Grad Profile: Lila Gardner

Lila Gardner holding a pumpkin

We congratulate Lila Gardner class of 2018! A first-generation student from Beaverton, Gardner will be getting her degree in Gerontology with a minor in Human Biology.

Why did you choose WOU?
For a multitude of reasons. It was affordable, the promise of small class sizes, my partner was studying here, it wasn’t too far from home, and I just loved how beautiful the campus was in the summer.

Gardner stands along side of her maid of Janeen
Taken at Lila Gardner’s Bridal Shower, Gardner stands along side of her maid of Janeen

What do you love most about WOU?
I love the culture around WOU. We’re a diverse student population and our clubs and organizations really show that and encourage every student to come, be involved, and acknowledge that diversity.

What do you love most about the major/minor you completed?
That from the first class that I took, I knew that Gerontology was what I was meant to study and eventually have a career in. I have been supported since before I switched majors.

Outside of classes, what have you been involved in?
I have worked on campus since my first week here at WOU in departments such as the Registrar’s Office, Business Office, Werner University Center, and the Mailroom. I also performed in two drag shows, once as a dancer and once as a choreographer and dancer. During my time at WOU, I also have served in ASWOU for three years, two years as a senator and 1 year as senate president. I also served as the Gerontology Club’s co-president this last year. These extracurriculars were often necessary in order for me to afford to continue going to WOU, but others have been time consuming (12+ hours on campus a day) but I’m so happy and grateful with how much these activities have shaped me as a person.

What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
This whole year really has been such a success! I was senate president and Gero Club co-president. I also got married after planning for two years, completed an internship, and about to be the first in my family to graduate from college.

Has there been a class or professor that has been particularly inspiring to you?
My practicum class with Dr. Winningham. The class had us going into memory care communities to research music therapy and dementia residents. After being at my site for five months, I walked in and one of the residents immediately started singing once she heard my voice. That was the moment I knew I was in the right field.

What will you miss most about college?
I think I will miss the support system that I have developed here. I know that I may not have one as extensive as the one I have here, but something I will strive for everywhere else I go.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I have a second internship to complete during summer. Afterwards, I hope to be working in an agency that advocates for and with older adults. I may be looking to move out of state to be closer to my sister and nephew in Minnesota and support my husband’s career in Athletic management.

Lila making a funny face at her dog while the dog looks unamused.
Lila Gardner and her emotional support dog, Pearl

What advice do you have for current and future Wolves?
Reach out and make connections. Don’t be afraid to utilize resources. They were created to support you and ensure your success! Switch your major as many times as you need to until you find something you love and fits you! Don’t be afraid to recreate yourself here. It may be hard at times, but it will be so worth it.

What do you know now that you wish you knew your first term in college?
That I would survive it all. At the time, it was so confusing and I was scared I couldn’t afford it. I wish I could go back and tell myself it would all work out  for the best. I would also tell myself to not waste time and energy on people and things that don’t support you and make you a better person.

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?
It’s the bench between ITC and the old Education building. My partner took me on a tour around WOU when he was accepted seven years ago. We sat down on the bench and looked around. It was clear to me then that WOU was where I wanted to go.

What’s the most important lesson you learned about yourself while in college?
That getting into prestigious career is the only way that I would succeed. I wanted to be a nurse for so long that I was convinced I would only be successful if I was a cardiac ICU nurse. Now I know I’m successful as long as I am passionate and hard working in all that I do.

What is it like being a part of the Gerontology club in an active leading role?
It has been a wonderful experience, especially since I wasn’t interested in it at first. Once I learned more and got comfortable in the position, I started coming up with ideas and plans for the year. I definitely thought it was going to conflict more and that I couldn’t dedicate the time necessary for the club. Instead, I was able to use my knowledge from ASWOU to help my club succeed. There were days that I would have a full day of classes, a club meeting, a Senate meeting, and an ASWOU Representative Assembly meeting and wouldn’t be home until 10 pm, but I loved serving both of my communities so much. I would do it again if I had the chance to.

What are some the things that you did for Careers in Aging week?
We had a social right before our alumni panel that I introduced what our club was about and what our major involved and the variety of careers that come from the Gerontology field. After all of that, we went to the trivia portion which I think people enjoyed. Other than that, I supported my fellow club members by showing up to each panel and making sure we had all of our advertising material posted.

Lila in the middle standing between two men who won the awards.
Lila Gardner at this year’s Leadership Recognition Night presenting the senate awards.

What is your practicum like at Northwest Senior and Disability Services?
It’s been wonderful. I am in the Adult Protective Services department and specifically working on Adult Foster Care Licensing. We go into homes and ensure that they are safe for residents, and that the residents feel safe and supported. This is type of advocacy is different than what I’ve been doing at WOU, but it is just as fulfilling.

What do you feel is the most integral things about a community? Do you feel this drives your passion for advocacy?
Support and resources. A community succeeds when everyone is looking out for one another and helping one another when issues arise. My passion for advocacy is fueled by this because communities can be a wonderful support system that is often underutilized and people get forgotten. There are so many resources that are waiting to be used, but so many afraid of the stigma that comes from it. A supportive community would allow for everyone to thrive without fear of judgement, and I hope to someday be able to enact and see that change.