Record Number of Gerontology Students Earn Doctoral Degrees in 2017

One came up directly through the University of Massachusetts undergraduate system. Several traveled halfway around the world to study in Boston. Still others took their own varied paths to the same campus.

This year, the eight students all earned PhD degrees in gerontology from UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School and set a new standard in the process.

“The Gerontology faculty are very proud of this year’s doctoral student graduates, who represent the largest cohort of graduates from our program in its 28-year history,” said Professor Jeffrey Burr, chair of the department. “They leave behind a legacy of hard work, dogged determination to succeed, and a passion for gerontology.”

As students, they spent years in class and working toward dissertation goals. They also developed professional skills that will serve them for their entire careers.

“The training at UMB as a whole provided me the confidence to move forward as an independent researcher who understands how to collaborate with other experts,” said Abigail Amanda Butt, whose dissertation examined place attachment and geographic mobility in later life.

The group’s dissertation work covered a wide range of topics. One particular subject of interest: Emily Gadbois, Kristen E. Anderson and ChaeMan Lee all pursued dissertations on driving and transportation issues related to older people.

Lee had studied public policy in South Korea before moving to California, where he took ESL courses and later received a BA in Gerontology at San Diego State. Then he traveled on to UMass Boston and acknowledges many professors, including advisor Elizabeth Dugan, as well as fellow students for their support and encouragement.

“My colleagues were great,” said Lee. “We cooperated with each other to accomplish our goal. My educational journey was so long from South Korea to San Diego to Boston. I had many hard times related to study itself, language and culture. But I never gave up studying and was very confident I could get my PhD.”

Lee was hardly the only student whose determination was put to the test.

“This was the most challenging professional endeavor thus far,” said Emma D. Quach, who was a project director at UMass Medical School before enrolling at UMass Boston. Her dissertation topic was family-work enhancement and conflict among older workers.

Many of the graduating doctoral students point to their advisors, committee members and other professors as key sources of support during their studies.

Butt highlighted the innovative Gerontology Dissertation Writing Group as a critical resource as she worked toward her degree.

“Having peers who had already forged the path and could offer advice was invaluable,” she said. “I truly believe this group is why I was able to finish. Everybody should have such a group.”

Many of the gerontology students who received their doctoral degrees from UMass Boston this year are at work in the field right now.

Lien Quach is working at the Boston US Veterans Administration health care system as a research scientist. Emma Quach is also at the VA conducting research.

Gadbois is conducting research as a project director at the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research. Lee plans to continue his transportation-related research with Professor Dugan.

Hyo Jung Lee, whose dissertation focused on how late-life social relationships were associated with mortality risk among older Americans, is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies.

Mai See Yang, who defended her dissertation last month, will be the student speaker at the UMass Boston graduate commencement ceremony on May 25. She plans to pursue post doctoral work at the University of Chicago.

“The graduates’ accomplishments are inspiring to our current students,” said Burr, the department chair. “We know that all of this year’s graduates will go on to have productive and fulfilling careers in the aging field.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *