YSU prepares for new gerontology program

Youngstown State University is on the verge of offering the third Ohio master’s degree in gerontology, the study of aging and its relationship to society.

Bowling Green State University and Miami University offer programs as well. Since the implementation of the bachelor’s degree in gerontology in 2009, a team of faculty members, headed by Daniel Van Dussen, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology, has been laying the groundwork for the next level.

Students who get a master’s degree in gerontology fill leadership and research positions in the field.

The AARP website estimates that since 2011, 8,000 baby boomers have turned 65 every day, a trend that will continue until 2029.

“It’s called job security; it’s great,” Van Dussen said of the aging baby boomers. “They’re a lot different from their parents’ generation, so their demands will be much greater and much different.”

The program will be under YSU’s institutional accreditation, but Van Dussen is working on a committee to apply individual program accreditation on the national level as well.

No such accreditation exists anywhere, and he hopes that when the outline and requirements for accreditation are finalized, YSU will be among the first university programs recognized.

Seven core faculty members helped develop the program, and Van Dussen said the program requires hiring one new professor to fill a tenure-track position.

Van Dussen said several current and past students have expressed interest in the upcoming program.

Cassandra Valentini, a long-term care ombudsman for Area Agency on Aging 11 Inc., decided not to pursue a graduate degree in the fall after graduating in May with a dual major in gerontology and social work. Now, she is looking into the option with a program so close to home.

“Being at YSU is something that makes it really appealing to me especially,” Valentini said.

The master’s degree in gerontology will be a two-year degree for full-time students and a three-year degree for part-time students. Two graduate assistantship positions will be offered in the program’s beginning years, but Van Dussen said he hopes more will be added in the future.

Valentini said she looks forward to the program as a step to reach her eventual goal of teaching courses in geriatric social work.

“This is going to be the future, and [people] need to start thinking about it,” Valentini said.

Faculty members tailored the program to draw students from both inside and outside YSU’s traditional targeted recruitment area.

Since the proposal’s completion, it has passed through all the necessary channels and now has only to pass the Ohio Board of Regents.

YSU will post applications for the program for fall of 2013 as soon as possible.

Van Dussen said the master’s program at YSU will have a different focus than programs at Miami or Bowling Green. Programs that are too similar to other schools in the state, especially those nearby, are often rejected in earlier stages. YSU will focus on study and research in health and aging.

“We do play very nicely with those other universities,” Van Dussen said.