldan all attended the prestigious RAND Summer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. All said they had become interested in the institute based on recommendations of others. In particular, Sae Hwang Han and Yijung Kim had both traveled from UMass Boston to attend the institute the previous summer.
“It was a great opportunity to network and meet new people,” said Barooah. “Compared to a lot of big conferences, the RAND institute was more personal, which helped me get to know fellow attendees and their work better.”
This summer’s institute meeting was divided into two mini-conferences, each lasting two days. One served as a sort of mini-medical school for social scientists and the other was focused on the demography, epidemiology, psychology and economics of aging.
Wang agreed the institute was an ideal opportunity to network and meet new people. “I also received constructive suggestions from junior and senior faculties about job searching and career development,” she said.
Velasco Roldan enjoyed meeting people working on similar topics from different approaches. “It helped me improve the way I present and explain my dissertation project and other projects to a broader audience that is also interested in aging but from other disciplines,” she said.
Back in Boston, Natalie Shellito went to work in the office of City Council President Andrea Campbell as part of a 10-week Civic Action Project fellowship. She worked on a new database that collects and organizes information to help staff in Campbell’s office respond to questions from constituents and address issues that matter most to them.
Shellito was also assigned to a team that conducted research and produced a policy recommendation on the “school to prison pipeline” problem in Boston’s public school system. One day each week, fellows gathered at the UMass Club in downtown Boston to hear a variety of speakers including Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.
“Learning from passionate politicians, public servants and Boston leaders empowered me on my journey through my career and helped me think about different career opportunities for the future, like running for public office,” said Shellito.
Caitlin Connelly spent part of her summer working on a research project that brought together two subjects of interest to her: gerontology and climate change. She worked with Robyn Stone and Natasha Bryant from the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, as well UMB gerontology associate professor Kathrin Boerner.
Their immediate project involved the development of a white paper summarizing existing literature on how older adults are impacted by climate change and natural disasters in the United States. The researchers were particularly interested in how older adults used long-term services and supports that may be vulnerable to climate change.
“This project helped me discover that the intersection between these two topics is something that I am passionate about,” said Connelly.
Meanwhile, Yijung Kim traveled to Chicago to participate in the 126th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. She co-chaired a symposium, “The Complexity and Significance of Social Relations Across the Lifespan,” and was also one of its speakers. Kim discussed how characteristics of parents and in-laws are associated with the aging anxiety of Korean baby boomers, one of her three dissertation studies.
“Personally, the APA conference really forces me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “The presentation itself was a learning experience and a chance to check on the progress of my dissertation. Having a deadline to push my dissertation forward certainly helped as well.”