Through UMass Gerontology program, Advocate for Rhode Island Seniors Finds Her Voice

By Taryn Hojlo

Where can I get help?

Older adults and caretakers sometimes struggle with that question, unsure how to find aging services and other kinds of assistance they need. Deborah Burton realized there was a thriving demand for those services but information about them in her home state of Rhode Island did not exist in any centralized resource that was easy to find and use.

Burton, a 2013 graduate of UMass Boston Gerontology’s Management of Aging Services program, was a long-term care ombudsman and founder of Senior Choice Consulting. In her professional roles, she developed extensive knowledge of the resources available to her state’s senior community. Burton often met with clients who no longer lived in their homes but could have remained there if they had been connected with the appropriate services. “That really weighed on my heart,” she said.

“I was hearing over and over again that the state needed a comprehensive website to get this information out there. I had all this information, and in good conscience I couldn’t sit on it and let people suffer,” said Burton.

So Burton developed her own website, a place to publicize every statewide and national resource that she knew about online. Together with Englund Studios, Deborah designed a site that offered straightforward guidance on an easy-to-use, open access platform. By October 2016, went live and has been gaining popularity among both the public and professionals in the field. Continue reading

UMass Boston Gerontology Grad’s Journey From MAS Student to Assisted Living Executive

By Taryn Hojlo

After years working in management and hospitality, Catherine Williamson was confident she knew how to serve people. For a decade, she had overseen the care of hotel patrons and spa-goers at The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. She had also held positions in financial and property management.

Williamson thought she had experienced every managerial role the field had to offer. But when she took an assistant executive director position at Emeritus in 2013, a senior living facility in South Windsor, Conn., Williamson realized her career was only beginning.

“I loved the feeling I got from comforting families throughout the process of this challenging journey,” she said. “But I realized I needed more competency in the field.”

That discovery led Williamson to enroll in a Management of Aging Services course at UMass Boston to get a better idea of what the program had to offer before she matriculated. Once the course had ended, she made the decision to enroll as a full-time student. Thanks to her professional experience and education, Williamson was recently named the new executive director of Orchard Valley, a Benchmark Senior Living assisted living and memory care community in Wilbraham. Continue reading

How Gerontology Grad Used MAS Capstone Project to Help Launch New Service Organization

By Taryn Hojlo

Erin Kopecki didn’t consider much beyond the grading rubric when she drafted a business plan for her gerontology capstone project at UMass Boston. Her professor told students they could satisfy the project’s requirements with either a research paper or a business plan. As someone with an interest in management, Kopecki was quick to declare her choice.

Like most of her Management of Aging Services assignments, she had written the capstone in piecemeal during lunch breaks and the rare bits of downtime that her full-time job as a home care scheduling coordinator allowed. But that project would later become the plan to launch TUCKed-In Eldercare, a geriatric management organization she co-founded on Nantucket. Continue reading

Gerontology PhD Candidate Danielle Waldron Awarded LEND Fellowship

UMass Boston gerontology PhD candidate Danielle Waldron has been selected for a prestigious one-year fellowship intended to prepare new leaders focused on ways healthcare, education and social services are delivered to people with developmental disabilities.

Waldron was awarded the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship by the UMass Medical School’s Shriver Center.

There are more than 40 LEND fellowship programs across the country, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Waldron will begin her fellowship in the fall. Continue reading

UMass Gerontology Students Selected as Capstone Award Winners

By Taryn Hojlo

Two gerontology students researching a multi-generational approach to community senior centers and property tax relief programs for older homeowners have been selected for the 2018 Capstone awards.

Students Beth Duggan Rouleau and Norma Strack were selected by a committee from the Management of Aging Services Program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. Each year, two Capstone papers are selected based on their demonstration of outstanding research in various topics concerning elder care, including policy development and program management. Continue reading

Dr. Shuangshuang Wang, Gerontology Graduate, Thanks Her Village at McCormack

By Saadia Ahmad

The first time that Dr. Shuangshuang Wang learned of the gerontology field was from a professor in college who mentioned that while there are many researchers interested in child development, far fewer are focused on the development of older adults. She enrolled in a class on human aging and discovered an interest in care-giving and marital relationships in the later stages of life. From that point forward, she began thinking about how to improve life quality at the larger stage of human development and found the Gerontology PhD program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.

That was seven years ago. Last month, Wang graduated with a doctoral degree in gerontology and with the Gerontology Book Award, presented to a graduating student who has demonstrated excellence across both coursework and dissertation work. Continue reading

Academic Life: 3 New UMass Boston Gerontology PhDs on Their Dissertation Experiences

By Meghan Hendricksen

Successfully completing the UMass Boston gerontology PhD program is like ending a journey.  A very long journey.

Just ask Ian Livingston, Jane Tavares or ShuangShuang Wang. All three recently defended their dissertations successfully. The Gerontology Institute blog talked with the newly minted UMass Boston PhDs about their experiences — from the original development of their dissertation topic to its eventual defense and how the work positions them for the future. Here’s what they had to say.

Q: Was the topic you chose for your dissertation in the area of interest you had coming into the Gerontology program?

Ian Livingston: It was not. My original interests and the topic of my dissertation were very different, but I was not surprised by that. My dissertation looks at the effects of physical therapists and occupational therapists on quality of care in nursing homes, but my original interests were linked to health behaviors and their association with different outcomes for older adults.

Coming into the program I had a sense of what I wanted to do, but that changed quickly even after just the first year. As a student, you’re exposed to so many broad aging-related topics, many of which are very interesting. My dissertation topic must have changed five or six different times before I even finished my qualifying exam. My recommendation to future students who already have dissertation ideas is to always be open to new ideas or different ways to approach a topic. You may be surprised how a topic that is completely different from your original interests may be the area you become most interested in.

Jane Taveres: Yes, my dissertation topic was closely related to a general area of interest I had coming into the Gerontology program. I have always had an interest in exploring how social relationships impact health. Much of my research has focused on this topic while I have been in our gerontology program. My faculty mentor, Jeff Burr, was also interested in this area of research and we worked together from my very first day, so I was able to really dig pretty deeply into this topic area over the course of my time in the program.

Shuangshuang Wang: Yes but more specific. When I first came into the program I was interested in broadly inter-generational relations and marital relations in later life. And when I was discussing with my dissertation chair about possible dissertation topics she suggested that maybe grandchild care and grandparents’ marital quality is a good one, which interested me as well. Continue reading

Academic Life: UMass Boston Gerontology Students on Managing Time and Balancing Priorities

Nidya Velasco, Saehwang Han, Natalie Shelito and Yi Jung Kim

Left to right, Nidya Velasco, Saehwang Han, Natalie Shellito and Yi Jung Kim

By Meghan Hendricksen

So, how is school going?

Every gerontology student at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School could give you an earful on that subject. The Gerontology Institute Blog wanted to hear what students had to say about their studies, the challenge of balancing academics with personal lives and their career goals. So we asked four PhD students – Natalie Shellito, Shiva Prasad, Nidya Velasco and Danielle Waldron – and two doctoral candidates – Yi Jung Kim and Saehwang Han – a few questions related to those topics. Here’s what they had to say. Continue reading