Grad Profile: April Mathews

April and Marilyn standing together and smiling for a picture

We congratulate April Mathews class of 2018! As a first-generation student, Mathews will be graduating with a degree in Gerontology. She transferred from Chemeketa Community college and is part of Sigma Phi Omega International Academic Honor & Professional Society in Gerontology. She chose WOU because of it’s proximity and appealing price. 

What do you love most about WOU?
I love the Gerontology and Behavioral Sciences faculty the most. The dedication that they show their students makes WOU feel like home (and they feel like family).

What do you love most about the major/minors you completed?
Getting my AB in Gerontology is not only a huge accomplishment, but it has fostered my love for older adults even more than I ever thought it could.

Outside of class, what were you involved in on campus?
I was a practicum student at Center 50+ in Salem and at the Monmouth Senior Community Center. I assisted an older adult in Salem and volunteered for OSU’s Gerontology Conference. 

What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
The Age-Friendly Salem Communication and Information Survey that I created and implemented for my practicum at Center 50+ was used in the keynote speech at the 2018 OSU Gerontology Conference. The survey and its data will assist Center 50+ and the City of Salem in its effort to become a World Health Organization (WHO) Age-Friendly city.

Additionally, the Tech Workshop, “Taking the Fear Out of Technology,” that I organized and facilitated at Center 50+ was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. The 50+ director put her confidence in me and I pulled it off in a hugely successful way. About 60 older adults showed up for the workshop which included online safety, adaptive technology, virtual reality, and how to safely use social media. She even wrote about me in an article for the Northwest Senior and Boomer Newspaper (May edition).

Has there been a class or professor that has been particularly inspiring to you?
I was struggling to figure out my major and I took Developmental Psychology with Dr. Manoogian. That was it, she had me hooked. She gave my love for older adults a name and me a path for my future. I always tell her that she is our “Mama Duck” making sure that we do not fall in the storm drain.

What will you miss most about college?
I will miss my professors and my school friends, because they have become family. There is a lot of camaraderie in the gerontology program and I think I will have some of these friends for life.

April Mathews and Dr. Manoogian standing together smiling for a picture
April Mathews and Dr. Manoogian

What are your plans for after graduation?
My dream job would be the Computer Lab Coordinator for a place like Center 50+. I am also going to look into being a program assistant for businesses like The Alzheimer’s association or AARP.

What advice do you have for current and future Wolves?
Soak up all of the knowledge you can and take advantage of the volunteering and networking opportunities. The gerontology faculty work really hard to make sure that we have a ton of ways to get and stay connected.

What do you know now that you wish you knew your first term in college?
I wish I had known my major when I started here at Western. Only a few of the classes I took that first year went towards my degree.

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, my favorite places on campus are the computer lab areas. I have spent a lot of time in Hamersly Library, the Behavioral Sciences computer lab, and ITC003 doing coursework.

Did you have any funny mishaps or moments of confusion when you first started at WOU?
My very first day, I almost had a panic attack. I thought, “What am I doing here? I’m so much older than all of these kids!” But I got over it and here I am graduating!

What’s the most important lesson you learned about yourself while in college?
That no matter what it is I am scared of, taking the first step is always the hardest, but in the end, it is all worth it!

Are you happy you returned to get a degree? What would you suggest for someone who is thinking about returning?
Absolutely! I would tell them to just take it one step at a time, keep in touch with your advisor, and never give up!

What is your favorite part of working with older adults? How does it drive you forward?
I think that my favorite part of working with older adults is the wisdom and experience they bring to the table. Knowing that I was meant to work with/for older adults keeps me moving forward and taking those sometimes scary first steps.

Why do you think it is so important to include older adults in communities?
Again, the wisdom and experience they bring to the table is amazing. I love to see inter-generational connections being made. Older adults have so much to give the younger generations, and the younger generations have so much to give older adults. Being inclusive in this way can make the world a better place for people of all ages.

What was your practicum like at Center 50+?
My Center 50+ practicum was my most favorite college experience. Marilyn Daily instantly showed me that she had all of the respect and confidence in my abilities from day one. She really just sat back and watched what I could do. Planning and facilitating the Technology Workshop was like a dream. I was so proud when it was over, Marilyn even wrote an article that featured myself and a few other interns for the Northwest Senior & Boomer newspaper. Also, being able to create and implement the Communication and Information survey for their website was really an honor. When Salem becomes an age-friendly city based on the World Health Organization’s checklist, I will get to say, “I was a part of that!”

What was it like to be a part of the gerontology conference in such a unique way?
Volunteering at the conference was an amazing experience in itself, but when my survey came up on the keynote speaker’s presentation, I was FLOORED! And of course Dr. Manoogian stood up afterwards and introduced me to the approximately 400 conference goers as the student who designed the survey. It was like a dream and I was so proud that my work as a student had traveled all the way to an AARP executive.