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About Us

As distinguished leaders in research, education, and entrepreneurship, our mission is to prepare both undergraduate and graduate students for careers that are responsive to the needs of aging individuals and communities.

Contact Us

Program Director

Joan McDowd
UMKC Volker Campus
#314 Cherry Hall
5030 Cherry Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64118
Ph: 816-235-2490
mcdowdj@umkc.edu

Degree Programs

Program Information

Gerontology is an interdisciplinary field that includes psychological, biological, and social aspects of aging.

At UMKC, both undergraduate and graduate students can study Gerontology.

The programs combine classroom study with opportunities to engage with older adults through

  • service learning,
  • volunteer opportunities,
  • class assignments, and
  •  a field practicum with an aging-related project or organization.

UMKC Gerontology Program graduates are prepared for careers that intersect with aging individuals and communities.

Undergraduate Options

At the undergraduate level, an 18-credit gerontology minor can be added to any major.

Graduate options

At the graduate level, the 18-credit gerontology certificate can be taken as a free-standing program, or in conjunction with a degree program.

Advising

Program advising and related resources are available for both Undergraduate Minor and Graduate Certificate students.

Advising for Undergraduate Gerontology Minor

Advising for Graduate Gerontology Certificate

 

 

 

 

Engage

Aging may seem like foreign territory, but it is happening all around us and it will happen to all of us!

No matter what career you choose, you are likely to intersect with aging individuals and communities.
Why not prepare yourself? Get engaged now so you are ready for your future!

Opportunities for getting engaged in Gerontology are varied. The Gerontology program intersects with a variety of community partners who offer programs and services for older adults. Students have the opportunity to experience first-hand the work of these partners through semester-long practicum opportunities, or through volunteer or service-learning opportunities associated with individual courses.

Student studying Gerontology are also eligible to join the Gerontology Club or Sigma Phi Omega, the Gerontology Honor Society. These groups help promote the study of aging and engage in service activities involving

Faculty

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Affiliated Faculty

Faculty with interests in aging from around the University have organized themselves as the Consortium for Aging in Community. These faculty members do research and teach courses that may be of interest to Gerontology students. Read more about them on the Consortium site.

Graduate Certificate Options

The Graduate Gerontology Certificate can be combined with an existing degree program, or as a stand-alone program.

Stand-alone Certificate

The Gerontology Certificate is an 18-credit program, requiring six 3-credit courses:  four core courses, one elective, and a 3-credit practicum experience.  Details related to specific requirements for the Certificate are listed in the Gerontology Certificate Map.

Interested?  Check with Gerontology Certificate Advising for more information about admission to the Gerontology Certificate program.

Earning a Gerontology Certificate as part of another degree program

The Gerontology Certificate can also be added to any graduate program in which a student is already enrolled.  Combined programs have already been developed for the Master of Social Work and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies,

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree program enables individuals to pursue interdisciplinary studies at the graduate level. Courses provide participants the opportunity to extend the best experiences of baccalaureate liberal education to the graduate level.  In addition to required MALS courses, students are encouraged to select one of the graduate certificate programs or informal focus areas to complete the program.  Students interested in Gerontology may choose the Gerontology Certificate, or a combined Gerontology/Bioethics Certificate as part of the MALS program.

Masters of Social Work

The mission of the UMKC School of Social Work is to prepare competent, advanced generalist social work practitioners to meet the needs of multi-cultural diverse populations in a dynamic mid-western metropolitan context; to be culturally proficient, ethical leaders and service providers engaged in knowledge-driven, inter-professional, multi-systemic, community-based practice; who advocate for social and economic justice, enhance human wellbeing, and support individuals’ capacity to address their own needs.  This mission is a perfect match for Gerontology, and a program of study has been developed that efficiently combines the MSW with the Gerontology Certificate.

In addition to the MALS and the MSW, it is possible to earn the Certificate while enrolled in any graduate program.  To do so most efficiently requires careful selection of electives and approval from the Gerontology Advisor.

Interested?  Check with Gerontology Certificate Advising for more information about combining programs.

 

Graduate Admissions & Academic Advising

The Gerontology Program advisor helps students get the most out of their experience at UMKC by advising them on the specifics needed to earn the Gerontology Graduate Certificate.

Admission to the Graduate Gerontology Certificate program

Admission to the Gerontology Certificate program can be done as part of an existing graduate program, or as a stand-alone program.

Adding Gerontology to an existing program:  Students who have already been admitted to a UMKC graduate program and wish to add the Gerontology Certificate to their program of study should consult the Gerontology Advisor.  Admission to the Gerontology Certificate program requires a completed Declaration of Major form and the signature of the Gerontology Advisor.

Earning a free-standing Gerontology Certificate:  Those who are interested in pursuing only the certificate apart from a degree program should complete the UMKC application process through the Admissions Office.  Indicate “Gerontology Certificate” as the major field on the graduate application form.

In addition, the following application materials are required:

  • A statement of purpose of approximately 500-750 words, describing your interests in the aging field and your academic or professional objectives (submit this directly to Joan McDowd, Ph.D., Advisor, at mcdowdj@umkc.edu);
  • Your professional resume (submit directly to Joan McDowd, Ph.D., at mcdowdj@umkc.edu).
  • NOTE: GRE scores are not required.

Target application deadline for the fall semester is June 15 and for the spring semester is November 1.  Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Advising Appointments

Once admitted, Gerontology certificate students are required to meet with the Program Advisor every semester to discuss degree requirements, devise a plan towards academic success, explore career and post-graduate goals, and discuss questions or concerns they may have.

Students can make an appointment for semester meetings by emailing the Gerontology Advisor with days and times they are available over a two-week period. The advisor will reply with a mutually convenient time.

Questions that come up between semester meetings may be addressed to the Gerontology Advisor by email or telephone (see contact information below).

Gerontology Program Advisor

Dr. Joan McDowd
314 Cherry Hall
Ph: 816-235-2490
Fx: 816-235-1062
mcdowdj@umkc.edu

 

Meet Our Students

Student Perspectives


“The knowledge and skills gained in the Gerontology Program coupled with the Bachelor of Arts in Sociology has impacted my ability to serve people –no matter their social orientation, cultural identification or socioeconomic status. Understanding how older adults function in society has helped me to empower and serve others in community building and administration. I appreciate the skills, knowledge and support from faculty in the Program.”

Jordan Brooks, Undergraduate Minor, 2013
(Jordon earned a masters degree in Higher Education Administration at UMKC and currently works at Donnelly College in Kansas City, KS)

 

“Earning the graduate certificate in gerontology from UMKC is one of the smartest things I did to prepare for my career in aging! This innovative interdisciplinary program provided me the deep and broad knowledge, compassion and hands-on experience I needed to excel in a variety of professional settings. I enthusiastically recommend the gerontology certificate as a valuable foundation and springboard for students committed to serving older adults.”

Kelly Loeb, Graduate Certificate, 2001
(Kelly now has her MSW and works as an Older Adult Care Manager, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City)

 


“The Gerontology Certificate program provided me with a well-rounded education focused on serving older adults. Real world issues centered on aging, as well as experiential activities enabled me to gain an in depth understanding of the aging process and senescence. I highly recommend UMKC’s Gerontology Certificate program to those interested in working with older adults and their families.”

Sarah Llanque, Graduate Certificate, 2011
(Sarah also earned R.N., Ph.D. degrees; she is currently a NIH-sponsored postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah College of Nursing)

 

“The gerontology program allowed me to explore aging on an academic, social, volunteer, and community level. I had the opportunity to participate on a research team, complete an internship at the Area Agency on Aging, and take part in a Geriatric Assessment Consultation Clinic. I would recommend UMKC’s Gerontology Program to anyone! This interdisciplinary program truly keeps students’ academic interests, goals, and future in mind”.

Elisabeth Beardall, Psychology B.A., 2015
(Elisabeth is completing her MALS with a graduate certificate in Gerontology. Her plan is to attend Law School with a focus in Elder Law)

Practicum Requirements

Planning

Planning for a practicum should be initiated 6-8 weeks in advance of the beginning of a semester so that the program director and student have sufficient time to arrange a field site appropriate to the student’s interests. A formal Field Placement Agreement will be signed by the Site Supervisor, the Campus Supervisor, the student, and a UMKC official representing the Curators of the University of Missouri.

Registration

Once a practicum arrangement is in place, Gerontology Minor students should enroll in Arts & Sciences 492 and Gerontology Certificate Students enroll in Arts & Sciences 5592, Field Practicum in Aging, for 3 credits (except in rare and specific cases, students enroll only after completing all other program coursework). The program director or adviser can provide a consent to enroll.

Expectations for the Practicum Course

Gerontology Minor students are expected to devote a total of 150 hours to the practicum; Certificate students devote a total of 180 hours. Due to the work schedule of the student, supervisor, or the agency, completion of the hours sometimes extends beyond the confines of one semester. While this is acceptable, all parties must be apprised if the timetable will extend beyond one semester. Students should be aware that an “incomplete” will be registered on the student’s transcript until the hours are fulfilled and all requirements as described below have been met.

Activities and Hours

The 150/180 clock/contact hours (an average of 10/12 hours per week) should be spent in the varied activities of the Practicum site or required university assignments as established and negotiated among the Site Supervisor, the Campus Supervisor and the student—initially through a learning contract with specific objectives and goals for the experience. One hour per week can be fulfilled through the reflective journaling activity described below.

In addition to the activities associated with the practicum itself, Undergraduate Minor students are expected to complete #1 and #2 below, and Graduate Certificate Students are expected to complete #1, #2, and #3 below. These are as follows:

  1.  A reflective journal
    The journal provides the chance to hone documentation skills (important to any job), reflect on the challenges and successes in practicum activities, and apply classroom knowledge of gerontology to real life situations.  The Campus Supervisor and student may agree to use the journal feature of Blackboard for submission of weekly or bi-weekly entries if considered most convenient. The reflective journal should include:

    1. A record of the number of hours/times, and dates dedicated to all practicum-related activities;
    2. An objective description of location, people, and activity in which the student is engaged;
    3. Reflections on the value of the activity for the agency and for the student;
    4. Identification of the gerontological issues that are apparent in the activity;
    5. References to concepts, theories, research, interventions, resources, etc. which may be cited (APA form is not necessary), that demonstrate how the student’s class work, learning, reading, discussions, may be applied to and/or integrated into practice;
    6. Content in narrative form with attention to grammar, spelling, and readability.
  2. Performance evaluation by site supervisor and student
    The Practicum Evaluation Form is available from the Campus Supervisor and should be completed by both the Site Supervisor and the student when the program requirements are completed. Typically, the student and Site Supervisor discuss this evaluation. It is the student’s responsibility to submit this to the Campus Supervisor, who will evaluate the full performance of the student and issue a grade.
  3. Project or focused research paper relevant to the experience
    (Graduate Certificate students only)A project might be something that would benefit the agency and from which the student would learn significantly by completing. Some past projects have included grant proposals, educational curricula, creation of an audiovisual program, and resource manuals. If the student selects to do a research paper, it should be on a topic closely related to the setting of the practicum that the student wishes to investigate in depth. It should include at least 15-20 peer-reviewed sources, be a minimum of 15 pages in length, and follow APA style.

Grading Measurements

Grading of the Practicum for Undergraduate Gerontology Minor students will be based on the following:

• Planning, communication, goal-setting:
20%
• Reflective Journal:
40%
• Site Supervisor Evaluation:
40%

 

Grading of the Practicum for Graduate Gerontology Certificate students will be based on the following:

§  Planning, communication, goal-setting:
15%
§  Journal:
30%
§  Paper/Project:
30%
§  Site Supervisor Evaluation:
25%

 

 

Psychology Professor Named Presidential Engagement Fellow

Joan McDowd

The College is proud to congratulate Dr. Joan McDowd on her recent selection as a 2020-21 UM System Presidential Engagement Fellow. The Fellowship grants Dr. McDowd and the 14 other UM faculty in the 2020-21 cohort, including Dr. Jamila Jefferson-Jones (School of Law) and Dr. Joey Lightner (School of Nursing and Health Studies) from UMKC, opportunities to speak and share their excellent research with communities across the state of Missouri. Dr. McDowd currently serves as Chair of the Department of Psychology and Director of the Gerontology Program.

From the recent UMKC Today article announcing UMKC’s Presidential Engagement Fellows:

McDowd serves as director and advisor for Gerontology programs. Her research interests are in cognitive aging, particularly in attention and memory processes. Although primarily interested in healthy aging, she also applies methods from cognitive psychology to understanding cognition in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease as well as in severe mental illness. She was awarded the 2017 President’s Award for Community Engagement, which recognizes faculty who are involved in exemplary engagement activities such as volunteerism, service-learning, educational programming and outreach.

To learn more about the Presidential Engagement Fellows program and the 2020-21 cohort, see this UM news release.

Undergraduate Minor

There are a variety of options for earning a minor in Gerontology at UMKC, depending on the degree you are seeking.  In general, the minor requires six 3-credit courses:  three core courses, two electives, and a 3-credit practicum experience.  Details related to specific requirements for the Minor are listed in the Minor Map.

Interested?  Check with Advising for more information or help in declaring a Gerontology minor.

Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Science

At the undergraduate level, an 18-credit gerontology minor can be added to any major.  In addition to three 3-credit core courses, there is the opportunity to choose six credits of electives to allow in-depth study in the student’s particular area of interest.

Bachelor of Liberal Arts

The College of Arts and Sciences offers the bachelor of liberal arts (B.L.A.) degree for individuals who seek scientific literacy, an understanding of the social sciences and an appreciation of the humanities. The B.L.A. is an alternative to the B.A./B.S. degree programs and is for individuals who do not wish to commit themselves to a specialty, whose aspirations are not served by a traditional major, and who desire maximum flexibility in course selection.

As part of their program of study, BLA students must complete a minor offered by any interdisciplinary program or department in the University. A minor in Gerontology will prepare the student for success in a variety of fields.

Bachelor of Health Sciences

With a comprehensive science-based curriculum, the Bachelor of Health Sciences degree combines urban-focused coursework in health policy, health program development, health and wellness, and population health outcomes. With a combination of coursework, service learning, volunteerism, and a senior year internship, students will apply theoretical concepts in evidence-based health programming and policy development in community settings. The UMKC BHS Degree Program offers a comprehensive curriculum designed to prepare students for a wide variety of careers in health or to pursue post-graduate education.  The program is offered through the UMKC School of Nursing & Health Studies and includes coursework in the physical, biological, behavioral, business and social aspects of health.

BHS students are urged to align their elective classes within a targeted area of specialization. Choosing a Gerontology minor can add value to your degree and enhance your marketability in the workplace.

Undergraduate Academic Advising

The College of Arts and Sciences has a dual advising system of general/professional advisors and program-specific advisors.  The goal of all advisors is to help undergraduate students achieve academic success.

Gerontology Program Advising

The Gerontology Program advisor helps students get the most out of their experience at UMKC by advising them on the specifics needed to earn the Gerontology Minor.

Gerontology minor students are required to meet with the Program Advisor every semester to discuss degree requirements, devise a plan towards academic success, explore career and post-graduate goals, and discuss questions or concerns they may have.

Advising Appointments

Students can make an appointment for semester meetings by emailing the Gerontology Advisor with days and times they are available over a two-week period. The advisor will reply with a mutually convenient time.

Questions that come up between semester meetings may be addressed to the Gerontology Advisor by email or telephone (see contact information below).

To prepare for an advising appointment, students should review their Minor Map plan and devise a potential course schedule for the upcoming term. Additionally, bring any questions you may have to the advising session.

Gerontology Program Advisor

Dr. Joan McDowd
314 Cherry Hall
Ph: 816-235-2490
Fx: 816-235-1062
mcdowdj@umkc.edu

Advising Forms

UMKC’s Gerontology Minor Map is a detailed course outline that inform students on the classes they should take and when to take them.

To declare Gerontology as a minor, students must complete the Declaration of Major form and obtain the Gerontology Advisor’s signature.

General UMKC Advising

General UMKC advising and pre-professional program advising is handled by CAS Student Services. Current students should schedule appointments through Connect.

Where to find Student Services

09 Scofield Hall (Basement)
711 E 51st Street
Kansas City, MO 64110
Ph: 816-235-1148
Fx: 816-235-5572
umkccasadvising@umkc.edu

Why Gerontology

The field of study focused on aging and older adults is called Gerontology. Some say aging is the “final frontier”, and people know little about it until they themselves become older adults.

What are the myths and realities of our aging? Take this true/false quiz and find out what you really know about aging and older adults!

Research has shown that many factors have an impact on the way a person ages:

  • genes,
  • health,
  • lifestyle,
  • family context,
  • occupational history,
  • physical environment,
  • prevailing public policy,
  • socio-cultural environment,
  • the availability of resources.

Thus understanding aging and older adults requires the expertise from disciplines ranging from biology to psychology to sociology to public policy, and most everything in between.

Gerontology will provide value to almost any career.

Get past the stereotypes – these students did!

Whether you want to brand yourself as a Gerontologist or simply add value to your degree as you prepare yourself for a career, Gerontology is the program for you!

Why study Gerontology at UMKC?

Students who study gerontology at UMKC can explore aging from a variety of angles, while also focusing on their own particular areas of interest.  Students have the opportunity to engage with distinguished academic leaders in the classroom, in research projects, and in community-based activities.  Our faculty are readily accessible and committed to the success of our students.

The applied practicum experience gives UMKC Gerontology students connections in the community and an insider’s view to career opportunities within Kansas City and the broader region.