We’re excited to welcome these students as they embark on their gerontology PhD studies in the fall of 2022.

Magdalen A. Balz

Magdalen Balz headshot

Hometown or country: Salem, MA
Education: MS, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Current research interests: cognitive healthy and cognitive decline in aging (especially in underserved populations of seniors), language variables consistent with cognitive decline, cognitive-communication intervention to increase quality of life for seniors and their close others
Favorite older person: My grandmother. She was a skilled listener who made everyone in her presence feel heard.

Wuyi Dong

Wooyi Dong headshot

Hometown or country: AnQing, China
Education: BS, Management; MS, Information Science; PhD, Library and Information Science
Current Research Interests: long-term effects of job loss on health outcome, intergenerational support, digital inequity and aging, immigrant older adults
Favorite older person: the population of older adults as a whole in Chinese society, they still have a lot of potential and opportunities
One aging challenge I’d like to address:  I want to correct the old images of older adults in developing countries in terms of their positive attitude to aging, their willingness to learn and participate in diverse social activities, as well as their toughness, resilience, and determination.

Alanna Frost

alanna frost headshot

Hometown or country: Windham, NH
Education: MS, Gerontology & Management of Aging Services
Current research interests: Alzheimer’s disease & dementia, Medicare & state Medicaid programs, issues in long-term care, community based care programs for older Americans 

Favorite older person: My grandmother. She recently passed away, but she was an amazing, fun, and loving person who always lived life to the fullest!

One aging challenge I’d like to address: Helping older adults age in place without needing long-term care facilities. Aging within one’s community is the goal for many, but it’s not always doable due to a lack of resources in many states.

Adriana Hernandez

adriana headshot

Hometown or country: Boston, MA
Education: BA, Biology
Current research interests: the correlation between social isolation and cognitive decline, the cause/effects of Lewy body dementia

Favorite older person: Maya Angelou. Her words of wisdom have always brought me comfort during uncertain times.

One aging challenge I’d like to address: The health impact of social isolation in older adults.

Dongfang Hong

hong headshot

Preferred nickname: Hana
Hometown or country: Guangzhou, China
Education: BLS (Bachelor of Life Sciences), Pathology; MPH; MS in Healthcare Management
Current research interests: dementia and dementia care, social determinants of cognitive health, health disparities in ethnic minorities & immigrant older adults
Favorite older person: Chizuko Ueno, 74, a Japanese sociologist and a pioneer in women’s studies. I read her book, Misogyny in Japan, while I was a student in Japan and it forever changed my understanding of the world as a woman.
One aging challenge I’d like to address: Depression and anxiety caused by lower self-efficacy are very common in older adults, especially in East Asian countries where ageism is a more severe issue. For example, my grandma frequently feels as though she “isn’t valuable” when she experiences difficulties finishing simple daily tasks. Better interventions such as physical training, the development of stress management skills, psychological support, etc., could improve older adults’ self-efficacy.

Jeein Jang

Jeein Jang headshot

Hometown or country: South Korea
Education: BA, Social Welfare; MS, Public Policy
Current research interests: senior welfare policy, aging and the life course, American politics
Favorite older person: My grandfather, who passed away 5 years ago. In his small village, sometimes he was a lawyer dealing with disputes between neighbors; sometimes he was a sheriff, working to keep the village’s peace. He served meals to others in need when droughts came. He also taught Chinese characters and Korean traditional manners. He had no education, but everyone respected him and expected him to solve problems. He said to me before he died, “What you want to achieve the most is hiding in the most difficult and annoying place you can go.”
One aging challenge I’d like to address: The most important social conflict in recent years is generational conflict. In the U.S., generational conflicts will merge with racial conflicts in the future, leading to extreme political, economic, and social conflicts. How would I fix it? That question is what I have to figure out in my UMass Boston gerontology studies.

Chang Pu Liang

Chang Liang headshot

Hometown or country: Taipei, Taiwan
Education: BA, Philosophy and Theology; MA, Theology and Ministry; MSW
Current research interests: Intergenerational support in later life and age friendly communities.

My favorite older person: My grandfather. He was a very gentle and humble man, even after being diagnosed with dementia.

One aging challenge I’d like to address: I hope everyone can understand their capabilities as comprehensively as possible while growing older.

Kingsley Chima Mbam

Kingsley Mbam headshot

Hometown or country: Ebonyi State, Nigeria
Education: BS, Psychology
Current research interests: economic insecurity in later life, work and intergenerational support in later life, social demography of aging

Favorite older person: My mother, Gladys Mbam. She is caring and protective of her children and grandchildren, kind-hearted and supportive to others, can thrive in difficult situations, and has good self-esteem.

One aging challenge I’d like to address: I have seen how economic insecurity in later life can lead to a struggle to afford housing, adequate nutrition, access to transportation, and health care. And given the rapid rate of global population aging, the significance of older people’s economic security will continue to increase worldwide.

Brittany M. McFeeley

brittany mcFeeley headshot

Hometown or country: Malden, MA
BS and MS, Psychology
Current research interests:
healthy cognitive aging, quality of life in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, modifiable risk factors for dementia
Favorite older person
My 97-year-old grandfather, the most resilient man I know. He was deployed to Germany in World War II, survived several bouts of cancer, and has survived numerous other hardships. His resiliency, even in his late 90s, is a true inspiration and I hope to be even half as strong as he is.
One aging challenge I’d like to address:
I would like to improve access to elder-care programs, ultimately to improve the quality of life for older adults.

Maryssa Pallis

Maryssa Pallis headshot

Hometown or country: Boston, MA
Education: MBA and MPP
Current research interests: Family caregiving; direct-care workforce; labor and workforce development; long-term care policy
Favorite older person: Joni Mitchell recently performed at the age of 78 at the Newport Folk Festival. At 72, she suffered from a devastating brain aneurysm, which caused her to lose her ability to sing and play guitar. This summer, after re-teaching herself to sing and play guitar, she took the stage once again, showcasing the beauty and complexity of aging. To see her perform was a reminder of the important work of supporting older adults in living their best lives throughout the aging process. The voices and instruments chiming in around her as she performed reminded me of the importance of intergenerational community support. Seeing her resilience reminded me of my own.

One aging challenge I’d like to address: I want to continue my earlier research on supporting family caregivers in Massachusetts. Supporting older adults in meeting their caregiving needs requires supporting those who provide this essential care.