Alumni Stories

Nayeli Chowdhury, 2023 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor I was first introduced to the Gerontology Program at UNC Charlotte when I received an email that some of my previous coursework could count towards the Gerontology minor. The email also highlighted how understanding the experiences and challenges of aging is crucial for professionals in all fields. Although I had experience working with younger individuals, I knew that I would work with older adults in my future endeavors and aspirations of becoming a physical therapist. With my Gerontology minor, I have gained valuable experience and knowledge from my coursework and 90-hour field placement at Memory and Movement Charlotte. During my field placement, I participated in care plan appointments with caregivers of individuals with memory or movement conditions. Through these experiences, I have developed a greater appreciation for the challenges faced by older adults and their caregivers. It has also shown me the importance of empathy, patience, and effective communication to provide the best care. After I graduate from UNC Charlotte with a B.A. in Biology and minors in Public Health and Gerontology, I will be joining the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Duke University School of Medicine. I am so grateful for the opportunities that the Gerontology program at UNC Charlotte has provided me, and I am proud to be a part of a community that recognizes the importance of understanding and caring for older adults!

Jessica Hoyle, PhD Candidate in Public Health Sciences, 2022 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Graduate Certificate

Awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Dissertation Fellowship

Nicolette Albano, 2022 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“Through my experience at UNC Charlotte, beginning with Aging and the Lifecourse with Dr. Hancock, I grew a passion for enhancing my knowledge of older adults. After participating in service learning at the Haven and becoming an intern at Hospice of Union county, this is when I realized I wanted a career that served the fast growing needs of the older adult population. Since I graduated in the spring of 2022 with a major in psychology and a minor in gerontology, I have jump started my career at Memory and Movement Charlotte, a nonprofit medical practice that specifically focuses on patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s related conditions as well as their caregivers. I am the Patient Experience Coordinator at MMC, meaning I communicate with both current and prospective patients and caregivers, educate them, and problem solve. This has been an extremely educational experience for me and I hope to continue to grow and evolve my career in the field of gerontology.

Ke’yana Hatfield, 2022 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“I have always had a passion for working with and serving older adults so when I learned about the Gerontology minor, it made perfect sense for me to choose to study it. The classes I took and my field placement broadened my understanding of aging and reinforced my drive to work in the field of Gerontology. Upon graduation I was hired at my field placement site, Parkinson Association of the Carolinas, where I happily provide and manage programs for people who’ve been affected by Parkinson’s disease.”

Kaylah Jenkins, 2022 UNC Charlotte Master of Health Administration & Gerontology Graduate Certificate

“Working with older adults has always been a passion of mine. I knew I wanted to work in long term care when I entered the Master of Health Administration program at UNC Charlotte, so I knew I had to enroll in the Graduate Certificate in Gerontology program as well. The courses I took in the Gerontology program at UNC Charlotte have been invaluable to me in my career so far. As I am working toward obtaining my Nursing Home Administrator’s license in the AIT program, I use the knowledge I learned about dementia, diversity in older adults, psychology of aging, and so many other topics to guide my decisions and interactions. The Gerontology program allowed me to build a foundational knowledge about aging that I can use in my career to make decisions that best support the older adults I work with. The knowledge I gained about aging from the Gerontology program paired wonderfully with the knowledge I gained about health care administration from the MHA program. I am currently working in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) and plan to stay in the long term care industry, specifically in CCRCs, upon completing the AIT program and obtaining my Nursing Home Administrator license in 2023. I would not be so well prepared for my career without the Gerontology program!”

Alison Peoples, 2021 UNC Charlotte Master of Health Administration & Gerontology Graduate Certificate

“After earning my BSPH at UNC Charlotte in 2019 and learning about the increasing demands for health care services for this age group, I decided to supplement my MHA with a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. I thought the information and understanding of their unique needs would be helpful even if I did not pursue a career working with this population. I was offered an Administrative Fellowship at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, located in the Northern Kentucky/ Greater Cincinnati area, where I worked on a wide range of system-wide projects. Towards the end of my fellowship, the person serving as a project manager for a new development left the organization, and the system-wide COO approached me about taking over her role as a fellowship project. He recalled from my interview that I completed this additional coursework and may have a particular interest in this project. St. Elizabeth is an investor and partner in developing a CCRC slated to open in 2026. Through this project, I got to travel to Dallas, TX, and tour the Ventana to better understand this project, scale and caliber. There is nothing quite like this development in the area, and I am incredibly proud to be involved in this project and grateful I had this additional knowledge that opened this door for me. I am looking forward to the career opportunities this development and my formal education will afford me once the development is complete and we begin looking for individuals to oversee the operations. Pursing the Gerontology Certificate in addition to my MHA has really enhanced my experience and opportunities!”

Allison Paul, 2017 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“I was introduced to the gerontology minor when Dr. Hancock visited my social work class. As I took courses in school, I could never find one area of study that I loved and enjoyed. Little did I know that a small introduction to the gerontology minor would lead me to my passion. In the first class we were assigned a conversation partner; we were to spend time with them each week and get to know them. After my first session with my conversation partner, I knew that working with older adults was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That was the moment that I found my passion. Throughout the minor I was exposed to various opportunities to broaden my horizons and push me out of my comfort zone. After graduating from the program and working for a few years, in the Summer of 2021 I was hired as Rufty-Holmes Senior Center Program Manager. Everyday I am given the opportunity to serve, learn, work, and grow with my older adult friends because of the gerontology minor.”

Liza Tindall, 2021 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor and 2022 Gerontology Graduate Certificate and MPH

“My passion for advocating for older adults began long before my time at UNC Charlotte. Little did I know that sitting with my great grandmother as a little girl and being my grandfather’s “favorite nurse”, were all experiences that shaped my future and ultimately led me to UNC Charlotte. Like so many others, Dr. Hancock came into one of my undergraduate classes. A light bulb turned on in that moment, and the rest is history. The Gerontology program provided me with a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary framework of knowledge and skills that will stick with me forever. The service-learning and field placement opportunities allowed me to gain experience working with older adults directly and strengthened my passion even more. I learned how to communicate with older adults with cognitive challenges. In the classroom, my communication skills strengthened tremendously as I completed group work, wrote papers, and gave presentations. Our faculty are all incredibly helpful and supportive. Without them, I would have never considered pursuing graduate school. I completed my field placement in undergrad at Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte during the height of the pandemic when everything was virtual. As I was nearing graduation with my MPH, I reached out to the director to inquire about any possible employment or volunteer opportunities. When I reached out, the stars were aligned perfectly as they were looking for a program coordinator, and I accepted the position. I am incredibly grateful to be able to serve seniors, see the growth of the organization, and apply my Gerontology and Public Health knowledge and skills.”

Rachel Hudson Raquet, 2020 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“As someone that had spent a lot of time around grandparents and great-grandparents growing up, I always felt very connected to the older adult population. After Dr. Hancock gave a presentation to one of my classes about the Gerontology minor, I was sold. I knew this was a population that I was passionate about working with and I felt that it would complement my Public Health major very well. I thoroughly enjoyed the gerontology classes, and all my service learning experiences. I was able to complete my Service Learning at Friendship Trays, which combined my interests in older adults and food insecurity. I now work as a Program Coordinator at Loaves and Fishes/Friendship Trays Inc. My passion and knowledge of this population’s barriers allowed me to see that there was a gap in our services for older adults. I have since established the Commodity Supplemental Food Program at our organization. Through this program, we deliver shelf-stable foods to seniors in need at a low-income apartment community. We have hopes of expanding to more communities in the future. I can attest that the Gerontology minor helped me to shape my interests and understand how I could serve this population in my current role.”

Sophie Lavergne, 2020 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“Back in high school, I volunteered at an assisted living community in my hometown, which was such a fulfilling experience that I looked forward to each week. During my undergraduate career, I was majoring in Health Communications, when Dr. Hancock came to one of my classes to speak about the Gerontology minor offered at UNC Charlotte. I was instantly reminded of the wonderful experience I had as a volunteer at the assisted living community and I knew immediately that adding the Gerontology minor to my studies would be the right choice for me and my academic career. I was so grateful to find a program that shares a love and passion for working with the older adult community. The Gerontology minor allowed me to gain professional experience in the field with both a service-learning experience at an assisted living community and an internship placement at the Parkinson Association of the Carolinas. The Gerontology minor inspired me into becoming a speech-language pathologist to work with older adults who may have dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other health conditions that can affect their speech and swallowing. I am excited to say that I will be attending Radford University’s Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology Program in the fall to achieve this goal. I am beyond thankful for the knowledge and experiences I have gained from the Gerontology minor and how it has helped to shape my future aspirations of working with older adults.”

Mercedez “Sadie” Dendy, 2018 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

Sadie is currently a 2nd year doctoral student at Jacksonville University studying occupational therapy. She is not working with older adults right now but is enrolled in a course titled OTD 655 Geriatric Theory and Practice in Occupational Therapy. This course is helping Sadie learn how to use evidence-based reasoning to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, diagnose, and treat adult/older adult based problems relating to occupational performance. Sadie feels that minoring in Gerontology while at UNC Charlotte pre-exposed her to a multitude of chronic conditions as well as risk factors that could affect an older adult’s ability to successfully age or age in place. During this course, she went to Pine Castle which is a vocational rehabilitation site in Northeast Florida serving adults and older adults with intellectual and developmental differences (IDDs). She spent a day observing a range of participants gain basic academic training and hands-on job experience to participate in leisure activities and acquire life skills coaching. Sadie believes that this experience was like the day she spent conversing with older adults in memory care at Carillon Assisted Living of Harrisburg which was a required component of the Gerontology minor. During both experiences she was able to gain interpersonal skills, communication, problem solving, and critical thinking skills when working with an individual who has cognitive challenges. Moreover, she was able to understand from a subjective standpoint an older adult’s routine, role, and habits that they engage in day-to-day that are meaningful to them. Overall, being involved in the gerontology minor has shaped Sadie’s graduate education experience and has prepared her for working in the field of occupational therapy. Sadie is expected to graduate from her program in May of 2023. Upon graduation, Sadie plans to work in the pediatric setting, but she is still interested in working with adults specifically transitional youth who need assistance with transitioning into society after high school.

Ana Herrera Turpin, 2014 UNC Charlotte Gerontoloty Minor

“I was introduced to Gerontology by Dr. Hancock. After completing my first internship at a senior living community, I knew I had found my passion. Ever since I graduated, I have worked in 3 different senior centers, a retirement community, and now I am a Social Worker for adults for the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services.”

Amy Jamerson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, 2012 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

Amy is currently a Clinical Social Worker at Levine Cancer Institute, Atrium Healthcare. She also teaches our Social Work with Older Adults and Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan classes. When asked how the minor has helped her, Amy responded: “Getting a minor in gerontology provided a foundational understanding of older adults. I have been able to use it extensively in my work with patients and families as a clinical social worker. It has also been an asset for my career as it has given me a concrete specialization with this population.”

Ashley Stevens, MSW, 2012 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Graduate Certificate

“It is clear to me, that at a young age I was introduced to Alzheimer’s disease because it was preparing me for my future. Witnessing my Grandma Trollie battle this very difficult disease at the tender age of 6 year old, made a lasting impression on me. Over the past 12 years I have taken a deep passion in the field of Gerontology and dementia care. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Gerontology, a Masters degree in Social work, and my Graduate certificate in Gerontology from UNC Charlotte. I currently work with the State of North Carolina through a program called, NC Project C.A.R.E. [link: ] and co-chair The Dementia Friendly Charlotte-Mecklenburg initative. I also created “The Dementia Guru” [link:] platform and blog to share my personal caregiving stories, as well as connect with older adults & offer support to family caregivers. I am so thankful for my Gerontology education and professors who helped pave the way!”

Dianna Beaty, 2015 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“The gerontology minor introduced me to a field that I might not have explored otherwise. During my undergrad experience, Dr. Hancock visited a psychology class I was taking and explained the minor in depth. As a psychology undergrad, I wasn’t quite sure what my next steps after college would be. I am happy to say that I was introduced to the right field at the right moment. It sounded great to me, as I was looking to serve others – so I jumped right in. During my field placement at a local nonprofit, I fell in love with the industry and serving those who are aging. After my placement, I was hired by the organization to begin my career. My experience came full circle as I was able to be the site supervisor for current students and share my love for what the program has to offer. I am grateful for the path that I am on now, thanks to the gerontology minor.”

Morgan Emma Miller, 2017 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“Gerontology has become my passion over the last few years. After completing my 90-hour field placement, I was hired to work with the older adult population with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. This was a great opportunity to employ the knowledge and skills I gained through my gerontology coursework and field placement. Currently, I am a Recreation Specialist providing hands-on stimulating programs focused on health promotion, education, recreation, and nutrition to Mecklenburg County senior residents. My passion is not only working with older adults, but enhancing their life as much as possible. I am very happy I made the decision to minor in gerontology, and even more excited to see how far gerontology will continue guide my career path for the future.”

Maryann Becker Masullo, 2016 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“I was looking for a change in my career, I wanted a career that was more meaningful to me than my previous one. I have always enjoyed socializing and learning about cultures, beliefs and the generations of people that were a part of them. After taking a few gerontology courses, especially the courses that provided service learning hours I realized that working with our aging community gave me the opportunity to build a career that had meaning to me. My current title allows me to socialize, build relationships and assist in making someone’s day brighter. As a current Site Supervisor for UNCC students I have the opportunity to introduce them to a world that has impacted my life and share my excitement for this career path.”

Alyssa Hester, 2019 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

Alyssa completed her 90 hour field placement with the company that eventually hired her! She also is now a site supervisor for our service-learning students. Alyssa notes: “Gerontology has changed my perspective on many things in life. I found a career path I am passionate about and hope to share my experiences and knowledge with many. Through my site supervision for the UNC Charlotte service-learning program, I hope students will come to love the field of gerontology as much as I do. I was in the same position many of them are in – not knowing what to expect from a gerontology course- but I am thankful I declared the minor and I am proud of my gerontology education and where it has led me. It is important to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone. You never know what you may discover!”

Bianca Graham-Bruce, 2011 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor

“My interest in Gerontology stemmed from a presentation by Dr. Hancock to Public Health majors. After graduation, I knew there was more to learn in this field so I researched Masters programs with aging studies curricula. In 2013 I graduated with a Masters of Science in Geriatric Management (now called Aging Studies) from University of North Florida. Currently I’m a Geriatric Care Manager in Northern VA and volunteer as unit leader for Northern Virginia Chapter of Aging Life Care Professionals.”

Please note that we no longer offer the MA in Gerontology. However, we do coordinate with the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program to offer a strong concentration (up to 21 credits) in Gerontological studies with all of the training offered in our original MA in Gerontology.Julia Burrowes, 2010 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor, 2012 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

Julia has served in various roles across the aging network after graduating with her Master of Arts in Gerontology in 2012. Her experience includes working at the local level as a direct service provider, providing SHIIP Medicare counseling and as an in-home care supervisor. Julia has also worked at the regional level with Centralina Area Agency on Aging as an aging specialist. While with Centralina, her primary responsibilities included utilizing volunteers to offer Health and Wellness programs, contracting with area service providers, and navigating the complexities of billing Medicare and private insurance for senior programs. Julia’s most recent role is with the American Society on Aging as a program coordinator. The hope of this work is to help form stronger connections between academic gerontologist, senior service professionals, and policy makers. “I have nothing but fond memories and a heart full of gratitude when I think about my time at UNC Charlotte and the Gerontology Program. The program gave me the tools needed to lead thought innovation and positively impact the aging experience for everyone. The education I received from UNC Charlotte’s Gerontology program is invaluable, offers ongoing connections, and allows me to work in a field with immense passion. I am truly thankful.”

Hillary Rouse, Ph.D., M.S., M.A., 2015 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

Hillary is currently working full-time as a Clinical Excellence Lead at SiteRx, where she primarily helps older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias enroll in clinical trials. She also works as an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Curriculum Reviewer for the University of South Florida’s Training Academy on Aging. Hillary graduated in August 2021 with her Ph.D. in Aging Studies and M.S. in Aging and Neuroscience from the University of South Florida. Her dissertation titled, Early Indicators of Cognitive Dysfunction: The Role of Mild Behavioral Impairment, examined risk and protective factors for dementia. She had previously graduated from the Gerontology M.A. program at UNC Charlotte in 2015, and also obtained her graduate certificate in cognitive science during this time.

Sara Agner Maloney, 2010 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor, 2012 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

Sara is currently the Program Director for the Aging and Disability Vaccination Collaborative at USAging, a national program funded by the Administration for Community Living to increase vaccine uptake among vulnerable and historically marginalized populations. Her Gerontology knowledge paired with her Master of Public Administration were a perfect coupling for this work. Prior to her efforts at USAging, she graduated with her BS in Psychology and a Gerontology Minor and held a social work position in long-term care for several years. Following her graduation with her Master of Arts in Gerontology from UNC Charlotte, she started at Centralina Area Agency on Aging as the lead for the Family Caregiver Support Program and was a lead planner for programs and services like in-home aide and adult day services that are funded by the Older Americans Act. Sara also served as the co-chair for Dementia Friendly Charlotte Mecklenburg, an initiative that exists to change attitudes and reduce the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. “I truly would not be where I am now without the Gerontology Program at UNC Charlotte. Aside from the curriculum, I received support and guidance that helped shape the career that I have today. During my field placement, I found my passion. I’ve been working with and advocating for older adults ever since.”

Katie Kutcher, 2011 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

Katie Kutcher has been working in the aging services field for more than 15 years. She has been with the Centralina Area Agency since 2010 and serves as an Aging Programs Coordinator. Katie works with home and community-based services and supports including health and wellness programs, senior centers, nutrition programs and transportation services. Katie teaches Aging Programs & Services, The Experience of Dementia, Environments for Aging, and Aging and the Lifecourse for UNC Charlotte. She was honored with the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education Adjunct Faculty Honor in 2021 for her dedication to gerontological education.

Brittany Kearney, MBA, 2019 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

We are proud to share this Sigma Phi Omega Board Member Musing penned by one of our recent graduates, Brittany Kearney! She is instrumental in F.O.C.U.S. and also works with P.A.C.E. She also teaches Administration of Aging Programs and Psychology of Aging for the Gerontology Program at UNC Charlotte.

Patricia Morsch, PhD, 2012 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA

Patricia is a physical therapist from Brazil, and in 2010 moved to Charlotte to pursue her MA in Gerontology at UNC Charlotte. As an MA student, Patricia served as a Graduate Assistant at the Cabarrus County Department of Aging and at the UNCC SAFE Program in the Dean of Students Office. Patricia also served as the Vice President of the Gerontology Club. Following her graduation with her MA from UNC Charlotte, she moved to Brazil to get her PhD in Biomedical Gerontology. After that, Patricia worked as a professor in Brazil and on September of 2019 started to work as an International Consultant on Healthy Aging for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Americas. In the beginning of 2020 Patricia moved again to the United States to continue her work at PAHO in Washington-DC. “The UNCC Gerontology Program was the best choice I made to shape my career in aging: I had the opportunity to learn all the basics, to experience realities and engage in the field. After that I was sure this was the path I would like to follow. I’m very grateful!”

Kara Finch, 2011 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA.

“The Gerontology program at UNC Charlotte has helped me in many ways. From serving in roles as Retirement Community Administrator, Senior Community Service Employment Program Coordinator, In-Home Aide Services Coordinator, and Adult Protective Services Social Worker. And, after over 20 years in the field, I have the opportunity to give back by teaching up and coming human services/social work/gerontology professionals as the Dean of Public Services at Stanly Community College.” Dr. Finch has also been recognized with an Excellence in Teaching Award from Stanly Community College!

Gina Hofert, 2001 UNC Charlotte Gerontology Minor, 2007 Gerontology MA.

I have a passion for working with people who are older and aging. I always have. Interestingly, after getting a MA in gerontology, I didn’t end up working in the field of aging, although one day I hope to be able to work with the older adult population. Nevertheless, studying the field of aging, the multidisciplinary approach to caring for our population and communities, and the scientific research methods and administration skills I learned in the program have given me the tools to secure millions of dollars in grants, manage many different kinds of public health initiatives, serve on several research studies, and soon fill the role of executive director at a non-profit agency. This field provides you with education and skills that can be applied in a variety of sectors and workplaces.”

Heather Armstrong, 2005 UNC Charlotte Gerontology MA.

“I’ve known I wanted to work with seniors ever since high school. I wasn’t sure which path I wanted to take though. I found the LTC Ombudsman program and love it! I now manage a Long Term Care Ombudsman Program in Texas and have been for 7 years. My degree helped me to find and achieve my passion.”