USC Forges Path to Senior Living Executive Education

With an increasing emphasis on the education of new and prospective leaders, the senior living industry is also under way with a push to educate existing leaders—an effort pioneered in part by several executives and two world-renowned schools at the University of Southern California. 

Now in its third year, USC’s three-day Senior Living Executive Course draws professionals from across the country to experience the cross-disciplinary program spanning the university’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and Marshall School of Business. The program, which took place February 24-26, is growing, and hopes to draw continued interest from those in in the industry and those interested in learning more about it, with USC spearheading a leadership position on aging topics. 

“USC was the first school of gerontology in the nation. We are considered the largest and best private institution for education and research on aging in the world, so it’s natural for us to assume a position of leadership in senior living,” says Ed Schneider, M.D., professor of gerontology at the Andrus Gerontology Center and a Professor of Medicine at the USC School of Medicine.


From mock depositions and litigation topics to the biology of aging, culture development and CEO perspectives, participants in the course learn about practical issues relevant to aging and business, specifically geared toward senior living. The brainchild of USC and senior living leaders including Patricia Will, CEO and Founder of Belmont Village; Loren Shook, CEO and Founder of Silverado; and Mercedes Kerr, executive vice president of business development at Welltower (NYSE: HCN), the program has gained attendance each year with positive feedback driving the course forward. In its first year, the course had around two dozen attendees; this year it has grown to more than 60. 

Attendees earn a certificate upon completion of the course, which they can use as a measure of continuing education in their senior living careers, says Greg Bearce, professor of gerontology at USC. 

“The certificate of attendance [is] of great interest to people who don’t have a graduate degree,” he says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have anything they can put on their wall. The idea of having something on the wall from USC that talks about the Marshall School and Davis School, if framed correctly, can be elevating. This is something people don’t have and they aspire to have.”


With positive feedback and ratings each year, the program hopes to continue in its fourth year with a growing group of attendees. As the industry continues to address new business challenges with the changing landscape for senior living, the curriculum shifts accordingly. 

“There are a number of challenges facing the senior living industry and we try to bring representatives to address them,” Schneider says. “I think we’re going to see a much higher level of acuity in assisted living. People who today are sent to nursing homes will be in assisted living. The industry will have to respond to that.”

The Davis School also educates undergraduates and graduate students on aging topics relating to senior living, with its professors noting an increasing level of interest in senior living studies. In his Current Issues in Aging Services Management course, which has been offered for several years, the number of students has increased tenfold, Bearce says. 

“I started with six students and today I have 60,” he says. “That is a huge increase. More and more students are looking at every conceivable way of using this degree in all kinds of things.” 

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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