Spring 2011

Time and Place:

Monday 6:00-9:00 PM, TODD 210


J. Brandon Wallace, Ph.D.

Instructor's Office, Phone, and Email:

TODD 330, 898-5976,

Office Hours:

MWF 8:00-11:15 AM and 12:30 PM-1:15 PM.  Other times by appointment.

It is the responsibility of each student to read and understand this syllabus. It acts as an agreement between the student and the instructor specifying the rights and responsibilities of each. Be sure to clarify any questions you may have about the syllabus as soon as possible.


SOC 6550 is a graduate seminar focusing on aging as a social phenomenon.  It will address the theoretical and empirical work in the area of social gerontology, as well as policy and program issues relating to aging and old age.  The course is a graduate seminar in which students are expected to contribute substantially to each class session.  They are expected to have completed all readings and assignments and to be able to present and discuss these materials during the seminar.  While the professor will lecture, many seminar sessions will be student lead.  Students are expected to be courteous and respectful of other persons and opinions.  While it is not required that you agree with all the arguments presented in the seminar, you are expected to be able to indicate an understanding of these arguments on exams.


The required texts for the course are Aging Nation by James Schulz and Robert Binstock and The Aging Networks by Kelly Niles-Yokum and Donna Wagner. Both should be available in the bookstore but may be purchase from any textbook source. For those with little or no coursework in gerontology, I recommend you obtain Social Gerontology by Nancy Hooyman and H. Asuman Kiyak.  This text is used in our undergraduate gerontology courses.  Copies should be available in local bookstores.  You may be able to borrow a copy.  Other readings will be distributed in class or accessed via the Internet.  Students are also expected to do independent reading related to course assignments.


Students are expected to complete assigned readings, attend class, participate in classroom discussions, and take good notes.  There will be two take-home essay exams, a midterm and a final.  Each exam will contain four to six essay questions.  Students will have two weeks to write their answers.  Each exam is worth 100 points.

Additionally, students will read and summarize for the class 10 news articles (approximately one each week) related to aging and the elderly.  Students are encouraged to select articles addressing federal or state policies, programs, or services and to choose articles on a variety of topics.  You may not present an article summarized by another student so you may want to come prepared to discuss two or three different articles each evening in case another student discusses an article you have chosen.  The presentations should be approximately 5 minutes long and are worth 10 points each for a total of 100 points.  To assist you in finding articles, visit the "Aging in the News" website hosted by the Aging Studies Program at MTSU.  This site contains links to diverse news items about aging and the elderly and is updated almost daily.  Students should be prepared to discuss their first article the second week of class (1/31).

Finally, each student will write a paper on and lead the class in a discussion of one of the service and program areas listed in the "Other Programs and Services" section of the course outline.  The written paper is due the final class session (5/2).  The dates of the discussion are the same as the dates each service area is scheduled to be addressed in the course outline and are listed below for your convenience.  Students are to indicate their choice of service and program area by the second week of class (1/31).  Those who volunteer first will get first choice. 

March 21:   Information and Referral Services or Senior Centers and Adult Day Care
March 28:   Volunteerism and Civic Engagement or Housing and Living Arrangements
April 4:        Family and Caregiver Support or Transportation Services
April 11:      Legal and Justice Services or Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Services
April 18:      Education and Life-Long Learning

In both the presentation to the class and written paper you are expected to:

(1) summarize and elaborate on the relevant chapter from the textbook, providing a thorough discussion of the specific services and programs available in the selected area, the legislation that authorizes them, and how they are funded;
(2) discuss specific programs and services available in middle Tennessee, the agencies and organizations that provide them, and their funding sources (you may focus on a specific middle Tennessee city and/or county if you wish); and
(3) provide a detailed discussion of a specific agency or organization addressing the programs and services they offer, their organizational structure and affiliations, and their funding sources.  You are also to interview one person in a leadership role in the organization asking them to discuss (a) their job, including their title, a description of what they do, how long have they worked in their current position, what they did before assuming their present position, how much contact they have with the aged, whether they enjoy working with the elderly, etc.; (b) what kind of education/training they have, have they had specialized training in gerontology/aging, do they consider themselves a gerontologist or aging specialist, do they feel their training was adequate, etc.; (c) how effective do they feel their organization is in providing programs and services to the aged, could or should it do more, how could the organization/agency improve; (d) what do they see as the most significant problem or issue faced by the elderly today.

You are encouraged to use PowerPoint or similar software in your presentation to the class.

The class room presentation is worth 100 points and the written paper is worth 100 points.


A total of 500 points are possible. Each student's point total will be divided by 5 to yield a percentage score. Grades will be assigned according to the following scale: 90-100%=A, 87-89%=B+, 83-86%=B, 80-82%=B-, 77-79%=C+, 73-76%=C, 70-72%=C-, below 70% if failing.


Copying someone's work, having someone complete assignments for you, and claiming another's written work as your own (plagiarism), are dishonest and will be considered cheating. Students engaging in such acts will not only fail the assignment in question, but may fail the course as well. Further, the professor may choose to report such actions to appropriate university officials (See the Student Handbook). Students should be certain that all work claimed as original is indeed the student's on work.


If you have a disability that requires assistance or accommodation, or if you have any questions related to accommodations for testing, note taking, reading, etc., please speak with me as soon as possible.  You may also contact the Office of Disabled Student Services (898-2783) with questions about their services. Students registered with the Office of Disabled Student Services will be accommodated as best as possible.


This course is a core component of the Graduate Certificate in Gerontology.  If you would like additional information about the certificate program, contact Dr. Wallace or visit the Aging Studies web site at

Additional information of interest to sociology students, majors, minors, and graduate students is available on the Department of Sociology and Anthropology web page at

The Graduate Student Sociology Association (GSSA) is an organization of graduate students in sociology. I encourage you to get involved. You can find their web page through the departmental web pages.