The Need and Strength of Coordinated Partnerships
The 5th Annual Vision Centre Symposium was a powerful reminder of the importance of growing senior living programs at colleges and universities nationwide. Industry leaders, academic leaders and students united in emphasizing the societal and industry demand for leaders in senior living administration. Students expressed a few areas of focus to help fulfill the demand for leadership in the senior living field. One area of focus is the need for increased visibility of senior living programs on social media, as well as visibility for the meaningful work that takes place in senior living organizations every day. Another area of focus is creating a standardized approach to credentialing across state lines, which is crucial to reducing barriers for the workforce.
Moreover, the discussions emphasized organizational and academic leaders’ pivotal role in driving diversity and inclusivity within the senior living industry. It is not enough to have stagnant policies; we must actively strive for change in recruitment, accessibility, and equal opportunity.
However, the underlying message that reverberated in every session was the vital importance of coordinated, purposeful partnerships. Building a sustainable pipeline of leaders in senior living requires collaboration among various stakeholders across the spectrum. Through these strategic alliances, we can effectively shape the future of senior living and pave the way for a thriving field.
Steve Nash, President and CEO of Stoddard Baptist Homes, led a lively discussion on this topic during the panel discussion “The Need and Strength of Coordinated Partnerships,” with panelists Roberto Muñiz, President and CEO, Parker Health Group; Chris Mason, President and CEO, Senior Housing Managers; Dan Swift, Director of Investments, Life Care Services; Tana Gall, President, Merrill Gardens; and Matthew Mauthe, CEO, Illuminus.
Here are a few key takeaways from the panel discussion:
- Industry voices wield immense influence with college and university leaders.
- To successfully implement a new senior living leadership program in a college or university, there must be committed individuals or champions to work collectively toward the common goal.
- Nurturing new academic programs requires patience and meticulous coordination of schedules.
- Senior living leadership programs demand greater visibility and recognition.
- A comprehensive, holistic approach must guide this effort.
Industry voices wield immense influence with college and university leaders: Tana Gall, President of Merrill Gardens, shared a coordinated approach from industry leaders to start the Senior Living Management program at Washington State University. These leaders recognized they were all recruiting quality candidates from the hotel and hospitality industry, and they decided to approach the School of Hospitality Business Management at Washington State University with the idea of nestling a senior living leadership tract under this school. With four prominent industry leaders willing to help develop the curriculum and four field experience sites raising their hands to welcome students, WSU was committed to moving forward with the program. The first cohort of students will graduate in 2024.
To successfully implement a new senior living leadership program in a college or university, there must be committed individuals or champions to work collectively toward the common goal: Chris Mason, President and CEO of Senior Housing Managers, shared his approach to partnering with multiple colleges and universities. He recognized that programs often start with academic and industry champions. However, he did caution that roots should be firmly planted, “If not, when policies or people change, the programs can be at risk.” The true way to keep programs going is to engage students and have them advocate for the importance of the program.
Nurturing new academic programs requires patience and meticulous coordination of schedules: Dan Swift, Director of Investments at Life Care Services, emphasized the different schedules in which industry and universities work in. Dan shared, “Moving forward with these programs and curriculum takes an exorbitant amount of time. Over time, Life Care Services recognized that planning sessions and budget seasons differ across our industries. We made sure to coordinate our schedules to be at those planning sessions. It can take many years to push these programs forward. We make sure to be there and be present.”
Senior living leadership programs demand greater visibility and recognition: Roberto Muniz, President and CEO of Parker Health Group, and Tana Gall spoke passionately about the need to better market and position these academic programs to prospective students, as well as make the need for these programs more evident in the news cycle. “Often students fall into this program by accident. We need to market to the students purposefully,” shared Tana. Dan Swift also shared that although Life Care Services provides scholarship programs and field experiences, they often didn’t have enough applicants. They are working to better market the programs and engage students earlier in their college career.
A comprehensive, holistic approach must guide this effort: Panelists agreed the role of Vision Centre in the senior living field is a bold and critically needed effort. Vision Centre acts as an aggregator of the different university programs. “We need someone looking at this from a global level. Some programs exist on the hospitality side, and some exist on the gerontology side. We need an organization like Vision Centre looking at the map and gauging where we need the programs across the country,” shared Tana Gall.
The 2023 Vision Centre Symposium breathed new life into efforts of strengthening the senior living field. The event brought together the voices of industry leaders, academic professionals and students to highlight the urgency and significance of growing senior living programs. Most importantly, it provided opportunities for each person in the room to form new connections, helping them bridge the gap between where they aspire to be and where they currently are.
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