A large outdoor sculpture made of orange colored cement shaped in eight consecutive arches

Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education honors UMBC’s innovative leadership in the field of aging

Dana Bradley, dean of UMBC’s Erickson School of Aging Studies, recently recognized President Freeman Hrabowski with a prominent honor from the nation’s preeminent organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. 

Bradley is incoming chair of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE), the educational unit of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). The AGHE’s Administrative Leadership Honor recognizes twenty international leaders in the field of gerontology. This year there were representatives from countries like the United States, Canada, and Japan. 

“The award is about helping an international audience understand the impact that our scientific researchers and educators have in the field of aging,” shares Bradley. Honorees’ outstanding work represents milestones in the history and development of gerontology. 

Bradley nominated Hrabowski for the award in collaboration with John Schumacher, associate professor of sociology, anthropology, and public health (SAPH), and Leslie Morgan, professor emerita of SAPH. Schumacher is the graduate program director of the gerontology Ph.D. program. This doctoral program is jointly offered by UMBC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). These are complementary to the Erickson School’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificate programs.

Three women and one man stand together and smile at the camera while in a room with beige walls
L-to-R: Bradley; Amy Berman, RN, LHD, FAAN; Schumacher; and Nicole Brandt (UMB).

National leadership in aging studies

Bradley’s work in aging research has created avenues and networks for scientists, educators, and students to investigate, advocate, research, and innovate in the fields of aging and longevity. This, in turn, has had a positive impact on housing, health services, community wellbeing, and lifelong learning for older adults.

Bradley is a GSA and AGHE fellow. She has long served as an elected leader within the GSA and Southern Gerontological Society. She was drawn to become dean of UMBC’s Erickson School in 2018 because of its focus “on leading and being on the edge through engaged scholarship with endless possibilities.” Hrabowski, she says, has cultivated and supported the Erickson School’s leadership in the field.

Over the last three years, Bradley has collaborated with Hrabowski, faculty, campus, other universities within the University System of Maryland, and community partners on interdisciplinary initiatives to broaden and diversify UMBC’s research in the field of aging services. Last year she and Hrabowski served on a steering committee to support UMBC joining the Age-Friendly University Global Network.

The “age-friendly” designation is a commitment to innovate advances in gerontology, health research, and community initiatives to support older adults in higher education. The group, led by Dublin City University in Ireland, includes fifty-eight institutions worldwide.

A model for teaching, learning, and research

“Dr. Hrabowski has been at the forefront of creating and promoting a vision of how we think and talk about aging and longevity,” shares Bradley. And the inclusive, forward-looking vision that he and the Erickson School emphasize has had notable impacts, including on the student experience.

At the same time, Hrabowski shares that he sees his AGHE honor as “a reflection of the Erickson School’s innovative approach to teaching, learning, and research.” He shares, “I’m so proud of the work being done at the school. It has had great success preparing alumni who are now leaders in the field of aging.”

Erickson School alumni like Lauren Mortimer ‘19, and Malgorzata Bondyra ‘20, management of aging services, exemplify the type of innovation that UMBC fosters, in their work to reach older adults in creative ways. Mortimer designed a comfort book that provides tools for people with dementia to soothe themselves during periods of confusion and irritability. Bondyra’s internship in senior housing inspired her to create a virtual cooking class for the older members of her Polish community senior center.

A woman wearing a white chef jacket stands in a kitchen in front of a counter sealing pockets of dough stuffed with Polish food with her fingertips.
Bondyra cooking pierogi for Seven Oaks Senior Center’s online cooking class.
Photo courtesy of Bondyra.

The Erickson School has become a place where students equip themselves with the skills and knowledge to address issues in longevity care. Students are then able to enter the workforce with skills that are inclusive and holistic.

The school is now developing a certificate in inclusion and diversity in aging services. Says Bradley, “Dr. Hrabowski inspires me to continue to envision possibilities for what the future of aging services can look like.”

Banner image: UMBC students gather at the sculpture “Forum” by Thomas Sayre in 2016. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.