Gerontology program reaches new milestone

By Northwood Technical College

Northwood Technical College’s gerontology – aging services professional program, launched in 2015, has stood out with its innovative, hands-on curriculum and flexible delivery, designed to equip students for careers in age, aging and older adulthood.

Given the accelerated global aging trend, particularly in northwestern Wisconsin, this field’s significance cannot be overstated.

Now, the program has become the second associate degree program in the country to achieve national accreditation through the Accreditation for Gerontology Education Council (AGEC). After four years of dedication to this initiative, the gerontology faculty at Northwood Tech are elated to have achieved the initial milestone of national recognition for their distinctive program.

The Northwood Tech gerontology faculty, recognizing the need for inventive approaches, opted to break away from conventional methods in spreading information and services. One strategy involved actively contributing to the improvement of customer service and public interactions knowledge among students in various Northwood Tech programs. Collaborating with faculty and students from disciplines like cosmetology and HVAC/R, the gerontology faculty harnessed cross-curricular collaborations to extend dementia-friendly and aging services training sessions beyond the confines of the gerontology program.

The faculty’s passion and empathy for gerontology drove them to successfully navigate the challenging accreditation process, which entailed meeting rigorous standards and guidelines set by the Gerontological Society of America and the Academy of Gerontology in Higher Education. The program had to demonstrate its alignment with the occupational and educational expectations of the profession, covering the biological, psychological, and social aspects of aging, as well as ethics, communication, arts and humanities, and academic research.

The faculty of the gerontology program invested nearly 1,700 hours in refining and enhancing the curriculum, which led to the creation of a comprehensive 145-page self-study that was submitted in April 2023. In September 2023, a two-day virtual visit occurred where three evaluators engaged with program faculty and leaders at Northwood Tech, conversed with students, graduates, advisory committee members and fieldwork site supervisors.

At the conclusion of the visit, Northwood Tech received positive feedback from the evaluation team that praised the self-study as being well-organized, applauded faculty as top-notch networkers, and recognized the program’s national leadership in post-secondary gerontology education. The program’s visit and self-study also highlighted the skills and abilities of students and graduates, which further portrayed Northwood Tech’s program as an exemplary model for the field of gerontology. Evaluators suggested to the college’s leadership and program faculty that they promote their distinctive program model on a national scale, including faculty publications in journals to presentations at conferences.

AGEC members also emphasized the need to promote the program’s engagement with students and partners through a highly relevant curriculum and innovative practices at the national level as well.

In a joint statement, Jennifer Ellis, director and instructor of the gerontology-aging services professional program and Kimberly McDonald, gerontology-aging services instructor stated, “The gerontology – aging services professional program faculty would like to thank the over 60 people who directly contributed to achieving this national accreditation, and countless others who have been a part of the program since 2015. We dedicate our work to older adults, families, and our aging services workforce. We are especially proud to partner with students on an innovative, interdisciplinary journey to meet the changing needs of an aging world.”

This article originally appeared here.

Northwood Technical College

is located in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.