Applied Gerontology Students Begin First Internships

Interns get close-up look at how assisted living facilities operate and provide care for residents

UM seniors Clark Ross (left) and Brett Bagus meet with Morgan Walter, director of The Blake at Oxford, to go over policies and procedures at the Oxford-based assisted living facility in preparation for their internships. They are the first two students in the university’s applied gerontology program to begin their required internships. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi seniors Brett Bagus and Clark Ross are the first students from the new applied gerontology program to begin their multi-rotation internship with The Blake at Oxford, an assisted living and memory care facility

There, they will gain valuable practical experience, develop leadership skills and engage in community-based service activities with older adults in the Oxford community.

The six-credit hour internship is a course requirement in the interprofessional applied gerontology curriculum. All the educational and experiential offerings in this major are designed provide critical preparation to help solve recruitment and retention issues that present national challenges for the health care workforce.

“Applied gerontology students will reach a major career milestone as they begin clinical placements and prepare for graduation,” said Teresa Carithers, a faculty member in applied gerontology. “We were grateful to have The Blake of Oxford be our first placement site because of the vast exposures and learning opportunities this organization can offer our students.

“This provides applied gerontology students real-life experiences and helps them prepare to put into practice all they have been taught in the classroom.”

Bagus, of Oaklawn, Illinois, hopes to gain knowledge and experience in this internship to help improve the aging experience for future generations.

“Because of the population shift that caused a significant increase in older adults, the applied gerontology program has prepared me to engage with older adults and understand them,” Bagus said.

The blend of classroom instruction and community engagement has prepared him to interact with both elders and the professionals and organizations that work with them, he said.

“The Blake has provided me with hands-on experiences in three different rotations,” Bagus explained. “The first was in memory care. The second was working with the Alzheimer’s nurses.

“The final rotation was working with corporate activities and seeing what the executive director, director of business, director of sales and director of activities all do as a successful team to keep The Blake running.”

Ross, of Oxford, also has seen the inner workings of assisted living care in his time at The Blake.

Clark Ross (left) and Brett Bagus (right) tour The Blake at Oxford with Morgan Walter, the facility’s director, in preparation for their internships. Submitted photo

“I have learned how to work with memory care residents and how to navigate some of the questions they might ask, which can prove to be intimidating at first,” he said. “I have also learned what the day-to-day life is for an activities director, which is something that appeals to me.

“I haven’t felt overwhelmed at the Blake because a lot of the information presented to me, I have been able to relate back to lessons learned in my classes.”

Morgan Walter, the facility’s director, said the staff enjoys sharing their passion and talents with students such as Bagus and Ross who are interested in learning the ins and outs of how assisted living care can make senior living special.

“The students are engaging in interactions with residents from many aspects, including seeing how our nurses and care staff provide services, enriching the residents’ lives through activities, and learning what daily business operations of a senior living community can entail,” Walter said.

“However, probably more impressionable than any skill we can show them or tip we can teach, are the conversations with our residents themselves. They love sharing stories about their families, their careers and life experiences with the students, and have a general interest in learning about them- their lives, their goals, and their ambitions.”

Applied gerontology focuses on exposing students to the importance of the multidisciplinary, community based-interactions required to meet the needs of older individuals. Student interns are required to complete at least 400 hours in at least three different types of community settings and can complete additional special interest rotations that relate to the program mission of improving aging outcomes.

“These type of exposures are critical to preparing students to be more successful in their future careers,” Carithers said. “Many organizations and industries are faced with enormous recruitment and retention challenges.

“We hope that helping students better understand and prepare for the challenges and rewards one receives by working in these environments will be a mutually beneficial. We anticipate that some students may choose to seek employment with organizations and industries they intern with due to the comfort and mutual respect they garner from such experiences.”

The Blake at Oxford is equipped with the “It’s Never Too Late” virtual library of content focused on improving memory and interaction with senior adults, specifically tailored to individuals with memory-related concerns.

“Gerontechnology is an important exposure for students because of the important role that technology has in our lives and the benefit it can have on stimulation, positive engagement between staff and residents, and improvement of many health outcomes,” Carithers said.

For more information about applied gerontology at UM, visit