Sara Wagner’s refelction on the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education Conference in St. Petersburg, FloridaThursday, March 14th, 2013
My name is Sara Wagner, and I attended the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I am studying biopsychology with a minor in gerontology here at Messiah. My ultimate career goal is to become a physician assistant and work in geriatric medicine.
I just added my gerontology minor last semester, so I knew there was a lot I needed to learn in the field. My advisor suggested I attend the conference because it is relatively small and would be a good networking experience. I found that to be true, as there were many great people that I was able to network with.
The best networking came from a mentoring event. There were “fellows,” or people who were the best of the best in their field, and tables of students divided by their age groups. The fellows talked to each table and mentored them by answering questions, making suggestions for the future, and being available. After each fellow visited each table for 10 minutes, the students were given time to seek out the fellow or fellows who they would like to learn more about. I sought out a woman who encouraged me. She helped me develop an idea I had for my senior honors project and made me “promise to stay in contact.” All the fellows at this event wanted to help students who were studying in the field of gerontology.
The first day of the conference, I joined some of the student honor society and volunteered. We went to a local retirement facility and helped the residents with their grocery shopping. We each paired off with a resident and assisted them with whatever they needed as they shopped. I had a great time bonding with Catherine, and she was very grateful to have a helper. After grocery shopping, the residents took us up to their apartments, and we visited with them. Catherine needed me to change her printer cartridges. It was so simple and quick for me to do so, but it would have been nearly impossible for her to do.
Another part of the conference that I enjoyed was the exhibit hall. Various vendors and schools had booths set up for information. I casually visited a school booth to pick up some freebies, and I ended up chatting with the representatives and considering graduate school in gerontology. The exhibit hall also had posters explaining research that has been done, so it was informative in that sense as well.
In the end, the conference helped me to learn more about gerontology and current research, network with professionals in the field, and become more comfortable with attending professional conferences. I was able to learn from other students and their experiences as well. The biggest takeaway I got from the conference was encouragement and help defining some research I would like to complete for my senior honors project. I also realized that graduate school for gerontology is much more possible and practical than I ever imagined.