Mason Establishes First International and Niche Housing Internships for Assisted Living Students

Posted: October 31, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By John Blacksten

Building on its national reputation for innovative curricula, the Mason Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration has implemented two first-in-industry internships to be completed by students during the fall 2007 semester.

Two graduate students completing a Master’s in Health Administration have filled the internships. They both have a concentration in Assisted Living/Senior Housing.

One of the students, Justin Roberts, is currently completing an internship within the Sunrise at Guildford assisted living community in Peasmarsh, England. The community is part of the International Division of Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living, which operates more than 450 assisted living and related senior housing communities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Germany.

During his internship, Roberts is living in the 93-resident community while completing a daytime rotation through all administrative, clinical and operational areas. He will also complete a project to develop a performance management tool for the community’s emergency call system. This will be featured during a presentation to college faculty upon his return to the United States.

“Justin already worked as an assisted living coordinator for Sunrise in the U.S.,” says Andrew Carle, assistant professor and director of the Mason program. “But aging populations are a worldwide phenomenon. By taking advantage of his company’s international locations, Justin can gain a global and cultural perspective on how other countries are dealing with this issue.”

“He has been a real asset, and it has been exciting for the residents to have him here,” says Phil Smith, executive director of the Guildford community. “Using a web cam, Justin has even set up a virtual ‘trivia game’ between the residents of our community and those in his community back in Virginia.”

The other student, Connie Chen, is with Áegis Gardens, an award-winning assisted living community designed for Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay area. Chen is originally from Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese.

The 64-resident community, owned by Redmond, Wash.-based Áegis Living, has been nationally recognized for architecture incorporating feng shui design, staff fluent in Chinese and Japanese, activities that include tai chi and meals featuring sushi and wok cooking.

“It’s valuable to see they have done things like avoid the use of the number four or the color blue in the architecture, which are bad-luck symbols in Asian culture,” says Chen. “The Mason program stresses the need to recognize and respect individuality in seniors. This community is an example of that philosophy put into action.”

During her stay, Chen will complete a project that includes development of a resident satisfaction survey customized to the cultural and language needs of Asian American residents. Like Roberts, she resides in the community while completing a rotation through operational areas during the day.

“We are happy to have someone with Connie’s skill set here and to be able to support her education,” says Emily Poon, executive director at Áegis Gardens. The company is reimbursing Chen for her airfare, as well as providing a room and meals in the community during her stay.

The Mason program, begun in 2001, is the first in the nation to offer both undergraduate and graduate curricula dedicated exclusively to the rapidly growing field of assisted living. The program established the industry’s first student internships in 2002. To date, nearly 50 such assignments in independent, assisted, Alzheimer’s and continuing care retirement communities have been completed. Students with previous clinical but no hospitality service experience have also completed internships at Walt Disney World Resorts.

“We believe an internship should advance a student’s skill level and offer opportunities they might never have again,” says Carle. “We don’t want them duplicating work they’ve already done, or just doing it to complete the credit hours. The industry and assisted living residents deserve the most highly trained and innovative executives we can produce.”

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