A new class is bridging the gap between traditional college students and Springfield’s senior population. GER 397: Intergenerational Artistic Expression is being introduced for the Spring 2023 semester as a collaborative offering between the Gerontology program and Art + Design department. The class will offer space for connection through the process of creating, without the boundaries of age or prior artistic experience.
Instructor Diane Denton will teach the 2-credit-hour class, held Mondays from 10:10–11:50 a.m. at Brick City. Prior teaching experience from her program developed with Senior Age, “Young at Art–Diversity and Inclusion,” and a teaching certification from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has prepared Diane to lead this new class with Missouri State. Diane explains the mission behind GER 397, “The class intends to create space for language that speaks against stereotypes, considering how we can change them in a way that values and celebrates senior adults and informs a generation that cares about how we stereotype others. Diversity and inclusion across generations is the bottom line here.”
Students can expect an inviting class structure that welcomes them to share their personal stories through assignments. Lessons will focus on using visual language as a tool for empowerment and exploring curiosity, as well as forming connections with peers. “Expression through visual arts can be relaxing, inspiring, rejuvenating, and healing. I think students should take this class if they are looking for an alternative to a traditional lecture course. Working with one’s hands can be a healthy way to take a break from reading and test-taking.” Dr. Lisa Hall, Gerontology program coordinator, adds.
Experience levels and artistic mediums used will vary, which will add to the opportunity for peers to learn from one another through individualized practice and collaborative projects. Diane hopes to create a meaningful impact on students by connecting traditional college-aged students with seniors through sharing their artwork, stories, and interests with each other, “There will be active participation where students learn how to curate people’s works, involving how we use language to empower, to challenge, and to think outside of what we know.”
Dr. Hall shares how Missouri State’s status as an Age-Friendly University organization is especially relevant to the intentions of this course:
Being a member of the Age-Friendly University global network is an important component of inclusivity, which is a valuable principle that, when sought and achieved, can be transformational for individuals and communities. Some of our students begin college even before 18, the legal age of adulthood. We also have people wanting to change careers and enrolling in college for the first time at 35+ years old. Neither of these groups should feel out of place, not find friends, or lack support due to individual behaviors, and certainly not due to university systems that were not designed with alternative students in mind.
Degree-seeking students enrolled in GER 397 have the option to enroll in one credit of Directed Readings with Dr. Hall. Together, they will explore some of the scholarly literature about intergenerational interaction. Students will then write a reflective essay addressing whether and how their classroom experiences compare to previous research findings.
“If this course can be offered on a regular basis,” Dr. Hall explains, “it will be like having a living laboratory available to us. Interested researchers, like myself, will have the chance to conduct long-term, observational studies about multigenerational dynamics.”
“Art and Design faculty are highly supportive of adding more diversity to the Brick City environment and celebrating artistic expression by all. And, the art education faculty see this as an opportunity to expand student experiences as a part of their practicums,” Department Head Vonda Yarberry explains.
Students of all majors, minors, and ages are welcomed to register for GER 397. Because of the unique format of this class, there are a few details to note about registration:
- Those 62 years of age and older can receive free tuition for the class through the MSU 62 program. MSU 62 is a tuition waiver program that makes classes like GER 397 all the more accessible. Students interested in enrolling through the MSU 62 program should contact John Hall, MSU Adult Student Services 417-836-6929.
- Degree-seeking undergraduate students will likely need pre-requisites waived to register for the course. Contact Dr. Lisa Hall at LCHall@MissouriState.edu or Kelli Helton at KHelton@MissouriState.edu to become eligible to register.
- Degree seeking students needing more than 2 credits can also request to register for an additional class credit. Contact Dr. Lisa Hall to request an additional credit.
GER 397 is a pilot course, meaning the opportunity to participate in the class may not be offered every semester. Registration for the Spring 2023 semester is now open, and those interested in GER 397 should register soon. For more information about GER 397, or questions about registration, contact the Department of Art + Design at 417-837-2330.
Taylor Ladd is a graduate assistant for the Department of Art + Design. She is working towards her master’s degree in writing at Missouri State University with professional interests in writing about art, culture, and food.