Supporting older adults in Detroit through research and activism

Supporting older adults in Detroit through research and activism
Vanessa Rorai graduated from Wayne State's Master of Social Work program on May 5, 2016.

Vanessa Rorai is already using her Wayne State education to improve the lives of older adults through research and community leadership. When she walks across the stage at graduation on May 5, 2016, it will be one of many pivotal moments she has experienced at Wayne State University.

“I attended Wayne State because of the opportunities offered for social work students with a concentration in gerontology,” said Rorai, a Canadian student earning a master of social work. Her education has focused on the process of aging and services for older adults, as well as macro leadership, which seeks to impact societal change.

“I like the opportunities at Wayne State to get involved, learn more, and tailor my educational experience,” said Rorai. “I could participate in student groups, academic courses, research, and find placement options to suit my interests.”

One pivotal moment for Rorai was when she decided to join a learning community called Promoting Older Adults from Practice to Policy. “This gave me the opportunity to learn about careers in gerontology, gerontology-focused research, services available for older adults within the community, local agencies, and more,” she said. Led by Tam Perry, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, the learning community was Rorai’s first exposure to research at Wayne State.

“Dr. Perry would talk about the research projects she was currently conducting, and they sounded extremely interesting,” said Rorai. “I had previous research experience from completing my undergraduate thesis, but I wanted to see if I truly enjoyed it or not.”

Rorai started volunteering as a research assistant for Perry and said she “fell in love” with community-based research. This experience motivated Rorai to use research to enhance her abilities as a social worker and help make a difference for older adults.

In the past year, Rorai has demonstrated this commitment by joining the Senior Housing Preservation of Detroit (SHP-D) coalition, which advocates for senior housing in Detroit. Recent economic development has displaced some seniors from their homes.

“My involvement in the coalition completely aligns with why I chose to become a social worker,” she said. “I want to provide support and a voice for the vulnerable senior population and make a difference in older adults’ lives.”

Rorai also is part of the Urban Aging and Health Affinity group in the School of Social Work, which helps strengthen the geriatric workforce through educational and training programs, research and community engagement.

Through her involvement at Wayne State and in Detroit, Rorai has made a difference in many people’s lives. In return, her life has been impacted too.

“All of my experiences at Wayne State equal many pivotal moments that collectively impacted my future plans,” she said. “They helped me decide to choose the macro leadership track and to eventually obtain my Ph.D. in social work.”

Create more pivotal moments like Vanessa’s by making a gift in honor of Wayne State’s graduating seniors.

(May 5, 2016)

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