Faculty Spotlight: New NRC Co-Director, Britteny Howell

by Chynna Lockett  |   

Brittney Howell poing to hot air baloon being inflated
Sometimes Gerontology takes you to neat places. Howell rode in a hot air balloon while attending an NRC training event in Albuquerque Aug., 2023.

UAA’s National Resource Center on Alaska Native Elders (NRC) has new co-directors. Vanessa Hiratsuka from the Center for Human Development (CHD) and Britteny Howell from the Division of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) will support programs in Alaska that receive federal funding from the Administration for Community Living. NRC provides nutrition services, caregiving support, and elder abuse prevention programming to Alaska Native Elders around the state. Britteny Howell shares her journey into geriatrics.

Name: Britteny Howell, PhD, CPG, CDP

Email address: bmhowell2@alaska.edu

Title: Associate Professor of Health Sciences; Director of the UAA Healthy Aging Research Laboratory; Co-Director of the UAA NRC

Unit: Division of Population Health Sciences (DPHS)

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Tell us about your job and what makes it unique.

I been at UAA since 2018 and love the flexibility of working as faculty, determining the direction of my research and how best to integrate it into my teaching. I have had the good fortune to get to create 3 new courses on aging in the past 4 years: one of which is required of Bachelor's of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) students, one that is elective and offered during summer for all UA students on death and dying, and one which is co-taught under the College of Health Interprofessional Education prefix on aging and physical activity. I also get access to incredible new opportunities, like getting to co-direct the UAA NRC!

What do you love the most about your work?

I love working with students in a career area that they have usually never given thought to: human aging. I also love opportunities like getting to work with Vanessa Hiratsuka at the NRC.

How do you contribute to student success?

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Students in the Healthy Aging Research Lab assembling educational binders for a health education project with older adults called HOPE ED, January 2023.

I utilize several high-impact teaching practices, including Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) and involving students in research.

What was your journey that led you to working at UAA?

Alaska was my dissertation fieldsite from the University of Kentucky PhD program in Anthropology. After completing my field work, I worked for the state of Alaska in policy and advocacy for seniors and people with disabilities while I wrote my dissertation. I guess you could say that I came up here to work and never left. When the position in DPHS opened up, I had just graduated with my PhD and was ready to get back into academia.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment while working here at UAA?

I have had a few successes, convincing a handful of undergraduate students to focus their graduate or professional school training on geriatrics! That's what I love, to hear from students after they have graduated and to find out they are studying or working with older adults because of my classes or working in my research lab. 

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Like nearly every other kid at one point in their lives, a veterinarian.

What advice would you give to youth interested in pursuing a career in your field?

I have no idea, I've never met "a youth" interested in aging or working with older adults. If you meet one, please send them my way.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The Older Americans Act (OAA) currently supports a wide array of programs and services, including information and referral, congregate & home-delivered meals, health & wellness programs, in-home care, transportation, elder abuse prevention, caregiver support, and adult day care. The NRC supports a section of the OAA called Title VI, which authorizes grants for supportive and nutrition services to older Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Elders. Specifically, the UAA NRC provides culturally-appropriate and accessible resources, research, and other materials of relevance to Title VI programs and tribal communities.

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