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Dutch delegates visit USC School of Gerontology

From left, Annelies Harps-Timmerman, Carolien Smits and Hugo van den Beld (Photo/Jonathan Riggs)

The USC Davis School of Gerontology welcomed delegates from the School of Applied Gerontology at the Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle, The Netherlands, earlier this month.

For one week, Hugo van den Beld ’94, Carolien Smits and Annelies Harps-Timmerman met with the USC school’s faculty, staff and students, toured Southern California senior services and explored opportunities for collaboration between the institutions.

“We wanted to help advance the situation of older adults in both countries, to enhance the profile and visibility of the two schools and to create new opportunities for education, research and community projects,” van den Beld said

Smits also had a personal connection with the school: Founding USC Davis Dean James Birren, widely acknowledged as the father of the field, had visited her graduate school 30 years ago in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

“We had been told about his insights and the pioneering work of the Davis School, and his lecture impressed us a lot. What’s more, we were invited to join him for lunch. This was quite unexpected to us as modest students,” Smits said.

“Jim Birren was sincerely interested in what students thought about gerontological matters. This taught me that no matter what age you are and how prestigious your work, you can always learn from and with students. I still try to practice this,” she added.

Continuing this international collaboration was important to the team, which faced challenges in its own country with many people unsure as to what gerontology even is.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from a university where they have many years of experiences in the field we’re teaching,” Harps-Timmerman said. “Besides that, we were eager to explore options for Dutch students and lecturers to go abroad and learn from other cultures and countries. It’s a very powerful way to learn.”

As part of their visit, the trio presented “Going Dutch: Aging in The Netherlands,” a lecture that focused on innovations in senior housing, long-term care and community services. The group also oversaw a workshop with members of USC’s Fall Prevention Center of Excellence.

Building on the success of their visit, the team plans to extend its connection to USC Davis by looking into creating joint research and exchange programs and offering nondegree training opportunities.

“The response from our students and faculty to our Dutch visitors has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to continue to explore the wonderful opportunities they have presented,” said Pinchas Cohen, dean of USC Davis. “Gerontology is a truly global field of study, and we are eager to promote the increased quality of life for older adults in every country.”

Added van den Beld: “Both of our schools have a lot in common, and this is a great beginning to a beautiful partnership.”

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