Monthly Member Spotlight

Q&A with Dakota D. Witzel, Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) from Corvallis, OR, USA.

  • Le CouteurTell us a little about what you are doing right now? (If in a PhD program—year, dissertation stage, qualifying exam, internship, what degree/program type, research interests, etc?)

I’m currently in my 5th year in the HDFS program at Oregon State. I am currently working on my dissertation proposal with the hopes of completing my degree in the Spring of 2022! My dissertation focuses around examining the utility of resolving one’s interpersonal daily stressors across contexts on negative and positive affect and the implications resolving daily stressors may have on health and well-being, long-term. I’m also on the market for post-doctoral programs!

  • Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments? (project completions, papers, presentations, awards, grants, etc?)

Other than the time commitment that is the dissertation, I recently received two GSA conference awards: a registration award with the BSS section, in addition to a poster award with the ESPO section! I look forward to the online conference this year as I am leading two posters and co-authoring a third. With two publications under review at various journals and one in prep, I hope to have more good news before the year ends!

  • Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference? 

I have absolutely had important mentors in my career. Both my undergraduate senior advisor, Dr. Dannelle Larsen-Rife, and one of my current advisors, Dr. Robert S. Stawski have been crucial to my current success. As a first generation college student, I did not even know research was a career option; let alone an opportunity for me. Dr. Larsen-Rife scaffolded me into research and made me fall in love with the career that can be both hair-pulling stress inducing and ridiculously rewarding. Further, Dr. Stawski has truly guided my education, knowledge, and has been a support through my graduate program. Without Dr. Stawski reigning me in during my first four years and pulling my head out of the clouds, so to speak, I would have been overwhelmed. Without their support, I have to acknowledge that I wouldn’t be here, writing a dissertation, let alone being a “member spotlight” with this wonderful organization.

  • What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?

To be perfectly candid, some of my initial motivations for studying aging were selfish. I wanted to know what might happen as I get older myself! Many people fear aging, and for me the fear led to curiosity. My scholarship can result in knowledge, intervention, or prevention both for myself and more broadly for the aging population, which I think is a unique aspect to gerontology. My research can also impact day-to-day living to make aging more manageable, more “successful.” As we know from just living life, every day is different and promoting healthy aging at the daily level can be particularly important for this variability.

  • What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research? 

It would have to be my first GSA. I attended my first GSA in 2018 in Boston and presented in both a Symposium and a Poster session. Yes, I was terrified, but after my presentations, I got to meet and discuss my research with luminaries in the field. They treated my like another scholar, rather than a student.

  • Tell us about your involvement in GSA. (How long have you been a member, why did you become a member, how has GSA benefited your professional development, etc?). Which Section do you belong to?

I have been a member in GSA since 2018 and am part of BSS and ESPO. I became a member when I presented my research at the Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston and continued to be an active member ever since. GSA has provided many opportunities to be a part of the community, and I personally have benefitted from a number of talks and meetings both during conference season and outside of conference season! I particularly enjoy the emails from GSA connect that keep me updated on things other scholars are doing.

  • How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?

To me, GSA is the main hub for the field of gerontology and aging research. I think it provides a much needed space for individuals who study this research to meet and collaborate outside of their main fields! I think GSA also serves a role to the public health community with it’s current attempt to combat ageism and reframe aging.

  • Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists?

Prioritize balance in your life and don’t forget to engage with things you love outside of research and work!

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