BU students team up with senior citizens for project

While topics such as marriage, parenthood and divorce are common for sociology courses focused on the family, one class at Baker University is putting those concepts into perspective.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Jacob Bucher’s Sociology of the Family class is partnered up with senior citizens in the local area to discuss concepts students have learned about throughout the semester.

“The point of the project is for students to get a better, more real understanding of the issues,” Bucher said. “For example, many college-age students haven’t experienced things like marriage, parenthood and different things like that … to have a partner who has lived and experienced different iterations of the family gives them a different experience.”

When junior Samantha Crane first heard about the requirements for the experiential learning project, she was not sure the assignment would directly pertain to the class.

However, as she spent time working on the project, she realized it was both an “interesting and eye-opening experience.”

Bucher said he hoped students would develop a better understanding of the concepts and theories covered in class during the 10 or more hours they spend with the partner, but also develop an appreciation for the broader community.

“Hopefully they learn a lot of themselves and the class in general, but with this project I want them to think about their own families,” Bucher said. “I hope this project and this bond you create with somebody else helps you think about those things.”

Crane’s class partner, junior Chloe Mercer, said the project has helped her apply the concepts and theories she has learned about in class.

“While (Crane) and I were having our meetings with (our partner), she would be talking and I would throw in my ideas of how to relate it to topics that we’ve talked about either the week before or earlier weeks in class,” Mercer said. “I could recall these things and it was easier for me to learn the concepts.”

While students gained perspective on the information learned in class, the project also sparked Crane and Mercer to reflect on relationships in each of their own lives.

Crane said she is similar to her senior partner and can easily relate to her life experiences.

“I look at relationships differently now, too. I’m a lot like my partner,” Crane said. “She has been through a lot and she’s really wise when it comes to choosing who you should be with. That opened my eyes a lot, too, to see how my relationships are.”

Crane said that while her senior partner did provide her with interesting incites on marriages and dating, she also gave her advice on a different type of relationship.

“She told us the most important piece of information and the most wise thing she could tell us was to get a dog. She said they are the most loyal and they will never abandon you,” Crane said.

Mercer has also learned valuable lessons from this partnership.

“I think I will take away that life will get you down, and it might not be the way that you really planned, but if you keep your head up and keep persevering things will eventually start to go your way again,” Mercer said. “My partner talked about how life seems to throw a lot at you at the same time but you can always handle it.”

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