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Cycle 2 BEL Program

The CSWE Gero-Ed Center aims to recruit undergraduates to gerontological (gero) social work field placements, MSW level specializations, and careers by involving students in direct interaction with older adults through experiential learning activities. The Cycle 2 BEL Program, 2010-2012, funded 10 BSW programs to embed and sustain experiential learning activities with older adults into one or more required generalist courses.


Over 2000 students engaged with an older adult through an experiential activity from 2010-2012. All programs reported that students are better prepared to work with older adults and their families than they were prior to their participation. Additional accomplishments include: 

  • Over the two years, the cost per student averaged only $19
  • 65 faculty taught classes that incorporated experiential learning activities with older adults.
  • Many BEL projects incorporated diversity: 90% included racial/ethnic/cultural diversity; 60% included diversity related to sexual orientation, and 60% included elders from rural areas. 
  • 70% of project directors agreed that other faculty in their programs are likely to infuse gero experiential learning activities in their courses in the future. 

What do Cycle 2 BEL grantees say? 

"The greatest success has been the increased interest in social work with aging adults. Many students have indicated a fear of working with older adults ... However, after learning more and experiencing personal contact with older adults, they report they might now consider that practice field."

"Some students who had not considered working with seniors are now openly thinking about requesting their senior placement with seniors adults."
"…We are able to show that the [BEL] activities produced a significant increase in students who said they would want to take an aging specific course or pursue a career working with older adults."

"I gained a renewed awareness of how important and invigorating hands-on work can be for students in learning the curriculum and embracing a population they didn’t think they would embrace. "

"The gerontology class reached capacity during spring registration BEFORE the child welfare class reached capacity! I believe this was a result of the work the students did in the research class, as well as positive comments from other students who had taken the gerontology class and then taken the research class."