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Thomas M. Meuser
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Students enrolled in the Master of Science in Gerontology (MSG) or Graduate Certificate in Gerontology (GCG) programs must maintain a "B" average to remain in good academic standing. Those with a GPA below 3.0 are placed on academic probation per rules of the University. A GPA of 3.0 or greater is required for graduation and conferral of a graduate degree (2.0 for the Undergraduate Certificate and Minor in Gerontology).
The majority of students who enroll do succeed and graduate in a timely fashion; at most 1-2 graduate students fail to finish on time each year. The GCG can be completed in as few as two consecutive semesters (Fall, Spring). The MSG can be completed in as few as four consecutive semesters. Personalized, developmental advising is a hallmark of the Gerontology Program; we want our students to succeed and do all we can to faciltiate their development as persons and professionals in the field of aging.
In addition to in-class and on-line coursework, MSG students are required to complete two, 200-hour practicum experiences (GER 6495 or 6500, 6496). GCG students complete one, 200-hour practicum placement (6495). The Advanced Practicum (6496), taken in the final semeser, is considered a "capstone" experience for the MSG.
The practicum is a "real world" work experience in most instances. Students interview for the placement much as they would for a paying job. Some agencies treat students as pseudo employees in how they train them, require health screening and testing, etc. Behavior that would be considered inapropriate or counterproductive in a paying job can also be a problem for good academic standing in a practicum placement. Practicum students are evaluated academically for their professional behavior, including personal presentation (i.e., appropriate hygiene and dress), keeping a schedule and following through on commitments, good communication and cooperation with co-workers, and appropriate behavior with clients. Practicum grades are issued by the Program Director, Dr. Meuser, in consultation with the student's site supervisor.
Sometimes a student is unable to complete the required 200 Practicum hours in the confines of a single semester. In consultation with the Gerontology Program Director, Dr. Meuser, the student may be granted a delayed grade and allowed to complete the remaining hours and associated deliverables during the subsequent semester. A due date is usually set and a reserve grade is posted in MyView should the student not complete the required hours on time. The reserve grade is typically less than the student would earn than if he/she completed all expectations in a timely manner, but it may not necessarily threaten the student's GPA and aspirations to graduate. Students who make a good faith effort can still earn a passing grade even if not all hours are completed. A single practicum course, however, cannot extend past two semesters under any circumstance.
Our Gerontology students come from diverse backgrounds and have many different strengths and weaknesses. Most share a passion for issues of aging and for working with and/or serving older adults. Every so often, a student may struggle academically while enrolled in the MSG or GCG programs. Solid library research and writing skills are a must for success. Students who have difficulty in these areas may be referred to the Writing Lab on campus or for other tutoring to help them succeed. Also, the MSG requires 6 credits of statistics and research coursework. Students that are not as strong in math could struggle in these courses. Our faculty are committed to helping students succeed whenever possible. The Program Director, Dr. Meuser, talks with all students about their performance each semester and academic problems are addressed as they arise. Often, remedial work or tutoring can be arranged to help boost performance. Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of each student to work hard and take necessary steps to correct academic problems that may threaten their GPA and opportunity to graduate in the future.
A failing grade (C-or below) in a given course would usually require that the course be taken again, so long as the cumulative GPA will allow for eventual graduation at the 3.0 level or above. A failing grade for a student with a marginal GPA could be grounds for dismissal due to insufficient academic progress. Failure of a practicum course is a serious issue, especially if unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate behaviors were a factor.
While much effort goes into matching a given student with a practicum site and supervisor, there are times when a placement does not work out for understandable reasons. This can happen after some hours have already been accrued. In such instances, Dr. Meuser will speak with the student and supervisor, determine what issues were involved, and examine options for an alternative placement. A new placement can usually be arranged during the current term, but the placement may need to extend into the next term for all required hours to be completed. Credit for hours worked in terminated placement may not transfer to a new placement, thus a new 200-hour commitment may be necessary to complete a practicum course.
When a student's behavior (e.g., unprofessional conduct, significant difficulty keeping a schedule or cooperating with co-workers) should threatent the success of a practicum placement, it is the policy of the Gerontology Program to interview those involved (student, practicum supervisor or other related officials, clients of the agency if warranted) and gather other relevant information to address and hopefully correct the problem in the remaining hours of the placement. If a problem is serious, the Gerontology Program Director will make a determination concerning the gravity of the situation and identify opportunities for potential rectification or remediation. If a written plan can be developed with clear guidelines and objectives, this will be tried first. Such plans cannot extend past the two-semester rule listed above, however. If a remediation plan fails due to the actions or inaction of the student, then failure of the practicum course is a likely outcome. The placement site retains the right, at all times, to terminate a placement for any reason.
Should a student fail a praticum course, the Program Director will review the reasons for a failure and decide, in consultation with other Gerontology Faculty, if a re-take of the practicum course is reasonable and appropriate. The Program Director makes the final decision. Should a student not be allowed to re-take a practicum or other course, academic appeal procedures of the University would apply.
Students who engage in behavior that violates the Univesity's Student Code of Conduct may face separate disciplinary action.