Master of Arts in Gerontology & Master of Aging Services Management



Student Panel with Prof. Shannon

The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers both the online Master of Arts in Gerontology (MAG) and the online Master of Aging Services Management (MASM). While MAG emphasizes biological, psychological and social aspects of the aging population, MASM is designed to give students the knowledge needed to provide products, services and programs to this maturing demographic. This includes residential care, assisted living, and independent living – just to name a few.

In this webinar, you’ll hear from current students of both programs, as they discuss the online student experience. Professor Shannon will also provide an overview of both programs and introduce you to online learning advantages.

Learn more about online gerontology degrees at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.


Katie Macaluso: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for the for the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology webinar about the online Master of Arts in Gerontology and the Master of Aging Services Management graduate program.My name is Katie Macaluso, and I’ll be your host for today’s event. Before we get started, I have just a few notes about what you can expect during today’s webinar.

You are in audio-only mode, which means you can hear us but we cannot hear you. During the webinar, please feel free to type your question in to the question and answer box throughout the presentation as you think of them. We’ve reserved time at the close of the presentation to answer those questions.

We hope you find this session to be informative and helpful.

So, here’s our agenda for the day. We’re going to talk about the university, the Leonard Davis School, and the online gerontology program, and then we’ll hear from our student panelists, and finally, provide an opportunity for Q&A at the end.

Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce our presenter today, Dr. George Shannon, who is an assistant professor in the USC Leonard Davis School. Professor Shannon earned his Master of Science in gerontology and Ph.D right here at USC, and he’s an active member of Phi Kappa Phi All-University National Honor Society, the Golden Key International Society, and Sigma Phi Omega National Gerontology Academic Honor Society.

Now I’ll turn it over to Professor Shannon. Thanks for joining us today.

George Shannon: Hi, thank you. I’m so pleased to be here because I think it’s so important to the school and to the students to understand the value of the online classes and how really terrific they can be for these students, and certainly, I think everyone who’s participated in the online classes will attest to that fact.

I teach a lot in the school, and I have a lab, Rongxiang Xu, a regenerative life science lab. We’re working on a couple of projects right now that involve working with older adults living in what we call senior living environments, lower-income, and very cultural backgrounds to try to determine if arts training will have the same effects on them that they have had in other studies across the country.

It’s an exciting field, and something that I’m really pleased to be involved in.

Katie Macaluso: On our next slide, we have our student panelists. Joining us today are Corinne Jones, an online Master of Arts in Gerontology student who will be graduating in May 2018. After 30 years with AT&T, she went back to school and earned her Bachelor’s in Political Science degree before joining USC’s online program.

You’ll hear more from her later in the webinar about her career plans that weave both of these degrees together.

And then we have Catherine Yusuf, who is also currently enrolled in the online Master of Arts in Gerontology program with an anticipated graduation in summer 2018.

Catherine is currently a program supervisor at the City of Newport News’ Active Lifestyles Program.

I’m going to turn it back to Professor Shannon to tell you a little bit more about USC.

George Shannon: Well, the University of Southern California, if you’re in on this conversation, you’re familiar with what a wonderful school it is and how long it’s been around. As you can see from the slide, it was established in 1880 in Los Angeles area, and it’s certainly one of the world’s great renowned research institutions with 17 graduate and professional schools.

We have a lot of in-class students — 19,000 undergrads and 24,000 graduated and professional students — so we have a great mix of young and slightly older and then even middle aged and older adults going back to school, both in-class and online.

Such a wonderful cultural mix of students. I know in several of my classes, I have a high percentage of Asian students and students from Russia and the Middle East and Spain and Italy. It’s a wonderful mix of students from all over the world. We have more international students, in fact, than any other U.S. university.

We talk about the forging a path for a new way to look at aging. We’ve been doing that for since 1975. Some of our professors have been here since the first bricks were laid in the foundation and they are such a pleasure to be around.

I know when I was a graduate student, I just loved the fact that so many of the people who wrote the books that we were reading and that I had read that encouraged me to go in to the field of gerontology were there, actually, and they’re still here teaching.

We have a lot of young blood as well that’s come in over the last five years, so it’s a good mix of older, mature, really well-seasoned professors and some new, really exciting researchers who come in and have brought a whole new level of sophistication to the program.

We have a wide range of scientific and professional gerontology courses. I teach Sociology of Aging, Psychology of Aging, Program Evaluation and Planning … Just about every course at one time or another that we offer in the master’s program I have taught, so I’m really excited about it.

One of the things that I find most wonderful about being involved at the University of Southern California is the networking. The contacts, the ability to meet people, to stay in touch with them over time. We all know that we can do that through social networking, but we meet these people that we work with and that we want to work with and that we will be working with in the future right here so often at the conferences as well.

We’re so much in touch with all of the people who’ve graduated from the programs, and everywhere I go, if I’m wearing a USC cap or a jacket or a sweatshirt, somebody will walk up and give me that Trojan sign. “Fight on, fight on.” It just happens everywhere. That makes one really proud to be part of the wonderful tradition of the school.

One of the things that we’re offering in the online class is the Master of Arts in Gerontology, the MAG program.

The Master of Arts in Gerontology is a program that was not quite in place yet when I was in classes here. It’s something that the dean and Maria Henke came up with about 15 years ago to find a more specific track, a series of more specific tracks, for people to follow in the curriculum. Because some people want to go in to business management and others want to go in to care management, more direct service. So we have different tracks for those different interests.

The Master of Arts in Gerontology emphasizes biological, psychological and social aspects, and I’ve taught all of those classes. I’m very familiar with the depth that we go in to to train people coming in to this school and make them ready to move out when they graduate and be ready to participate in the work force. Many people are already in the work force and they’re getting an MAG degree to reinforce their position and maybe make a few extra bucks, which is really important to all of us, as we know.

Others are just looking to get a fresh start or perhaps even just get that first good job under their belt. This is the way to do it, to get all of the information that you get. After all, you get the same information in the online classes that I teach in class.

I often have classes where there are what we call blended classes, so the online people are watching the class that’s in progress at the same time. And it’s asynchronous so that they can watch it according to their own schedules, which I think is really wonderful. It gives them a better understanding of their own aging process, accommodates the special needs and issues of older clients.

If you’re going to be doing direct service or if you’re involved in it now, you know how important it is to understand how older adults learn in different ways. We call it andragogy, a different kind of — we might say — transformational learning process that we undergo as we get older. It’s not the same rope learning process that we have when we’re younger.

Then, of course, as they said, you can potentially enhance your careers through this. I know a couple thousand people have come to the program, and everybody I know is working and doing well and really excited about their career, so it’s truly a wonderful program to be associated with.

The Master of Aging Services Management — the MASM — is a little bit different, because it focuses on professionals in residential care facilities in management, in retirement communities. What we call senior living. All of these fit in to that category of senior living, and even hospice care.

Hospice care is the care that one receives in the final stages of life usually, although it’s not just a one-way ticket. Sometimes, people go in to hospice care even though to get in to hospice care they need a doctor certification that they’re in the end of life. And yet they will respond and go back in to a residential life. And, indeed, home care is a really important part of the training that we receive at USC.

Understanding what’s involved, what the limitations are, how public policy affects whether or not home care is viable, and how much the reimbursements are. These are the things that we learn in the program. Other new and emerging services like, for example, this program that I’m working on, which is creativity in aging. We’re always working, always finding new and exciting things.

We do physical activities as well, but we’re using tai chi, which is a very slow and very deliberate … Research has found that if you have very deliberate and purposeful movement, it not only will give you physical training, but it also stimulates and activates your mind and helps promote a better quality of life in all aspects of aging. These are the kinds of things that you learn in the program that are really exciting.

We talk about the online learning advantages. One of the great things that I mentioned earlier is that you can watch a class at midnight when your shift is over, or you can watch it at six o’clock in the morning before you go to work. There is that opportunity to watch it and then re-watch it.

When I was in the master’s program, I used to tape all the classes and listen to them in the car driving back and forth to USC, and I found it really helpful to reinforce what I knew and what I was learning. It makes interacting with others easy and one of the ways that we do that is through the discussion board, where people talk to each other about what they know or think they know or think they should know and need a little help learning.

That’s where those professionals come in who are out there, who are getting their master’s degree and working in the field. They are just a really important part of the learning process. All of the professors at school use and respect those professionals as working professionals. It’s such an important part of the learning process.

And it allows you to easily and quickly go back, look at it again. If you feel maybe you missed something, you can go back and look at your notes and look at the actual lecture again, and you can speed forward and backward so that’s really a wonderful, wonderful process.

Katie Macaluso:
All right. So we’re going to go ahead and move in to our student panel discussion next with our students today that are joining us, Corinne and Catherine.

I’m going to go ahead to our first question, which is, “Why did you select USC’s online gerontology program?” And, Corinne, would you be able to start us off?

Corinne Jones: Oh, sure. I’d love to. My research — and I did check — really confirmed that SC is number one in gerontology. Number one in the nation, rather, in gerontology. This is such a rapidly evolving field as baby boomers are aging and what, so I wanted to make sure that I was in a program that was on the cutting edge.

I found that SC is, that USC is, and that so many of the professors and the lectures are already actually in the industry. That made me feel like I was going to have a head start on my career because they’re teaching and they’re speaking from real world experience. I didn’t feel I could beat that anywhere.

George Shannon: Yeah, that’s a really important point. We have a lot of associates who come in who are working in the field as CEOs of nursing homes and assisted living who teach classes as well. From that and having that first-hand experience, it’s … You can’t get it any other way. It’s just amazing.

Katie Macaluso: Absolutely. And, Catherine, did you have anything to add?

Catherine Yusuf: Yes. I wanted a well-rounded program in a convenient schedule to fit my work and my family, so my first impression of the program was how diverse the knowledge and the expertise of the faculty, the professors have been, have such a broad background in the areas of aging.

It’s just fit in nicely with my interests and my work. I really appreciate it being cutting edge and on the cusp of gerontology. We receive the most cutting edge information, so I appreciate that point as well.

Katie Macaluso: That’s great to hear.

Our next question is, “If you could tell us a little bit about your career goals following graduation.” So, what led you to pursue a gerontology degree and what you hope to do with it upon graduation.

I’ll start this one with you, Catherine, this time.

Catherine Yusuf: Okay. Well, I want to continue with maintaining my work. I work for the City of Newport News in a program called Active Lifestyles. We promote just that: active lifestyles and the importance of maintaining wellness in aging and promoting healthy lifestyles.

I really have found that the information I’ve received so far has started in the fall of last year, but I’ve just received such an abundance of knowledge that’s helped me with my current work. Our program works around seven dimensions of healthy aging. Even though we focus on the physical part — fitness — as a big component, it incorporates the other seven dimensions of social and emotional and mental, and all of them.

At this point, I really want to improve the programming that I’m doing at this point with the city.

Katie Macaluso: I’m glad to hear that the program already just since the fall has already provided so much additional info.

Corinne, would you be able to share on your current goal following graduation?

Corinne Jones: Sure, I’d love to. While I’m here, opportunities that I had both as a bachelor student in Political Science and going forward to show me that much of the issues that are surrounding and affecting our seniors have political overtones in terms of needing a voice.

I’ve identified my passion as being profoundly concerned about our elderly and their issues are particularly around affordable housing and avoiding homelessness. I intend to work in public policy and advocacy, and in that regard, I’m going to seek employment with either an organization that’s either governmental, nonprofit, or whatever I can find that’s going to work towards eliminating those problems among many others that the elderly will face in their twilight years.

Katie Macaluso: Terrific. I think Professor Shannon commented on this earlier, but one of the great things about the program is just the wide variety of paths that can come from it.

All right, so moving on to our next question. “Have you been able to form relationships with peers and faculty in the program?”

Sometimes we’re asked this especially with an online program, how all these people are able to self-facilitate those relationships. I’ll start this one with Corinne this time.

Corinne Jones: Okay. I feel engaged greatly by participating in the discussion boards that we have to post to during class because I find that many of my peers are already working in the fields which allows them to offer unique perspectives, again, because you’re already there.

Then, as well, there are monthly conversation with my student support coordinator and I’ve had an opportunity to speak with my academic adviser among others. Then of course we receive daily updates about activities that will be pertinent to our field that are taking place on campus and there’s so many opportunities to become involved.

There’s a lot going on at USC because it is so cutting edge in the industry. We get a lot of people that come on campus to speak, we have our Student Gerontology Association. There’s just a lot of opportunities to create relationships.

I must say, even though I’m in Los Angeles, there are still a lot of things that can be done from afar.

Katie Macaluso: Oh, excellent. I know the program has a lot of people who are not local to the area, so that’s great to hear.

Catherine, what would you want to add to that?

Catherine Yusuf: Well, I am across country in Virginia. Even though I’m off campus — way off campus — I still feel very included in the discussions and getting to know the other students both in class and online since we’re able to watch the live class. We feel included and we can call in and ask questions or comment. It’s as if being a part of a class, and I think this just makes it even stronger.

It’s nice to see the other students and their perspective and the innovation in the field. We also can correspond through social media, so that’s also another way of getting to know each other.

George Shannon: I’ve had lunch with several students who, or even dinner, with their families after they’d graduated. They call and say, “Well, we’re coming out to LA.” These are people living in Massachusetts, and New York, and in Virginia and North Carolina.

They come in to town and they give me a buzz, and say, “Look, we’re here. Would you like to … You and your wife, why don’t you come out and have dinner with us?” If our schedule permits, we do it, because it’s wonderful to establish this great relationship with people all over the country who have similar interests.

When I’m teaching, I love to have people call in during class. We kid around. When the phone goes off, it makes a sound that’s a very celestial, and I always say, “Hello, God, who is it?” And the person, whoever it is, says, “It’s a goddess this time” or something like that.

It’s just great fun to be able to do that and to establish relationships like that and maintain them over the years.

Katie Macaluso: Oh, that’s terrific.

All right, so moving on to our last question for the student panel, that is. Our question is, “If you could describe your day-to-day life as a student in the online program. And if you have any time management skills tips that you would want to share for succeeding in an online program?”

I’ll start this one with Catherine.

Catherine Yusuf: Okay. Well, it’s all about balance. I have to work. I balance my work, my family, and my school so I stick to a very regimented week. I watch usually after work. I’ll watch the class. It’s usually during work hours when the class is going on, so I wait till that night, watch it, and then I’ll take another night to do a meeting.

I’ll also have another night to do any of the discussion questions. Maintaining and watching e-mails and discussion board and any of the assignments to just make sure there aren’t any that needs attention.

I think if you stick to a routine, that’s been very helpful for me so I was not so overwhelmed. And it’s important to have family support, which I appreciate.

George Shannon: We talked about that earlier. I made it through the bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D programs in nine years going back to school at 55, and without the able assistance and help and support of my wife, it never would have been able to happen.

So, yeah. Family support is … Getting that kind of family support reinforces relationships as well. I think it’s a really good thing.

Katie Macaluso: Absolutely. Corinne, would you want to add anything from your perspective from your day-to-day life as a student in the program?

Corinne Jones: Oh, I just want to throw in that it’s just really important to start assignments early. I do that even if I don’t complete them right away. It gives me time to review and adjust and still have time to turn them in in a timely way.

I also think that’s what interesting is that the discussion board participation is a unique requirement, because it’s critical to your grade, but it also is significant in making sure that you’re getting the most out of class. The greatest part, I guess, though, is you have to make sure your electronics are up to date. Because, again, if you start and finish your assignments early and there’s a glitch, then you have time to resolve that before the deadline.

Because we’re doing everything by computer and what have you, it just becomes really, really, really important to just stay on top of it and, again, make sure that you’re doing the work in advance so you have time to go back, and then if there’s a problem before you need to submit, get that resolved.

Katie Macaluso: Okay, that’s a great tip. Well, that concludes our student panel portion of the webinar. If you have any additional questions for Corinne or Catherine, be sure to submit your questions through the Q&A box and we’ll be sure to answer those at the close of the presentation.

Next we have some admission requirements and information, but I’m going to turn it over to Jami O’Connell, our Admission Enrollment Advisor to share with you.

Jami O’Connell: Thanks, Katie, and hi, everybody. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today. I know most of you have received e-mails from me regarding the admissions requirement, but certainly, we have that information on the slide today.

Certainly, completing the application, getting official transcripts from all schools that you’ve attended. The 3.0 or higher GRE is required, although we have had some students with a 2.8, 2.9 that have not had to take the GRE. That’s a discussion we can have one-on-one.

Certainly, a current resume which you can upload in to the application site, and two letters of recommendation. They can be either academic or professional. The application portal will assist them in what they need to do. It’s a very streamline, easy process to follow. As well as a statement of purpose, which is in your own words why you’re looking to pursue the degree and why USC is your school of choice, and what you hope to contribute to the fields as well as any experience you may already have.

Our summer term will be starting on May 22nd. That will be a short session, so it will run from May 22nd to June 30th, and we’re looking at a deadline of around May 5th. We are pretty flexible, but it’s never a bad idea to get started early.

We’re also accepting applications for the fall term as well, which will be starting toward the end of August. That’s a traditional 16-week semester.

Katie Macaluso: All right. So now we’re moving in to our Q&A session. This is your chance to submit any questions you may have about the program or anything that you’d like to ask Professor Shannon or our student panelists if you haven’t already done so.

I’m looking through our questions now. We’ve already received a few.

Our first question is from a participant who lives in the Los Angeles area. She’s wondering if she would be able to use the USC premises, the USC campus premises, while enrolled in the online program.

Professor Shannon, would you be able to answer that one?

George Shannon: Sure. I often have students come in to class for example who are online students. I welcome them, and I think all of the professors do.

In addition, when you’re here, you certainly can use the computer room and any of the facilities that the in-class students use. I don’t think that’s ever been a problem.

Katie Macaluso: Okay, terrific. I’ve heard the same, and I think it’s a great benefit of the campus that students can be able to come in if they happen to be in the area.

It looks like our next question is for our student presenter. This person was wondering about how many hours a week you tend to spend with your studies. I’ll send this one to Corinne first.

Corinne Jones: Okay, including the lecture time — because you have to view the lecture to know what took place in class — and then reading, I’d say anywhere from four to six hours, realistically. Not always that. It depends.

Just in the courses I’ve had so far, we have had a textbook sort of thing and we’ve had extra readings. A lot of reading goes in to it, but it’s all about our field, so it becomes interesting to work through it.

So I’d say four to six hours, but that’s not necessarily every week. The time that you commit to view your lecture course, though, is.

Katie Macaluso: Okay. And Catherine? How do those hours look for you?

Catherine Yusuf: That’s about right, including the class time, which is close to three hours and then in addition to the reading and other assignments. It’s about four to six hours. Not always that, but at least four.

George Shannon: The rule of thumb for that is two hours for every hour of class. If you’re doing a three hour class, then you can figure about six hours of study per week. I think it varies, and certainly, four to six hours makes a lot of sense.

Katie Macaluso: All right, our next question is an admission question. The question is, “If you have a GPA above a 3.0, is it true that you don’t have to take the GRE? And then if so, would you still be encouraged to take the GRE anyway?”

I’m going to turn this one to Jami.

Jami O’Connell: Okay, thank, Katie. Yeah, that’s a good question. Certainly, if you have a GPA over a 3.0, you certainly don’t need to take the GRE.

Then the follow-up to that question, are applicants encouraged to take the GRE? Not necessarily. I mean, really, not at all. If you’ve met that requirement of a 3.0 or higher, there’s no need to take the GRE.

Katie Macaluso: Very good. Our next question is … Let’s see. This one is for the students as well. This question is, “What has been your favorite course that you’ve taken so far, and why?”

I’ll start that one with Catherine.

Catherine Yusuf: Well, I started in the fall and I’m only taking one class per session. This is my second class. Mind-Body Connection. I liked the Introduction to Gerontology, also, in the fall. They were both unique. This semester, I like the hands-on approach to the Mind-Body Connection and how it relates to aging and our lifestyles, so we incorporate what we’re doing in our own life and in to the class. It’s really opened my eyes up to the connections.

Out of both of them, I like the other one equally as well. It was very engaging. A lot of assignments, a lot of reading, a lot of written assignments that I learned so much more than I ever thought I could in gerontology.

George Shannon: I always say the mind is like a muscle. If you work it out, it’ll improve and be more responsive. I couldn’t agree more with what you just said, because when I went back to school at 55, I hadn’t been in school in years.

I was an actor for 30 years, so I had to learn lines and I took classes continuously. But I hadn’t been in a formal school for about 30 years. I noticed the difference. But, boy, after about six months, I could feel how much better I was at reading articles and retaining the information and understanding it.

That’s what happens. You can go in and think, “Oh, gosh, I’m not sure that I can handle this.” But you’ll find that, first of all, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t smart. Secondly, your brain will respond if you tell it to.

Katie Macaluso: All right. I think I was going to ask Corinne that same question next. What your favorite course has been so far.

Corinne Jones: So far, I would say the intro class with Professor. I think probably because it offers an opportunity to really understand and get a perspective on aging in the 21st century, which is totally different than my grandmother’s grandmother.

It gave a real great overview. It just opened the door to me really figuring out what I want to do with this, and so I would say that would be my all-time favorite so far.

Katie Macaluso: Cool. All right. Our next question is, “Are the courses available all year round?” And a follow-up to that, “Are some online classes available only on specific semesters?”

I’m going to turn this one over to Jami to answer.

Jami O’Connell: Thanks, yeah. That’s a great question. Are the courses available all year long? One course I know for sure that is certainly available all year round is the GERO 500, which is the intro perspective on aging, because every new student in the program is required to take that class.

All the classes are going to be available at least once a year, maybe twice a year. Those depend on professors’ schedules and the timing of the classes, especially when we come around to the summer term.

What’s nice is that every student is assigned to both a student adviser and an academic adviser, so those folks will sit down with you and put together an education plan to map out what courses will be available so you’ll be able to finish in a timeframe that best suits your goals.

Good questions.

Katie Macaluso: Great. Our next question is asking, “Do you feel a degree from the online program is valued the same as a degree would be from any on-campus program?”

I’m going turn this one to Professor Shannon to answer.

George Shannon: You know, I talk to a lot of people who get their degree online. Particularly at graduation. A lot of people that I haven’t met before, I will meet at graduation. I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of them, and I have never heard anybody say that they’ve felt that they should’ve taken the in-class version of the classes rather than the online, because the reception they get in the field and in the work environment is exactly the same.

Any degree that you get depends a lot on how much you put in to it, what you’ve learned, and how well you can articulate your ideas. The better you can do that, the more successful you’re going to be, whether it’s online or in class. That’s really what you have to work on …

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