The University of North Georgia has received approval from the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to launch a nexus degree in applied gerontology with a concentration in family caregiving. The academic program, set to launch in fall 2022, is part of UNG’s Institute for Healthy Aging.
The nexus degree is a new academic credential and the first new degree program in the United States since the 1890s, when the associate degree was added. Nexus degrees aim to help meet workforce needs in high-demand career areas. The applied gerontology nexus degree will require 60 hours of coursework.
“The institute always looks for ways to better prepare students to care for our aging population, and the nexus degree is an innovative way to meet this mission,” Dr. Pamela Elfenbein, director of the institute, said. “Our students with a minor in gerontology have found great career opportunities, and this credential is a way we can further train students to work with older adults across all sectors of our economy.”
Due to retirement trends in the past 10 years, the 60-and-over population of Georgia’s Appalachian region is growing at a rate faster than the state as a whole. These changes are already having significant impacts on community services and needs, including health care, an adequate workforce supply, and changes in housing needs.
The nine credit hours of applied service-learning practicums of the nexus degree support UNG’s partners while providing students the hands-on, direct application of their knowledge and tools.
“The cross-disciplinary study and applied field experience of the nexus degree foster the opportunity for students to learn to communicate well and think critically, analytically and contextually,” Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said. “Under Dr. Elfenbein’s leadership, UNG is able to remain on the forefront of helping older adults thrive both through community service and preparing caretakers.”
In crafting the program, UNG collaborated with students, alumni and local and regional community organization leaders to align the nexus degree coursework with needs of the surrounding communities, tempered by real-time job postings, future projections and historical labor market trend data.
This degree expands on an already robust set of academic programs within the institute. It offers graduate and undergraduate certificates in gerontology, in addition to a gerontology minor. All three programs include 18 hours of coursework, capped by a supervised practicum or research experience.
UNG’s undergraduate gerontology courses have enrolled an average of more than 100 students each semester, including summer sessions, in recent years. The gerontology minor maintained an average of 23 declared minors in the past five years.
UNG is also an internationally recognized member of the Age-Friendly University global network.
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