Monday, May 13, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

Dr. Nicole Rogers and Karen D. Austin
Photo by Michael S. Austin.
Between August 2010 and May 2013, I have been pursuing a graduate degree in Aging Studies.  The discipline is also sometimes called gerontology.

This month I'm completing my schooling with a little pride, pomp and circumstance.

Shakespeare provides that phrase:

Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th'ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!

(Othello, Act III, scene iii)

I highly recommend the program, directed by Dr. Nicole Rogers (pictured here ---> ). I chose the social science track, which allowed me to study the contributions of sociologists, psychologists and economists to the phenomena of aging.

When allowed to choose the topic for my research projects, I chose to study cognition: age-related cognitive changes, mild cognitive impairment, mood disorders, and Alzheimer's Disease.

I was honored to receive two awards during graduation week (pictured above):

  • Aging Studies Student of the Year
  • Outstanding Community Service Award from the College of Health Professions, Department of Public Health Sciences (where the Aging Studies program is housed). 
On Friday, May 18th, I will be inducted in the Alpha Eta Society, which is the National Scholarship Society in Allied Health.  Wow. I was nervous about switching careers at midlife, but things seem to be going well.  

The program included field experience in a multi-level care center as well as 12 graduate courses:

Adult Development and Aging.   Explores theory and research related to the development of adults and to the aging process. Using an interactive, interdisciplinary perspective, the course examines the process of change, transition, growth, and development across the adult life span.

Interprofessional Perspectives on Aging.  Introduction to the advanced study of the process of aging from a multidisciplinary point of view. 

Biology of Aging. This course is designed to provide students with the most up-to-date information on the current understanding of the aging process. In addition, students will develop an understanding of the biology of aging with a system-by-system description of aging phenomena. For some systems, descriptions of the aging process will be examined as they occur in various organs as well as on the cellular level. 

Psychology of Aging. This course provides a comprehensive exploration of the psychology of aging. Students will examine of the issues surrounding the adult aging process. Topics include personality and intellectual change, mental health of the older adult, and the psychological issues of extending human life. The course will teach aspects of successful aging, normal aging and age-related illness such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and heart conditions. Emphasizes the strengths of the older adult and prevention of psychological problems of the older adult.

Sociology of Aging. This course provides an overview of the significant sociological perspectives, social issues, and social science research pertaining to the phenomenon of aging in society. The course will examine the major theories of social aging, analyze the changing demographic trends and the political economy issues facing aging societies; describe how the broader societal context affects the nature of family relationships, community involvement, and the experiences of retirement and widowhood among the older adult; and examine the current issues in health and social service delivery for care of the older adult. The course examines a substantive field which has major social policy as well as personal significance in contemporary life.

Communications in Aging. Focuses on how communication is affected by aging, what communication problems may be experienced by older persons, and what the implications are for speech language pathologists and audiologists providing services to older persons. Communication aspects includes cognition, vision, hearing, speech, reading, writing, and swallowing.  Explores prevention activities geared toward maintaining functional communication abilities in older adults as well as functional treatment approaches geared toward the specific communication needs of older persons. 

Issues in Minority AgingAddresses the needs of students interested in (1) providing services to; (2) exploring the "issues" of; (3) becoming familiar with the rights of; (4) learning the legal procedures for resolving specific problems of; and (5) offering practical solutions for the difficulties encountered by ethnic older persons. Ethnic groups examined include African Americans, Haitian-Americans, Asian-Americans (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Native Alaskans as well as religio-ethnic communities such as the Amish, Jewish-Americans and Mormons. 

Evidence-Based Research Methods. An introductory course concerning the basic concepts of research methodology as appropriate to the physician assistant professional. Focuses on types of research, research questions and methods (both qualitative and quantitative), review of basic statistics, interpreting the medical literature using evidence-based techniques, literature reviews, data analysis (using computer technology), reporting results, summarizing findings, and the ethical concerns of research. Research and presentations done in interdisplinary groups of six students. (My group was comprised of 3 physician assistant grad students, an audiology student and a speech, language pathology student.)

Age, Work and Retirement. Examines the basic implications of population aging on work life and retirement opportunities, now and in the future. Explores factors that may place individuals at-risk for economic insecurity as they grow older.  Examined the economics of aging based on age cohort as well as race, gender and class.

Aging Programs and Policies. Analyzes and evaluates policies and programs related to aging and old age such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Emphasizes the importance of social values and historical context for understanding current policies, programs, and practices.

Death & Dying. This course is a multidisciplinary, empirically-based consideration of emotions, behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes related to death and the process of dying. Topics include: concepts of death, dying, grief, and bereavement; individual differences related to preparation, adjustment, and coping, as well as discussion of special topics (e.g., hospice and palliative care, physician-assisted suicide, violent death, terrorist attacks, genocide, etc.). One purpose of this course is to help students further develop and refine critical thinking skills and other skills that will facilitate life-long learning.

Independent Study - Caregiving. The emotional, physical and financial challenges of caregiving as experienced by nonprofessional caregivers, which is primarily the spouse or child(ren) of a person with a terminal disease or with one or more chronic diseases.  Includes a discussion of coping strategies and available resources. 

Field Experience.  Shadowing Activity Directors at a 200 resident multi-level care center in Wichita for 15 hours a week over four months.  

Even though my formal studies are concluding, I plan on continuing my education by reading newly published books in the field as well as peer-reviewed academic journals.   I will also be teaching in the program as an adjunct, starting the fall of 2013.  

I have a solid foundation, thanks to the rigors of this program, but there's more to learn in this dynamic, constantly developing field. 

ETA:  Here are the courses I taught while working as a Lecturer for WSU after graduating, These were all classes I took, so the course descriptions are located in the post above:

Spring 2016. Biology of Aging (Aging Studies 518/818) 
Fall 2015. Interprofessional Perspectives on Aging (Aging Studies 798) 
Spring 2015. Issues in Minority Aging (Aging Studies 512) 
Fall 2014. Psychology of Aging (Aging Studies 814) 
Spring 2014. Adult Development and Aging (Aging Studies 715) 
Spring 2014. Death and Dying (Aging Studies 525/825) 
Fall 2013. Experience of Aging in Film (Aging Studies 550)

Related: Gero Screagle Pride: My work with USI 


  1. Many congratulations to you, Karen! You're an inspiration to many.

    1. Thank you for your comment - and for your interest & support over the last three years! Congrats to your graduate today.

  2. Congratulations!(And thanks for the great info here on your education/program.)

    1. Thanks, Barbara. I'm just plain giddy about wrapping things up this week. Thank you for taking a look at the post and seeing how this program has played a key role in fueling my blog.