Michael Vale: Working to be Professor Vale

Michael Vale will be the student speaker at the Spring Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15, at 2 p.m. He is He is graduating with a B.A. in Psychology, summa cum laude.

Hometown: Fairport Harbor, Ohio

Graduate: Fairport Harding High School

What’s next?

I will be continuing my education at UA in the Adult Development and Aging Psychology Ph.D. program. I will work with Dr. Toni Bisconti and will be researching empathy and resilience in widowhood, bereavement in same sex couples and perceived discrimination in older adults.

Q: Best advice you ever got from a professor?

A: Dr. Toni Bisconti’s actions as a teacher and role model have instilled many life lessons that have altered the way I think, both in academic and personal settings. Perhaps, the most imperative in my learning trajectory has been “to always act on authenticity.” Do not let others define whom you “should” or “could” be. Simply just be you. Do not let others dictate what you “should” do with your life or even what to say. Do what you want, and say what you mean. It merely makes for a better life, in how you view yourself and your work. This does not mean to ignore or discount other’s opinions and act on arrogance or self-righteousness, it means to listen and appreciate you. You are the first and perhaps the most important person with whom to be sincere and honest. If you are not authentic with yourself, how can you be sincere or genuine with somebody else?  

Q: Did you do an internship or co-op? How did that help you prepare for a career? 

A: I interned as an ombudsman at Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities, advocating for residents in long-term care facilities to promote increasing the quality of life for residents. This experience was unique, as I was trained as a typical volunteer ombudsman in skills such as complaint handling and advocating, in addition to being instructed on how to implement and advise Music and Memory Programs across the greater Akron-Canton area. Music and Memory Programs target improving the quality of life and memory of those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia by distributing music players to residents, like iPods, that have specific playlists tailored individually. The exposure I received as an ombudsman allowed me to directly work with a population that I care so much about and focus on abilities rather than the stereotypical deficits that stigmatize these people. Working with the participants in the Music and Memory Program was a truly remarkable, life altering and overall salient experience that will forever be one of my most cherished memories.

Q: What’s your ultimate career goal?

A: My intentions are to someday become a professor at the university level and debunk misperceptions of aging, while positively impacting the lives of older adults, both through my own research and being a student-oriented instructor. I hope to also examine aging in non-majority populations as their trajectories may differ dramatically from the majority.