When Paul Fletcher first began his studies at the University of Southern Indiana, he was unsure of what career to pursue. There were a few “starts and stops” along the way for this non-traditional student, who was 36 years old and working in grocery store management when he decided to register for a course taught by Dr. Katie Ehlman, associate professor of Gerontology.
“When I started at USI, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but after I took this gerontology class, I just knew this was something that spoke to me,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to the older population, and I was interested in learning more. After a few more classes, I was sold.”
Fletcher graduated from USI in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Health Services with a specialization in Gerontology. He has been accepted into the USI Occupational Therapy program, and after graduate school, he plans to work in long-term care as an OT.
Ehlman said Fletcher is “easily in the top one percent of students” she has encountered at USI. “He has been an outstanding student with a near perfect GPA,” she said. “It has been a real pleasure for me to watch him take the jump from his grocery position to working in long-term care while in school. He has a true passion for enhancing quality of life for elders.”
During the Fall 2014 semester, Fletcher wrote a 10-page literature review for one of his gerontology courses on the topic, "life enrichment for long-term care residents.” Going beyond the class requirements, he continued to work on his paper in order to submit it for a national student paper award sponsored by Sigma Phi Omega (SPO), the National Gerontology Honor Society. Not only was his paper accepted for presentation at the National Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) meeting in Long Beach, California, in early March 2016, but he was selected as the winner of the 2016 SPO President’s Paper Award. (At right, Paul accepts this award from Dr. Lori Yancura, SPO Member-at-Large from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.)
“It was an honor to have the opportunity to present my literature review at the AGHE conference in Long Beach,” said Fletcher. “This was my first presentation at a conference, and it was a truly wonderful learning experience.”
Fletcher was also recognized for his dedication to learning and excellent work ethic in 2015 when he was awarded one of the competitive USI Adult Learning Scholarships.