UMass Boston gerontology faculty have awarded three doctoral students with annual departmental honors. The 2021-2022 school year honorees are:

  • Book (Dissertation) Award: Meghan Hendricksen
  • Scholarship Award: Shayna Gleason
  • Service Award: Alison Rataj

The Book Award Committee chose Meghan Hendricksen for her dissertation, “Perceived Discrimination and Health Outcomes in Older Adults.” 

“Meghan investigated the impact of discrimination on health and health outcomes using four waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Perhaps not surprisingly, she found that discrimination is bad for your health,” says Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, associate professor of gerontology who chaired Hendricksen’s dissertation committee. ”Everyday discrimination moderated the association between gender and risk of heart attack, where differences in men and women’s risk of heart attack were exacerbated at higher levels of discrimination. Similarly, everyday discrimination moderated the association between race and risk of heart attack, where differences in white and non-white participants’ risk of heart attack were exacerbated at higher levels of discrimination. Experiences of discrimination in healthcare moderated associations between gender and self-rated health and heart attack. Reduction in experiences of discrimination in all settings, but especially in healthcare, should be a top priority.”

Joining Dugan on Hendricksen’s dissertation committee were Jeff Stokes, PhD, assistant professor of gerontology, and Sarah Forrester, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, UMass Medical School. Gerontology faculty members Pamela Nadash, PhD, and Qian Song, PhD, served as the 2021-2022 Book Award Committee.

Shayna Gleason won the Scholarship Award based on her submission, “Arts Participation and Self-Reported Health Among Older Adults: The Potential Mediating Role of Purpose in Life.” Gleason’s paper fulfilled one of the major requirements for the gerontology doctoral program’s Research Practicum course sequence, for which gerontology faculty members Kyungmin Kim, PhD, and Jeffrey Burr, PhD, served as instructors and Jan Mutchler, PhD, and Nina Silverstein, PhD, as readers. 

“Shayna richly deserves this award for her innovative study employing two waves of data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study” says Mutchler. “Using a residualized change analysis technique, she demonstrated that older adults who participated in the arts reported better health. Older adults who expressed a higher sense of meaning also reported better health. This study is important in part because participation in arts is a form of social engagement that may be employed as an intervention strategy to help older adults maintain a high quality of life.”

Alison Rataj won the Service Award, presented annually to a doctoral student who exhibits outstanding contributions to the gerontology department, the university, and the discipline. 

“Alison made important contributions to the UMass Boston gerontology community as an enthusiastic and effective ambassador,” says Kathrin Boerner, PhD, professor of gerontology and director of the doctoral program. “She spoke with prospective students and contributed to important departmental initiatives such as the reopening committee preparing for the back-to-campus transition last summer. Informally, she contributed through her kindness, support, and good will exhibited towards peers, faculty, and staff. 

“Alison has engaged in various efforts to bridge relationships and build a more supportive environment in the department and beyond. She contributed to designing and distributing surveys for graduate students to gauge their opinions, participation, and engagement; and helped increase communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included holding a virtual happy hour for all graduate students, including the PhD and Management of Aging Services students, and a pen pal program that connected graduate students with older adults at assisted living facilities. Her efforts improved social connectivity among our students, faculty members, and the broader aging community.”