Dr. Judah Ronch makes the case for more and better aging-focussed higher education…
As you point out in “Despite an Aging Population in U.S., Fewer Programs Are Training Gerontologists” (The Chronicle, November 21, 2010), it can certainly be “difficult to lure undergraduates into such programs.” Indeed, it can be difficult to induce them to consider anything but other twenty-somethings. However, here at the Erickson School for Management of Aging Services at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, we have found a way: Emphasize opportunity. Many in academia disagree with this approach but, especially in this economy, students (and their parents) are asking us to make explicit their education’s relevance to future employment as they struggle to make the large investment that attaining higher education requires.
Our programs combine solid academic grounding, including critical-thinking skills, with internship opportunities and applied projects. To get students interested, we grab their attention with a course called “So You Say You Want a Revolution: How Boomers Are Revolutionizing Aging,” in which we present to them the amazing effects boomers have had on society to date, and how their demands and sheer numbers will necessitate many services and business models yet to be realized. We emphasize entrepreneurial thinking and the complex considerations of an aging society. The course is engaging—and popular. Students can clearly see that there will be opportunities for them to be involved in meeting these challenges. Aging is relevant to so many fields that the number of minors has grown by leaps and bounds. We have hundreds of students in our courses, and majors in the program have increased by 50 percent over the past two years.
The emphasis is mine.
Aging services will be the foundation for the best, most successful and enduring new businesses of the 21st Century…
BTW: I helped design and still teach part time in the Erickson School’s Masters program.
It is good.