UT joins network to become inclusive for students of all ages

Madeline Duncan, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 25, 2022 flipbook.

UT joined a global network in February in an effort to make the campus a more inclusive space for students of all ages. 

The Age Friendly Global Network is an initiative started by Dublin City University to create college communities committed to serving students of all ages. Karen Fingermann, director of the Texas Aging and Longevity Center at UT, said specific changes to aid older students have not been determined, but the network’s principles of encouraging older students’ involvement in campus activities will be implemented over time.

“We’re going to think creatively about more ways to bring mid-life and older adults into the classroom with younger adults,” Fingermann said. “It’ll be an evolving effort. But I think five or 10 years from now, you’re going to really see that we’ve done more to make this a life-span campus.”

Christine O’Kelly, coordinator of the network at Dublin City University, said the goal of the network is to get students to think about how to maximize being an older student. 

“We want to create an opportunity where it’s welcoming for students to come back to do a master’s degree, to do a Ph.D., to continue their learning process,” O’Kelly said. “We want opportunities for students to engage in learning more about intergenerational engagement because they’re going into a multi-generational workforce.”

Michael Fioretti, a recently graduated 42-year-old UT student, said that he often did not feel included in the campus spirit as an older student. 

“The process of orientation, I don’t think it was geared towards older students,” Fioretti said. “My experience as a student depended on my mindset and how open I was to getting involved with (younger) students.”

Fingermann said joining the network is an exciting opportunity to exchange information with other universities about how to best serve adult students at the University. 

“Now that we’re part of the network, we’ll be receiving more information on the best practices for expanding our educational research opportunities to include adults in midlife and older age,” Fingermann said.

Fioretti said UT joining the network is a good step towards promoting diversity on campus. 

“UT has some things to work on for it to say it’s age-friendly,” Fioretti said. “But getting involved (puts) things on the right track and it’s (something) I wish I had before I graduated.”