Being an alum of a school like CCSU keeps me connected to the roots of my profession while also giving me an opportunity to be a part of a community of people wanting to learn more, discover new ways of experiencing life while being connected to a whole new generation of students.
On June 29th, 2016, the Continuing Education Department at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) teamed up with AARP to bring the event “Life Reimagined,” presented by Joyce Ramsey and Tia Murphy, to Memorial Hall. Throughout the two-hour event, the hosts conducted multiple interactive exercises. The primary objective for these exercises was to teach the audience to “be the boss of your own life,” which was greatly demonstrated in a video about a man named Rich Luker.
Mr. Luker loved baseball and softball. Every day, he would stop by the park and watch people playing through the fence. He was growing tired of “watching life through the fence,” and eventually mustered up the courage to join in on the game. No more is Mr. Luker watching life through fence, he now had a community and was living life the way he wanted to.
After the video, the instructors took the audience through exercises to help them “follow a personalized GPS.” A personalized GPS goes through six practices of Life Reimagined: Reflect, Connect, Explore, Choose, Repack, and Act. This taught the audience to take control of their lives and be the person they want to be.
The event was organized by Erica Michalowski, who has been with AARP for over 13 years. In addition to her work with AARP, Ms. Michalowski is a CCSU alumni. She began her education with a focus in Accounting before following her passion of Sociology with a focus on Social Work. In fact, Ms. Michalowski was one of the first graduating classes to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Getting Social Work to be a part of the curriculum was her first introduction to community organizing in the macro world of Social Work, which she has now been in for over 25 years.
Ms. Michalowski praised CCSU for being a “grounded school” that allowed her and other students to connect their studies and interests with the community. The experience was one that she believed she needed. One of her professors offered the class an opportunity to participate in a peer education program that the school was creating. The opportunity allowed her to become more engaged in her career path.
With all of her positive experiences at CCSU, connecting back to the school by teaming up with Continuing Education is what Ms. Michalowski called “the icing on the cake” for her career. She thought of the Life Reimagined event as a walk down memory lane because she felt connected with other alumni as they all shared their experiences as they looked at the physical changes of the campus while remembering the good times they had at CCSU.
It was rewarding for Ms. Michalowski to organize a collaboration between AARP and CCSU. When people ask her what exactly she does as a Social Worker for AARP, she cannot keep a smile off of her face because it is the best job she has ever had. She explained her job as simply helping people find their best life in a way that makes sense for them. Ms. Michalowski thanks Ethel Percy, AARP’s founder, for making her feel at home while on the job. She admires Ms. Percy’s found principles, which still hold true today and guide the work of Ms. Michalowski. She loves her life, she loves her job, and most of all, she loves “the people, community, collaborators, the issues, the mission, the vision… All of it!”
For more information about upcoming AARP events held at CCSU, please contact the Office of Continuing Education at 860-832-2277 or CSterling@ccsu.edu.