Union Institute & University alumna Dr. Barbara Vacarr (Ph.D. 1993) was recently named one of the top 50 Influencers in Aging by the PBS show and website Next Avenue. She joins the company of Maria Shriver, Glen Campbell, and Marc Freedman who also made the list of top influencers in 2015. Dr. Vacarr was singled out for her knowledge of adult, non-traditional learning and diversity education and her quest to focus higher education on the vast, untapped potential of America’s older adults.
As the Director of the Encore Higher Education Initiative, she is spearheading a campaign to get America’s colleges and universities to better serve students in midlife or beyond. In her article “An Aging America: Higher Education’s New Frontier” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Vacarr writes about the changing demographics and the opportunities.
“At a time when traditional ‘retirement’ increasingly marks the beginning of a new phase of work (whether by choice, necessity, or some combination of the two), millions will need help if they are to make a successful transition. Looking toward another two, three, or even four decades of healthy active life, many people are eager to gain new skills and the credentials that will help them move into a new work-life chapter. Like students of traditional college age, they also will need help navigating what is fast being recognized as one of life’s major transitions, akin to adolescence in its significance.”
Dr. Vacarr earned her Ph.D. with a concentration in psychology from Union Institute & University in 1993. She is the former president of Goddard College, founder and senior leader of an Intergenerational Women’s Mentoring Collective, and a project leader for the Cambodian Youth and Missing History Project. She is the founding director of the Ph.D. in Adult Learning Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she developed and led doctoral, master’s and bachelor degree programs in adult education, mental health counseling, and organizational leadership. Dr. Vacarr has also served as an interviewer for the visual history of the Shoah project.