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Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging

Institute for Engaged Aging

The Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA) aims to discover, develop and disseminate best practices for engaged aging through research, education and community outreach. Institute initiatives will enable older adults to be engaged in family and community living regardless of their social, economic, or health status.

Our Purpose

Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging

The Institute for Engaged Aging strives to discover, develop, and disseminate best practices for engaged aging through research, education, and community outreach. Institute initiatives focus on brain, mobility, and technology enabling older adults to engage in family and community living activities regardless of their social, economic, or health status. Research, educational programs, and community outreach generated through the IEA and its partnerships with Clemson faculty and regional organizations are critical in meeting the needs of a diverse older adult population. Census estimates predict that the number of adults 65 and older is expected to double to almost 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030 and, in South Carolina, the percentage will be even greater at 22 percent, reflecting its leading rate of growth of those over 65.

Our People

  • Affiliated Faculty
    Dr. Jessica Avilés
    Dr. Jessica Avilés

    Dr. Jessica Avilés is an Assistant Professor in the Industrial Engineering Department at Clemson University. Dr. Avilés specializes in understanding and enhancing mobility among individuals with a broad range of capabilities. Her previous research has focused on (1) fall prevention training among older adults in retirement communities, (2) evaluating low-cost prosthetics devices among lower limb amputees, (3) investigating the effects of complex and uneven outdoor terrain on gait, and (4) the effects of exoskeleton devices on mobility. Using a mixed-methods approach, Dr. Avilés aims to better understand human mobility and how training and assistive devices can enhance performance and an individual’s quality of life.

    Dr. Anna Baker
    Dr. Anna Baker

    Dr. Anna Baker is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Clemson University. She completed her B.S. degree at the University of Florida, M.A. at New York University, and Ph.D. at Louisiana State University in Clinical Psychology. She completed her clinical internship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center/Sonny V.A. and a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in medical adherence. Her research program focus on identifying barriers to chronic illness management and matching patient-centered interventions to address barriers. Her expertise is in anxiety, and she is particularly interested in the role of anxiety in patients with chronic illness.  Dr. Baker currently has two distinctive ongoing lines of health research.  One line of research focuses on improving the identification and treatment of mental health issues within the healthcare system through an examination of current practices and implementation of evidence-based screenings and interventions. The second line of research focuses on addressing both system- and patient-level barriers to chronic illness management and adherence through implementation of barriers assessments and appropriate evidence-based interventions. These programs both aim to improve patient outcomes by addressing mental health concerns and barriers to the management of chronic illness.

    Dina BattistoDr. Dina Battisto

    Dr. Battisto has studied the environmental influences on aging in place to identify the characteristics common among the homes and communities of older adults who chose to stay at home as long as possible. Quantitative analysis was performed using the Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest-Old (AHEAD) dataset, and content analysis was conducted from in-depth interviews with older single adults 80 years and older living in the greater community. She is also involved in a collaborative project with Dr. Judith Voelkl (PRTM) to create a “Family Model of Care” for nursing homes that includes the integration of a supportive organizational culture, a homelike environment, and meaningful activities. In another study, Dr. Battisto interviewed married couples from two cohorts to elicit information on their residential histories and the meanings attached to homes where they have lived throughout life. Her manuscripts about these projects include: “Environmental Influences on Aging in Place”; “A Family Model of Care: Creating Life Enriching Environments”; and “Gender Issues in the Home."

    Jody Nicholson-BellDr. Jody Nicholson-Bell

    Dr. Nicholson is a Professor Psychology and the graduate coordinator for Health Psychology. Click here to visit her faculty webpage and visit to learn more about her research program.

    Dr. Kaileigh Byrne Dr. Kaileigh Byrne

    Dr. Kaileigh Byrne is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Clemson University. Her research broadly investigates the effect of aging on goal-directed and habit-based decision-making. She is working to develop methods that promote positive goal setting and maladaptive habit breaking. In particular, she examines how aging affects health-related and financial decisions strategies, cognitive biases, susceptibility to misinformation, and responsivity to feedback. Current research endeavors in my lab seek to (1) characterize neurophysiological markers of age-related adaptive decision-making, (2) identify mechanisms of how and why decision-making changes across the lifespan, and (3) improve goal-directed decision-making across the lifespan by employing decision aids and biofeedback techniques.

    Kelly CaineDr. Kelly Caine

    Dr. Kelly Caine is Dean’s Professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division of the School of Computing at Clemson University. This academic year (2019-2020), she holds the CURI fellowship, which has enabled her to spend the year at Clemson’s Charleston campus. Dr. Caine is the founder and director of the Humans and Technology Lab ( where she leads multidisciplinary research in human-centered computing, privacy, usable security, cybersecurity, health informatics, and human-computer interaction. Her work in these areas has been recognized with awards from the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, the National Science Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. She is co-author of Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Research (2015; with Catherine Courage and Kathy Baxter) and has published over one hundred academic manuscripts in venues ranging from ACM CHI to the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Dr. Caine loves teaching students about science and has mentored over 60 students, ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows, as research assistants in her lab. Prior to joining Clemson, she was the Principal Research Scientist in the School of Computing at Indiana University and a UX researcher at Google. Dr. Caine holds degrees from the University of South Carolina (B.A.) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (M.S. and Ph.D.). For more see

    Min CaoDr. Min Cao

    Dr. Min Cao is an Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Microbiology in the Biological Sciences Department at Clemson University. Research in the Cao lab focuses on the inter-kingdom communications, i.e. the communications between bacteria and their hosts. Dr. Cao is also studying the effects of low concentrations of alcohol consumption on health span in the nematode model, Caenorhabditis elegans

    Hye Won ChaiDr. Hye Won Chai

    Hye Won's research focuses on family and social relationships of middle and older adults and their associations with diverse health outcomes (e.g., psychological, physical, and cognitive) in later life. She is particularly interested in examining how the dynamics of social relationships and health unfold across different time scales, connecting daily interactions to long-term health outcomes. Her interest also includes studying whether and how the associations between social ties and health vary by gender and sexuality and ways in which these processes relate to health disparities. Research interests include Social Relationships, Family Ties in Later Life, Daily Experiences, Healthy Aging, Gender and Sexuality, Health Disparities

    Shelia CottenDr. Shelia Cotten

    Shelia Cotten, a sociologist, is the Associate Vice President for Research Development and a Provost’s Distinguished Professor at Clemson University. She has joint faculty appointments in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Department and the Department of Communication. Her research examines technology use across the life course, and the health, social, educational, and workforce impacts of technology use. Much of her research has focused on the digital divide and digital inequalities, with a special emphasis on helping older adults to successfully use emerging technologies to enhance their health and quality of life. Her current research focuses on perceptions, use, and impacts of emerging technologies – such as autonomous vehicles, wearables, and smart homes. Her research has been funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Science Foundation, and other organizations. Before joining Clemson, Dr. Cotten was Michigan State University Foundation Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University.

    Brandi Crowe
    Dr. Brandi Crowe





    Dr. Nicole DavisDr. Nicole Davis

    Dr. Nicole Davis is an Assistant Professor and the Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner and MSN-Education Program Coordinator at Clemson University.  She is a board-certified Adult and Gerontological Nurse Practitioner with a career that spans 21 years.  Davis has expertise in urinary incontinence, geriatrics, and using health information technology to support family caregivers. She has lectured and published on these topics; and has received several awards and funding for her work. Davis is a National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence Distinguished Educator in Gerontological Nursing, which recognizes her commitment to gerontological nursing education and the care of older adults. Davis is a Faculty Associate in the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging, a Clemson University School of Health Research Faculty Scholar, an Embedded Scholar at Prisma Health-Center for Success in Aging, a member of the Board of Directors of Upstate Area Health Education Consortium, and a member of the SC Lieutenant Governor’s Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center Advisory Council. She has served as an expert consultant for the AARP and is a National Institute on Aging, Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research Scientist. She received a BS from New York University, MS from Duke University, and a PhD from Georgia State University.

    John DesJardinsDr. John DesJardins

    Dr. DesJardins is the Hambright Leadership associate professor in Bioengineering at Clemson University and the director of the Frank H. Stelling and C. Dayton Riddle Orthopaedic Education and Research Laboratory at CUBEInC. He has co-authored over 250 peer-reviewed conference or journal publications in the areas of biomechanics, tribology, engineering education and implant design. He actively engages in many professional societies and review panels, including BMES, ASEE, VentureWell, ORS, NIH and NSF. His multi-disciplinary research teams have been funded through NASA, DoT, NIH, DoD, NSF, the Gates Foundation, and numerous biomedical industry contracts. His work has been featured on TEDx and The Academic Minute on NPR. He directs the bioengineering senior capstone design program, leads a bioengineering study abroad program in bioethics to Spain each summer, and he directs the NIH funded Clemson-GHS summer needs-finding experience for bioengineering students called DeFINE. Much of his work focuses on rehabilitation processes, and the design and function of orthopaedic devices that enhance the quality of life for older adults.

    Emma Dixon, Assistant ProfessorDr. Emma Dixon

    Dr. Emma Dixon is an Assistant Professor at Clemson University, holding a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Division of Human-Centered Computing, and the Department of Industrial Engineering. Her research is in the field of human-computer interaction and human factors. She investigates technology use by neurodiverse individuals, individuals living with neurodegenerative and chronic conditions, and older adults. In doing so, her research agenda is situated at the intersection of health information technology and accessibility research. Her research primarily focused on designing, developing, and testing the usability and accessibility of socio-technical systems to empower people to manage and improve their own health and well-being. Due to the complexity of this space, she takes a mixed methods approach, using qualitative methods to ground her work deeply in situated understanding of people’s experiences, participatory design methods to democratize the technology design and development process, and quantitative methods to test the usability and accessibility of emerging technologies.

    Cheryl J. Dye
    Dr. Cheryl Dye

    Dr. Cheryl Dye, Professor Emerita of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Institute for Engaged Aging at Clemson University, has provided state and university leadership for several gerontology initiatives for the past 15 years.  Leadership positions have included: past chair of the SC Center for Gerontology, co-founder and past chair of the SC Aging Research Network, appointed current member of the SC Advisory Council on Aging, and invited current member of the state Alzheimer's Association Advisory Board. Since 2001, Dr. Dye’s research has focused on promoting quality of life of older adults, primarily through the use of community-based Health Coaches. She received two grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop a community health coach model for delivering one-on-one mentoring to discharged home health patients and to develop a community health coach model using small groups to promote hypertension self-management. The hypertension program, Health Coaches for Hypertension Control (HCHC), was designated in 2018 by DHHS as an Evidence-Based Program and since that time, Dr. Dye has disseminated HCHC in six states. In addition to her research in chronic condition self-management, she has also been funded to promote the health and quality of life of those with dementia and their family caregivers and to reduce fall risk of rural older adults.  She led efforts to establish two community programs providing enriching activities to those with early to mid-stage dementia which are ongoing in Oconee and Pickens counties.  Dr. Dye has received over $5.5M in funding as a Principal and Co-Investigator from agencies including National Institutes of Health (NIH), HRSA, the Kellogg Foundation, the Duke Endowment, USDA, Veteran’s Administration, and Administration for Community Living (ACL).  In 2020, she was invited to present at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging conference about her collaborations with Health Extension to promote older adult chronic condition self-management and also her establishment of the dementia day program, IEA Brain Health Club. 

    Dr. Angela Fraser
    Dr. Angela Fraser

    Dr. Angela Fraser is a Professor in the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences. She completed all her degrees (B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.) at Michigan State University. Prior to joining the Clemson University faculty, she was on faculty at both NC State University and Michigan State University. Dr. Fraser uses a team-science approach to conduct her research as her philosophy is that no one discipline or one person has all the answers. Real world problems are complex so need to be viewed through multiple lens so she actively seeks multi-disciplinary collaborations to complete her research activities. Her research follows two broad lines of inquiry – (1) environmental sanitation in healthcare and food production settings and (2) food pantry capacity to provide medically-tailored groceries to those diagnosed with a chronic disease. Her most current funded projects center around studying the efficacy and effectiveness of disinfection strategies in long-term care settings as long-term care facilities are common settings for healthcare-associated infections, such as human norovirus. Dr. Fraser is also part of the University of Utah U-Power Total Worker Health Program. Her specific project aims to determine the relationship between power and proper implementation of environmental sanitation practices in nursing homes. Also, she is currently mentoring a group of graduate and undergraduate students to characterize if and how U.S. food pantries are sourcing and distributing medically-tailored groceries. Lastly, she is in the initial stages of exploring hygiene poverty, a hidden problem in the United States. Hygiene poverty is defined as the inability to consistently acquire hygiene products essential to maintaining health.

    Alyssa GamaldoDr. Alyssa Gamaldo

    Dr. Gamaldo is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA) Faculty Affiliate. She has over 20 years of experience in conducting various scientific activities (e.g., participant recruitment & retention efforts, administration of surveys and psychometric/neuropsychological batteries, data management, data analyses, staff and early-career scientific training, dissemination of scientific findings). Her research focuses on identifying adverse (e.g., poor sleep, stress, economic strain) and protective factors (e.g., education, life satisfaction and social support) associated with cognitive functioning, particularly in populations at risk for AD/ADRD.

    Dr. Reed GurchiekDr. Reed Gurchiek

    Dr. Gurchiek is an Assistant Professor in the Bioengineering Department at Clemson University. His lab combines mobile and wearable technologies with musculoskeletal modeling and simulation for biomechanics and rehabilitation research. He develops algorithms for remote human movement analysis and uses them to monitor intervention efficacy and disease progression in both musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. Dr. Gurchiek uses modeling and simulation to estimate muscle and joint loads non-invasively and discover movement patterns that reduce the likelihood of injury. His research aims to improve mobility across the lifespan by investigating the root causes of impairment and advancing new technologies for optimizing recovery.

    Heejung JangHeejung Jang

    Post Doctoral Fellow





    Anjali JosephDr. Anjali Joseph

    Dr. Joseph is Professor of Architecture, Spartanburg Regional Health System Endowed Chair in Architecture + Health Design and Director of the Center for Health Facilities Design and Testing at Clemson University. Dr. Joseph teaches in the graduate program in Architecture + Health at Clemson University where she trains Architecture students in designing healthcare environments to support patient, staff and organizational outcomes.  Joseph’s research focuses on multi-disciplinary systems approaches to improving patient safety and quality in high stress healthcare settings through the development of tools and built environment solutions. She has served as principal investigator on multiple grant funded projects from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Kresge Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation and the US Green Building Council. She currently serves as PI on a multi-year patient safety learning lab funded by AHRQ focused on designing safer and more ergonomic operating rooms. Anjali’s work has been published in many peer-reviewed journals and she has spoken widely to national and international audiences. She was recognized as Researcher of the Year in 2018 by the Healthcare Design Magazine.

    Dr. Karen KemperDr. Karen Kemper, Associate Professor

    Dr. Kemper is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Science at Clemson University. Her research has focused on physical activity promotion, obesity prevention and chronic illness prevention and management. She has expertise in conducting research in community settings (schools, churches, housing projects, community centers, senior centers, afterschool settings, and a Historically Black College), conducting physical activity and functional mobility assessments, working with minority populations, and training student research assistants. Recently, Dr. Kemper co-authored a paper titled Merging Matter of Balance and Yoga: A Falls Prevention Pilot, published in OBM Geriatrics 2020.  She is a co-investigator on a grant from the Pete and Sally Smith Foundation with the goal of facilitating the environmental and system level changes needed to institutionalize a fall prevention screening, referral and intervention process in a small rural hospital. She is also the primary investigator for a subcontract funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to promote physical activity and health among children and families in the Monaview Elementary School afterschool program. Dr. Kemper is interested in the role that health fitness and functional fitness can play in protecting health, mobility and independence across the lifespan. Dr. Kemper is also the co-author of the book “If you have to wear an ugly dress, learn to accessorize: Guidance, Inspiration and Hope for women with Lupus, scleroderma and other autoimmune Illnesses”.

    Dr. Bing LiDr. Bing Li, Assistant Professor

    Dr. Bing Li is an Assistant Professor in Department of Automotive Engineering, Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Dr. Li founded and directs the Autonomous AI Research Laboratory (AutoAI Lab). His current research focuses on better sensing and perception for robot/vehicle intelligence and driving safety, and for smarter human autonomous machine interface design, and has been developing assistive and assistance technologies of navigation-safety aid to help the people in need. He has been working on to promote the research, development and education of autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) that is embedded in smarter and more effective mobility technologies to assist human beings. It is especially significant for people who need mobility assistance and for senior citizens, to advance their independent living, transportation activities and improve their quality of life.

    Dr. Xinyi LiDr. Xinyi Li, Assistant Professor

    Dr. Xinyi Li is an Assistant Professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson University. Dr. Li’s research interests focus on developing novel statistical machine learning methods to study public health. She has worked on conducting the imaging-genetics study in precision medicine for Alzheimer’s Disease, while incorporating abundant features, including patients’ demographic information, genetic/genomic risk factors, and neuroimaging features. She has developed novel methods to find the association between the neuro-images and the disease status while accounting for other individual information in the analysis. Once the association is identified, one can gain insights into morphologic disease information from the abundant features, smartly use the information as early detection and diagnosis tools, and guide optimal treatments. Dr. Li is the principal investigator of an NSF award, and a recipient of the IMS new researcher travel award (2019). She serves on the Early Career Advisory Board for the Journal of Multivariate Analysis.

    Dr. Ye Luo Dr. Ye Luo

    Dr. Luo’s recent research primarily focuses on three interrelated areas: social determinants of health, life course and aging, and gender and family relationships. Her research examines the relationship between socioeconomic status and health over the life course, and whether these relationships can be generalized to different populations and different societies. Dr. Luo’s work examines how life transitions in old age, such as retirement, grand parenting, living arrangements, and life events, such as elder abuse and mistreatment, affect health and well-being of older adults. Her research focuses particularly on how social services and social support at individual, family, community and societal levels modify these relationships. Recently, Dr. Luo has observed how an individual’s neighborhood environment has an effect on cognitive decline among older adults and middle-aged people in China. She has been published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Social Science & Medicine, and American Journal of Epidemiology.  Dr. Luo has recently received an NIA grant to further study the mechanisms and moderating factors in the effects of neighborhood environments and cognitive decline among older Chinese adults.

    Dr. Kapil Chalil MadathilDr. Kapil Chalil Madathil

    Dr. Chalil Madathil’s area of expertise is in applying the knowledge base of human factors engineering to the design and operation of human-computer systems that involve rich interactions among people and technology. His research covers the entire spectrum of system design: from identifying the user needs to designing and developing systems that inform and motivate user behavior and empirically evaluating the efficacy of these interventions. He draws on qualitative and quantitative methodologies including ethnography, contextual inquiry, surveys and controlled behavioral experiments to understand how humans perceive, make sense of, and interact with complex human-machine systems. His research in human factors engineering primarily focuses on designing and developing computer systems for complex environments in healthcare. He has explored how anecdotal information influences a healthcare consumer’s decision-making process, including the development and empirical evaluation of interface designs to support the decision making process when inaccurate anecdotal information is provided to the consumers. In addition to this research, he was part of the team that designed and developed the Research Permissions Management System (RPMS), a comprehensive statewide health information system designed for electronically capturing and managing informed consents, research authorizations and patient permissions in both clinical care and research settings. More recently, his work is focused on the design and development of telemedicine systems; specifically evaluating the nuances associated with such systems, when used to interact with older patients.

    Jacquie MogleDr. Jacquie Mogle

    Dr. Mogle is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Clemson University. Prior to joining Clemson in 2022, Dr. Mogle was an Associate Research Professor at Penn State University. Teaching interests include Research Methods in Psychology; Statistics for Social Scientists; Applied Data Analysis; Daily and Ecological Momentary Assessment; Practical Cognitive Assessment; Multilevel Modeling

    Dr. Winifred Elysse Newman

    Winifred Elysse Newman is a Professor of Architecture and Director of iMSE. Her research concentrates on spatial perception in architecture, ecological psychology, responsive and smart environments and neuroaesthetics with active research in data visualization, mapping, STEM learning environments, aging and adaptive environments and histories of technology and science. She received funding from the National Science Foundation, FIU, UA, Harvard, the Graham Foundation and others. Dr. Newman was a Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin with additional fellowships from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

    Jennifer OgleDr. Jennifer Ogle

    Dr. Ogle’s research area is transportation infrastructure design and safety. She studies road design and operations with a particular focus on the safety effects of the road-vehicle-driver system. Dr. Ogle’s primary research area is in the use of instrumented vehicles to measure operator performance and compliance with design assumptions. Understanding how, when, and where drivers comply with speed limits, stop signs, and other traffic devices will inform designers and enable the development of a user-centered road system. In particular, Dr. Ogle is interested in the study of young and older driver populations due to the safety challenges associated with these groups.

    Richard PakDr. Richard Pak

    Dr. Pak is an associate professor of psychology and director of the Clemson Human Factors Institute. His primary research interests center on the psychological factors surrounding the design and use of autonomous technology. Machines that exhibit autonomy will increasingly become prevalent in all facets of daily life and may have an unusually large impact on the daily functioning of older adults by assisting their health, transportation, or even employment. Thus, it is imperative that we design autonomous machines to be understandable and usable for people of all ages. Dr. Pak’s research has been funded for multiple years by GoogleX, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and John Deere. He was recently named a Fellow of the American Psychological Association for his contributions to the field of psychology. He received his PhD in Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2005.

    Michelle ParisiDr. Michelle Parisi

    Dr. Michelle Parisi is the Director of the Nutrition and Health Extension Programs for Clemson University. She oversees a program team that is dedicated to improving the lives of South Carolina citizens through health-related initiatives that focus on health education, health access, and health care system navigation. An important component of these initiatives is related to meeting the need for services and education in our senior population, a particularly vulnerable population existing in our rural South Carolina communities. Dr. Parisi is researching the impact of Extension programs like hypertension and diabetes self-management education and fall prevention education on the senior population of our state. Her research has been featured in the Journal of Extension.

    Christy Phillips

    Dr. Christy Phillips

    Dr. Christy Phillips is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA). Dr. Phillips is Co-Director of SHAARP lab and has a broad background in promoting well-being and everyday functional outcomes among older adults. She has over 30 years of combined research and programmatic experience related to optimizing and preserving health and functional abilities across the lifespan. Dr. Phillips’s research focuses on understanding individual and environmental level influences on behavioral and functional outcomes and applying this knowledge in intervention design and implementation. Additionally, she studies emerging methods and technologies that can be used to measure these influences and outcomes.

    Van PuymbroeckDr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck

    Dr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck, CTRS, FDRT, is a rehabilitation scientist and recreational therapist. She received a graduate certificate in Gerontology from the University of Florida during her doctoral work in Rehabilitation Science. Her research focuses primarily on the use of yoga as a therapeutic intervention, and has been applied to individuals with Parkinson’s Disease, chronic pain, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, stroke, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, and informal caregivers. A secondary line of research interest includes health promotion, improving balance through exercise for older adults, and yoga for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Along with her co-investigators, Dr. Van Puymbroeck’s research has been funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Clinical and Transitional Sciences Institute, the National Institutes of Health, as well as a number of local agencies and foundations. Recently, she has given presentations at the American Therapeutic Recreation Association Annual Conference, International Conference on Disability and Diversity, the Symposium for Yoga Research, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting. At Clemson, Dr. Van Puymbroeck serves as the Program Director of Recreational Therapy and as a Roy Distinguished Professor in Health Innovation Research. Dr. Van Puymbroeck also served as the President of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association and is a Fellow of the National Academy of Recreational Therapists. Dr. Van Puymbroeck’s Fall Prevention Laboratory is set to open in Oconee Memorial Hospital in the upcoming months.

    Dr. Zahra Rahemi, Ph.D, RNDr. Zahra Rahemi

    Dr. Zahra Rahemi, Ph.D., RN, is an Assistant Professor at Clemson University in the School of Nursing. She has studied older adults from a variety of culturally and ethnically diverse populations, their treatment preferences and end-of-life care planning and decision making. Her current research interests focus on an interdisciplinary approach to enhance older adults’ quality of life and end-of-life care. End-of-life care and advance care planning among culturally diverse older adults are important topics in health research. Advance care planning is not a culturally accepted norm and practice among many immigrants and culturally diverse populations. Dr. Rahemi’s interest is to find culture-specific factors for enhancing advance care planning among these communities. In her studies, she seeks to explore flexible and culturally competent models of advance care planning, which can be applied to diverse cultural groups to reduce health disparities related to end-of-life care. Some of her most recent publications include “Does ethnicity matter—Cultural factors underlying older adults’ end-of-life care preferences: A systematic review”, “Planning ahead for end-of-life healthcare among Iranian-American older adults: Attitudes and communication of healthcare wishes”, and “Preferences regarding and communication about end-of-life care among older Iranian-American adults”. Her publications have been featured in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology and Western Journal of Nursing Research.

    Dr. Dawn SarnoDr. Dawn Sarno

    Dr. Dawn Sarno is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department. Dr. Sarno applies visual attention techniques (e.g., eye tracking) to further our understanding of human performance in applied tasks such as baggage screening, radiology, and cybersecurity/online deception. Additionally, in each of these applied areas, Dr. Sarno is interested in how we can develop interventions that improve human performance, particularly across the lifespan.

    Dr. Čedomir StanojevićDr. Čedomir Stanojević

    Dr. Stanojevic is an interdisciplinary researcher who believes that the modern practice of scientific research and translation of findings is a collaborative endeavor that often crosses disciplinary boundaries. His research training and expertise have been shaped by ten years of clinical experience working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and are grounded within a person-centered and strengths-based approach. Dr. Stanojevic is committed to research and the development of evidence-based practices that can contribute to positive health outcomes for individuals with disabilities. His current research focus is centered on the population diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and on the interventions that relate to leisure and improved quality of life for these individuals. Dr. Stanojevic uses research in recreational therapy (RT) as a public health initiative to better understand how different interventions can address congenital and acquired health conditions, improve health outcomes, as well as increase the visibility of individuals with disabilities.

    Dr. Amy M. SchusterDr. Amy M. Schuster

    Dr. Amy M. Schuster is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Clemson University. Her primary research focuses on information and communication technology (ICT) use by older adults. In particular, how older adults ICT use relates to physical health, psychosocial, and environmental factors. Her research also examines workforce perceptions and impacts of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

    Dr. Lu Shi, Associate ProfessorDr. Lu Shi

    Lu Shi is an associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, Clemson University. His research interests include mindfulness science, telehealth/mobile health, and disparities in neural health and substance abuse. He teaches courses in healthcare operations methods, public health research methods, scientific writing and health economics.

    Dustin J. SoudersDr. Dustin Souders

    Dr. Dustin J. Souders is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clemson University. His research focuses on investigating issues around using advanced vehicle technologies to help older adults maintain their community mobility. In particular, he examines acceptance issues around advanced driver assistance (ADAS) and automated vehicle (AV) technologies, behavioral adaptations that might occur after adopting ADAS, and age-friendly interface design for both ADAS and AV systems.

    Dr. Divya SrinivasanDr. Divya Srinivasan

    Dr. Divya Srinivasan is the McQueen Quattlebaum Professor of Industrial Engineering and Bio Engineering at Clemson University, and a Faculty Scholar in the Clemson University School of Health Research. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2010, following which she worked as an EU Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research in Sweden from 2011 to 2015. She was recognized as an International Research Ambassador for Occupational Health Research by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare in 2014. She joined the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2016 and worked there as Assistant and Associate Professor during the period 2016-2021. While at Virginia Tech, she was recognized as the Dean’s outstanding new assistant professor in 2019 and as a Faculty Fellow in 2021. She was the recipient of the prestigious William C Howell Young Investigator Award from HFES in 2019. She currently directs the Biomechanics, Ergonomics, Safety and Training laboratories at Clemson University. Her primary research expertise is in the areas of human factors, ergonomics, and occupational biomechanics, with a broad focus on assessing and improving human health and performance in diverse occupational settings.

    Abigail StephanDr. Abigail Stephan

    Dr. Abigail (Abby) Stephan is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and an affiliated faculty member in the Institute for Engaged Aging at Clemson University. She received her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences with a concentration in Lifespan Development from the Department of Education and Human Development at Clemson in 2022. Her research a) explores the influence of intergenerational relationships in family, community, and educational contexts on learning, development, and well-being across the lifespan and b) examines social and psychological factors that promote healthy aging. In addition to taking an ecological, systems-oriented perspective, her work often employs a mixed methods design and is interdisciplinary, drawing from gerontology and aging studies, family and community science, developmental psychology, education, youth development, anthropology, and sociology. She earned her Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential to further the translation of her research to applied settings. Beyond research, she is committed to advancing the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based educational opportunities that support learners across the lifespan. She is a member of the Study of Healthy Aging and Applied Research Programs (SHAARP) Lab and the Contexts of Learning and Development (CLAD) Lab.

    Mary Anne Taylor

    Dr. Mary Anne Taylor

    Dr. Mary Anne Taylor is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Clemson University. Her research involves understanding the incentives that lead white-collar retirees to return to work, the effect of financial factors in predicting a retiree’s retirement and financial satisfaction, changes in cognitive function and its effect on training an aging workforce, and recruiting and retaining older workers. She is also interested in understanding the needs of low-income older workers.

    Kathleen ValentineDr. Kathleen Valentine

    Kathleen Valentine is director of Clemson’s School of Nursing and Chief Nursing Academic Officer of Greenville Health System. Valentine is an international leader in nursing education having held positions as Dean of nursing at the University of New Brunswick, Canada as well  associate dean positions at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Professions;  Florida State University’s College of Nursing; and department chair and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.  Valentine has also held various clinical positions, including Director for Patient Care Services at Kaiser Permanente, director of the Memory and Wellness Center and Diabetes Center at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University. She has also led regional and national initiatives to advance professional nursing practice and consulted with national and international health care organizations that range from Mayo Clinic to the Moscow Psychologic Institute. Valentine’s research focuses on the economic value of human caring, nurse-managed primary care clinics, and interprofessional collaboration related to services for the aging.  Her leadership in complex health care organizations across the United States includes hospital systems, large multi-specialty physician practices, health care insurers, and academic nursing. She is past president of the International Association for Human Caring and founding editor for the International Journal for Human Caring, she is also author of the book "Health Care System Transformation for Nursing and Health Care Leaders: Implementing a Culture of Caring."

    Dr. Pericot-ValverdeDr. Pericot-Valverde

    Dr. Pericot-Valverde is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clemson University. Dr Pericot-Valverde is dedicated to conducting research aimed at improving treatment outcomes among people living with addictive behaviors, improving currently available interventions for treating addictive behaviors, and elucidating the underlying mechanisms for addictive behaviors. Her research has primarily focused on tobacco use, opioid use and misuse, and the intersection of both addictions. She leverages her expertise and training in clinical psychology, clinical trials research, psychopharmacology, and experimental psychology for conducting research on these three public health issues.

    Julie VidottoDr. Julie Vidotto

    Julie Vidotto is the new director of Clemson University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a 1,000-member continuing education program for adults age 50 and older. Vidotto comes to Clemson after a 20-year career in museum and public garden education program administration, serving as director of education for the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, N.C., and director of visitor education/services at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She held positions at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C., and the Callaway Gardens/Ida Cason Callaway Foundation in Pine Mountain, Ga. Vidotto holds a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership from Western Carolina University, a Master of Arts in teaching degree from George Washington University and an undergraduate degree in ornamental horticulture from the University of Maryland. Her professional interests lie in understanding how organizations support complex partnership endeavors, with her most recent research exploring successful multi-agency collaborations in community colleges. Part of the university’s parks, recreation and tourism management department, OLLI at Clemson is a continuing education program and membership organization for adults age 50 and older. The institute offers lectures, courses, excursions and social events, as well as access to Clemson events and resources. Since its start in 2000, the program has grown from 85 to more than 1,000 members. The institute holds approximately 215 classes each year in interest areas that include technology, fine arts, culture, travel, nature and fitness, among others. The program is housed in the Charles K. Cheezem Education Center at Patrick Square in Clemson. OLLI at Clemson is supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization founded by businessman and community leader Bernard Osher that seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. The foundation supports 117 OLLI organizations in the United States, all of which are associated with a major college.

    Ellen VincentDr. Ellen Vincent

    Ellen Vincent, Ph.D. is an Environmental Landscape Specialist and an instructor in Environmental Horticulture at Clemson University who has done focused research on nature and health. Dr. Vincent has studied the impact of nature images on patient outcomes and her most recent research has involved the use of nature images with Alzheimer’s patients to increase engagement and reduce disordered behaviors.

    Dr. Ian WalkerDr. Ian Walker

    Professor Walker is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Senior Member of the AIAA. He has served as Vice President for Financial Activities for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and as Chair of the AIAA Technical Committee on Space Automation and Robotics. He has also served on the Editorial Boards of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics, the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, the International Journal of Robotics and Automation, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, and the International Journal of Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing. His research has been funded by DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, NASA/EPSCoR, NSF/EPSCoR, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Department of Energy, South Carolina Commission of Higher Education, Sandia National Laboratories, and Westinghouse Hanford Company. Applications of Dr. Walkers work in Architectural Robotics are focused on assisted living and aging in place.

    Dr. Yue “Sophie” WangDr. Yue “Sophie” Wang

    Dr. Yue “Sophie” Wang is the Warren H. Owen-Duke Energy Professor of Engineering and the Director of the I2R laboratory at Clemson University. She received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2011 and held a postdoctoral position in Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame from 2011 to 2012. Her research interests include human-robot interaction systems, multi-robot systems, and cyber-physical systems. Dr. Wang has received the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) award, the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, and the Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship. Her research has been supported by NSF, AFOSR, Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Army Research Office (ARO), Automotive Research Center (ARC), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US Army, and industry. Dr. Wang is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). She serves as the Associate Editor of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine (RAM), the ASME Journal of Autonomous Vehicles and Systems (JAVS), and the IEEE Open Journal of Control Systems (OJ-CSYS). She is also a Technical Editor of the IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics (TMECH). Her work has been featured in NSF Science360, ASEE First Bell, State News, SC EPSCoR/IDeA Research Focus, and Clemson University News.

    Dr. Joel E. WilliamsDr. Joel E. Williams

    Dr. Williams completed undergraduate training in exercise science and sports medicine, graduate training in health promotion, education and behavior, and in applied statistics. He completed postdoctoral training in evidence based public health, and in pediatric obesity prevention and health promotion. Joel's practical experience includes working as a Certified Athletic Trainer in an outpatient physical therapy setting, a Certified Health/Fitness Instructor for a large hospital-based fitness center, and a Chronic Disease Program Evaluator at the state health department level. Joel’s research interests include: health promotion, physical activity and nutrition behavior, obesity and chronic disease prevention and control, program evaluation, and applied measurement in public health sciences. Joel has worked on research projects funded through CDC, NIH, HRSA and USDA. He and his colleagues have completed evaluation contracts for private foundations, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the SC Department of Agriculture. He is a Co-Investigator (Evaluator) with Dr. Cheryl Dye on her Health Coaches for Hypertension Control projects. Dr. Williams is consistently engaged in service at the state, local, university, college, and departmental levels. At the national and international levels, he is a member of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Subcommittee of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Nutrition and Health Committee for Program Planning and Guidance. He is also Co-Chair of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine® Community Health Committee, which is charged with promoting the Exercise is Medicine® initiative (broadly) and providing guidance on improving linkages between medical systems and communities (specifically).

  • IEA Staff

    Eslie AguilarEslie Aguilar
    Eslie Aguilar is a Research Project Manager for the ACTIVE MIND study at the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging. She graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2023 with a M.S. in Medical Sciences. Along with her medical background, Eslie has been a part of basic science research projects focusing on a variety of subjects, including cancer therapy, addiction neuroscience, and immune function in cardiovascular disease. She’s passionate about improving health outcomes and looks forward to serving the senior population through the IEA. When not in the office, Eslie enjoys volunteering at a local equine-assisted therapy program, walking Athena her Afghan Hound, doing yoga, and creative journaling.

    Alina Alvarez.jpgAlina Alvarez
    Alina is the Research Assistant for the MIDUS study at Clemson's IEA. She is originally from south Florida and graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in English and a minor in Health Disparities in Society on the pre-health professions track in 2021. Prior to joining the IEA, she worked in an outpatient general neurology practice in the Duke University PDC. In her free time, Alina enjoys reading, visiting the South Carolina Botanical Garden, and axe throwing.

    Connie Bennett Connie Bennett, Research Specialist III
    Connie is happy to call South Carolina her new home state. She moved from NW Ohio after shoveling snow for the past 30 years. Before her move, in Ohio most recently she was the Practice Administrator of a busy surgical Ophthalmology practice for 11 years serving a more senior population. Originally from Southern California, Connie is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B. S. in Business Administration/Marketing. She and her husband thoroughly enjoy the outdoor life in the Upstate – hiking, biking, paddleboarding, water skiing, pickleball and tennis! Her 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren are learning to love the Upstate when they come from out of state for a visit! Connie loves meeting all the participants who participate in the studies here at the Institute for Engaged Aging.

    Chloe BloomChloe Bloom
    Chloe has a BA in Psychology, with emphases in Research and Religion, and is in the process of completing an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her personal interests include hiking, sci-fi, and baking. 

    Mary BrockMary Brock
    Mary Brock, M.J.M., is the Recruitment and Retention Coordinator for the PACT and ENACT studies at Clemson’s IEA. Mary was the Executive Director of Seniors in Service, a non-profit organization serving Northern Nevada. Mary has experience in community outreach and collaboration, grant administration, volunteer management and serving vulnerable populations.

    Josh FeldmanJosh Feldman
    Josh is the mobile app developer at Clemson's IEA. He has extensive software development experience in both industry and academia, and loves creating apps that delight users.

     Courtney Fine Courtney Fine
    Courtney is the Data Manager for Clemson's IEA. She graduated from Lawrence University in 2019 with a BA in Neuroscience and minor in English. Prior to joining the IEA, she worked on the EFIT and ENACT studies in Penn State's Center for Healthy Aging, first as a Human Research Technologist and later as a Research Project Manager. In her free time, Courtney enjoys reading, biking, and spending time with friends.

    Debra GalinskyDebra Galinsky
    Debra Galinsky is the Grants Specialist/Program Manager for the Institute for Engaged Aging. Her primary responsibility is research grant management, special projects and faculty support. She enjoys working behind the scenes to ensure that the Institute is running effectively and efficiently and takes great pride in serving the faculty. Debra holds an AAS in accounting and an advanced certification from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Prior to joining Clemson, she worked in the development arena for 20 + years raising funds for various non-profits and educational institutions. She also has extensive experience in donor relations and event planning.

    Marsha HamptonMarsha Hampton, Project Coordinator
    Marsha has a BA in Black Studies from Amherst College. She is currently working on 3 research studies including BAUMAP, CHAPS and HANDLS. She enjoys community engagement work and is an avid traveler in her spare time.

    Elizabeth HudakElizabeth Hudak
    Elizabeth Hudak, Ph.D., is a Research Project Manager with Clemson's Institute for Engaged Aging where she serves as the Trial Coordinator for the PACT study. Dr. Hudak earned her doctorate degree from the University of South Florida School of Aging Studies in 2012. Her research interests focus on ways to prevent or delay the onset of dementia among the older adult population. Dr. Hudak may be found attending sporting events and painting in her free time.

    Gina Lee JadunandanGina Lee Jadunandan
    Gina graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2020 with a B.S in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience and obtained two minors in Medical Sociology and Biology. Prior to working with the IEA, she worked with Florida Tech in their Animal Behavior Lab, where she did observations and coded data on black-handed spider monkeys. Her academic interests include brain development, health-psychology and variables contributed to maladaptive behaviors. Outside of academia, Gina enjoys experiencing new cultures, listening to music and drawing.

    Shannon LambertShannon Lambert
    Shannon Lambert serves as a Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging. Shannon has prior experience in non-profit management, fundraising, community outreach, grant administration, and teaching at the collegiate level. Prior to joining Clemson, Shannon served as the Executive Director of Pickens County Advocacy Center and as the Director of the Navy College Program at NAS/JRB Fort Worth. She resides in Central, SC with her family and enjoys training and showing her dogs, hunting fossils, and growing orchids.

    Pam LoudonPam Loudon
    Pam is leveraging her BS in Business Administration from the College of Charleston; her professional experience as a software designer, her operational knowledge as a nonprofit and charter school founder, her organizational skills as an alumni/development coordination, her life experience as a mother of 3 daughters, and her passion for making a difference in the world as a grant administrator for Clemson’s IEA.

    Jessica MackJessica Mack
    Jessica Mack has a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Clemson University. Before joining the IEA, she worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital and volunteered as a victim advocate. Academically, she is interested in clinical psychology with a focus on community outreach, diversity, and cultural awareness. In her free time, Jess enjoys live music and caring for her pets and plants.

    Jeff MeadowsJeff Meadows
    Jeff Meadows is a community engagement specialist at the Institute for Engaged Aging. He has a masters of education and is completing a Ph.D. program through Pennsylvania State University. Jeff is excited to work at the IEA and to help serve the local community .

    Yaswanth MulakalaYaswanth Mulakala
    Yaswanth Mulakala is the IEA Data Manager and also a graduate student pursuing Master's in Computer Science. He loves handling Big Data and Cloud-based platforms. In his free time, he works out at the gym and cooks great food. He's currently helping to manage data for ENACT and many other IEA projects.

    John Poland John Poland
    John graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2020 with a B.S. in Biology. Prior to working with Clemson’s IEA, John served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Mental Health America and Safe Harbor in Greenville. He then worked as a Behavioral Interventionist with JusticeWorks Youth Care, where he administered intervention techniques to children with behavioral issues. In his free time, John enjoys writing, reading, and weightlifting.

    Gabriela M. SanchezGabriela M. Sanchez
    Gaby works as the Digital Print Media Manager at Clemson’s IEA. She is originally from Mexico and holds a BA in Graphic Design from UNARTE (2014), and an MBA with a Marketing concentration from ITESM (2019). Gaby is passionate about branding, communication, and digital marketing; she is excited to use all her experience to serve the community. In her free time, she enjoys painting, practicing yoga and caring for her plants.

    Caroline ShreveCaroline Shreve
    Caroline is a Research Associate for the ACTIVE MIND and PACT studies at the IEA. She graduated from the Charleston Southern University Honors College in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology. She has 4+ years of experience working in emergency services and serves the Clemson community as a part-time Paramedic/Fire Fighter. Her academic interests include nutrition and community health. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with her family, and playing with her hedgehogs.

    Kimberly ScolesKimberly Scoles
    Kimberly Scoles, M.Ed. is the Research Manager for the PACT study at Clemson University's Institute for Engaged Aging. Prior to joining the IEA, Kimberly was a Research Manager: Data Collection and Analysis at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine and a research specialist and research manager at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In addition to her research work, Ms. Scoles coordinated for and lead Applied Behavior Analysis teams serving children on the autism spectrum.

    Lena Simon Lena Simon
    Lena Simon is a project coordinator. She received her M.A. in Humanistic Psychology from the University of West Georgia. She currently works on three research projects: BAUMAP and CHAPS. She has experience in conducting qualitative research in the black community. Her research is focused on social and cultural factors that affect the mental health and well-being of the black community.

    Brianne Stanback Brianne Stanback
    Brianne Stanback, Ph.D., is a Research Project Manager focused on Recruitment and Retention for PACT and Active Mind study sites. Before joining Clemson’s Institute for Engaged Aging, Brianne held faculty positions at the University of South Florida in the School of Aging Studies and Morsani College of Medicine. In her free time, Brianne may be found cheering for Clemson athletics, knitting, working out, and cooking.

    Connor StephensConnor Stephens
    Connor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Clemson University with a BA in Psychology and a double minor in Human Resource Management and Spanish Studies. Prior to joining Clemson, he served as an assistant manager for a national non-profit organization. He enjoys hiking, basketball, reading, and watching movies.

    Samual WileySamual Wiley
    Sam Wiley has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Clemson University. He has 23 years’ experience working in the aging and disability field. He has a background in case management and information referrals. Sam is a certified Information Referral Specialist in Aging & Disability. Throughout his career he has worked extensively with individuals and families involving Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, aging, disability, and mental illness. He has held jobs with Senior Solutions, The Department of Social Services - Adult Protective Services, Appalachian Area Agency on Aging/ADRC, and served as the Vice President of Programs with the Alzheimer’s Association, SC Chapter. He currently is employed with the Institute for Engaged Aging as a Program Manager.

    Skylar WeiskittelSkylar Weiskittel

    Skylar Weiskittel has a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from Clemson University. Before joining the IEA, Skylar worked as the study manager of a research team studying the effects of mindfulness on cognition and subjective emotions. She also has done research on the effects of simulated night shift work and sleep deprivation on cognition and subjective stress levels. Skylar would like to receive her PhD in clinical psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology. Academically, she is interested in Alzheimer's/dementia research, sleep deprivation research and neuropsychological assessment. In her free time, Skylar loves running, hiking and trying new coffee shops.

    Gabrielle YoderGabrielle Yoder
    Project Manager

  • Advisory Board

    Dr. Annette Christy, AARP SC Executive Council Member
    151 Country Lakes Rd.
    Easley, SC 29642
    Columbia, SC 29201
    864-859-1208 or 864-483-8880

    Alzheimer’s Association, S.C. Chapter

    Mr. Sam Wiley, Jr.
    Vice President of Programs
    Alzheimer's Association (SC Chapter)
    4124 Clemson Blvd., Suite L
    Anderson, SC  29621
    864 224-3045 or 800-272-3900
    Fax 864 225-1387

    Appalachian Council of Governments

    Mr. Tim Womack
    Aging Services Program Director
    30 Century Circle
    Greenville, SC  29607

    Ms. Barbara Jardno, retired
    Family Caregiver Advocate
    367 Fuller Drive
    Easley, SC  29640

    Alzheimer’s Memory Center

    Hiep Pham, MD, MPH
    Alzheimer’s Memory Center
    Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology
    7809 Sardis Rd
    Charlotte, NC  28270

    CU Institute for Global Road Safety and Security

    Ms. Terecia Wilson, Fellow
    Member, National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Clemson Downs, A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

    Ms. Ruthie Millar
    Director of Community Outreach
    500 Downs Loop
    Clemson, SC 29631

    Prisma Health

    Scott M. Sasser, MD, FACEP
    Chief Clinical Officer
    Prisma Health Medical Group Upstate
    Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine
    University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville
    Greenville, South Carolina

    Hunter Kome
    Chief Operations Executive
    Prisma Health Oconee Medical Campus

    Suzanne Swedberg
    Home Health Therapy Supervisor
    Prisma Health

    Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging

    Lt. Governor's Office on Aging
    1301 Gervais Street, Suite 350
    Columbia, SC 29201

    Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

    Dr. Julie Vidotto

    Pickens County Meals on Wheels

    Kim Valentin

    South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition

    Mayor’s Office on Aging
    Ms. Janet M. Schumacher, President SC AIPC
    City of Charleston
    ADA/MOA Coordinator
    50 Broad Street
    Charleston, SC 29401

    South Carolina Occupational Therapy Association

    Ms. Beth Todd, President
    250 Vinland Farms Drive
    Easley, SC 29640-6738
    864-918-7790 (home)

    SC State Senate

    Mr. Thomas Alexander, State Senator
    PO Box 142
    402 Gressett Bldg.
    Columbia, SC  29202
    Home – 150 Cleveland Dr.
    Walhalla, SC  29691

    White Oak Management, Inc.

    Ms. Beth Cecil, Mr. Douglas Cecil
    130 East Main Street
    PO Box 3347
    Spartanburg, SC  29304-3347

    Darryl Broome

    Former Director, Lt. Governor's Office on Aging

  • Institute for Engaged Aging Ambassadors

    The mission of the Institute for Engaged Aging Ambassadors, an academic, corporate and community coalition, is to enrich the aging experience by advising and advancing the research, teaching and outreach of IEA Faculty Associates and their students.

    Cindy Homer-BaronCindy Homer-Baron

    Cindy Homer-Baron is both an educator and a senior housing specialist. In the field of Education she was an Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire in the area of literacy learning and she directed a teacher training program at the University of California, Berkeley. Cindy also spent 16 years working as a Director of Sales & Marketing in the senior living industry. She sold apartments and condos to seniors who were independent or in need of assisted living and/or memory care services. She has a passion for helping seniors find a wonderful home which offers maintenance-free living along with healthcare services, if needed. Her goal is to keep seniors independent and active for as long as possible.

    Cindy is currently a senior housing consultant and lives in the Greenville area. She earned a master’s & doctoral degree from Northern Illinois University and an undergraduate degree from Ohio University. She has enjoyed living in New England, as well as in the San Francisco Bay area and the Chicago & Atlanta areas. Her interests are: taking classes at OLLI, reading, researching, traveling, fitness workouts, keeping up with technology, and connecting with her family and friends. Cindy can be reached at:

    Dr. Nancy McKeownDr. Nancy McKeown

    Dr. Nancy McKeown, licensed Audiologist in North and South Carolina, has been working with hearing impaired patients for more than 20 years. Her time in the audiology field has been focused on improving the communication ability of her patients through the use of properly fit hearing aids and aural rehabilitation. Much of her time has been spent educating the public on the importance of being your own advocate when buying and wearing hearing aids. Nancy has worked in both the private practice setting fitting hearing aids on patients of all ages and working in the hospital setting diagnosing hearing loss on newborns and infants. Nancy is a strong advocate of using real ear measures to verify the fit and performance of a hearing aid. She believes this is a valuable step in providing patients with exceptional care. Nancy is Board Certified in Audiology by the American Board of Audiology, a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, and has held her Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. She is a graduate of the University of Florida where she completed her Doctorate of Audiology in 2001.

    Dan RobertsDan Roberts

    Dan Roberts began his career in Information Technology began as a computer operator and programming tutor for Clemson University Computer Center.   He joined Monsanto Company after graduation and advanced to Director, Application Development – Fibers and Chemical Intermediates Division while developing and managing the corporate portfolio of integrated business applications, specializing in math-based planning and scheduling systems. 

     In 1986, he founded and was principal for Innovative Computing, providing consulting and application development for Planning/Scheduling Systems and Supply Chain Optimization applications for such global enterprises as Monsanto, Solutia, Shaw Industries/Berkshire Hathaway and DuPont.   

    In 1999, he joined Aspen Technology as a Senior Consultant and Project Manager where he led enterprise-wide Supply Chain Optimization application development and SAP Implementation for the merger of BP and Amoco, and for Cryovac/Sealed Air and Wellman Industries.   Dan also served as the lead Corporate Trainer for Aspen in Forecasting, Production Planning and Scheduling tools, developing and delivering courses to clients across the US, Europe and Asia. 

     Since 2004, Dan has worked in a series of Information Technology leadership roles for UnitedHealth Group – Optum Technology Division, developing applications and managing projects to implement leading-edge middleware tools that permit hundreds of health-information and insurance applications for this Fortune-5 company to share a central core of enterprise databases.   Dan also serves on the UHG Cultural Ambassadors team that defines and coordinates communication of the core principles, ethics and best practices that guide the UHG enterprise.  Dan’s work in the Healthcare and Insurance sectors has motivated him to assist in the founding and development of the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging Ambassador Group and to continue his education in Applied Health Research and Human Centered Computing. 

    Gail Stokes is Senior Editor of All About Seniors Resource/Referral Directory for the Upstate of SC.Gail Stokes

    Gail Stokes is Senior Editor of All About Seniors Resource/Referral Directory for the Upstate of SC. Building strong relationships with the professionals in the senior industry is key to making All About Seniors a valuable tool for professionals and seniors and their families.

    Becoming caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease was not in the life plan, but led Gail to a career of working in a field for which she became passionate. Serving seven years as community relations director at a local Alzheimer’s care community, it was her goal to learn as much as she could about Alzheimer’s disease and to educate others along the way. It was a privilege to work closely with families, assisting them with resources and educational materials, as they endured the journey of Alzheimer’s disease. Gail works closely with the Alzheimer’s Association through serving on and chairing committees for fund raising events and various other functions. She served as secretary for the SC Alzheimer’s Association, and in January, as a volunteer, will attend the 2019 Leadership Summit in San Antonio, Texas.

    Gail is a graduate of the inaugural class of Furman University’s Senior Leaders Greenville. The yearlong program challenges the senior population to get involved and become voices for the rapidly growing number of seniors in our community. Currently serving on the Board of Senior Action provides an inside look at the daily needs of our seniors.

    Gail serves as Membership Chair of Upstate Senior Network, Chair of the Greenville area Adult Interagency Council, and is a former member of the SC Silver Haired Legislature for Greenville County.

    Gail and her husband Bryan, a Baptist minister, are the parents of two children and two grandchildren and reside in Greer, SC.

  • Our Partners

    SCARN logoIn the next 20 years, the number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to top 71 million, more than double what the senior population was in 2000. It is estimated that in 2030 about 20% of Americans will be over the age of 65 years and that percentage will be even higher for South Carolina at 22%. Finding ways to help them stay healthy as they age is a growing challenge. Led by the University of South Carolina, in partnership with Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging, SeniorSMART involves a cross-disciplinary team of individuals passionately working on groundbreaking research, products and services to improve the lives of older adults and preserve their independence.

    A state-designated Center of Economic Excellence, SeniorSMART focuses on three key areas: SMARTHome, SMARTBrain, and SMARTLife.

    SMARTHome connects researchers in social work, medicine and engineering with the goal of enabling older adults to stay in their own homes longer through the use of new technologies and community services. This Endowed Chair has an academic home in the School of Social Work at the University of South Carolina.

    SmartState logoSMARTBrain promotes brain health through research and activities while working to prevent cognitive decline and the effects of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's and stroke. The academic home for this Endowed Chair is in the USC School of Medicine.

    The SMARTLife Endowed Chair in Aging and Cognition will be a Psychologist with a research focus on cognitive issues.  Some of the specific research domains may include (but not limited to): learning/skill acquisition, memory, problem solving, decision making, transportation safety, accidents/falls, community/home care, retirement, and rural issues.  The SMARTLife Endowed Chair’s academic home will be with the Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA) and the Department of Psychology.  The Chair will work closely with clinicians and researchers in Prisma Health.

  • IEA News

    Clemson University to play key role in ground-breaking dementia research funded through National Institutes of Health Grant

    The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging has awarded a grant of $44.3 million in expected funds over five years for the Preventing Alzheimer’s with Cognitive Training (PACT) study. Clemson University was chosen as one of six sites across the US to conduct this study, which is the largest primary prevention trial to date designed to test the effectiveness of computer-based training to protect against MCI and dementias.

    Read the Full Article

  • Support the IEA

    Your contribution to the Institute for Engaged Aging will promote initiatives enabling older adults to engage in family and community living communities regardless of their social, economic, or health status. Your gift will support critical research, educational programs, and community outreach that meet the needs of a diverse older adult population in the state and region. Make your gift today!

    Clemson University Foundation
    P.O. Box 1889
    Clemson, SC 29633-1889

    Be sure to include “Institute for Engaged Aging” in the memo line to designate your gift!

  • Contact the IEA

    Address: 298 Memorial Drive, Seneca, SC 29672

    Phone: 864-916-6220


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From The Director

Dr. Leslie RossDear colleagues, students and friends,

It is my honor to address you as we begin a new fall semester. The substantial contribution to current and new lines of research, sustained connection with the surrounding community, and continuous partnerships with organizations throughout the state demonstrate a strong commitment to healthy aging across the lifespan. I am eager and privileged to continue our efforts through the Institute for Engaged Aging (IEA).

Looking toward the future, the IEA has developed four core focus areas: brain, mobility, health, and technology. These overarching categories capture the trends we are seeing in our modern world. Our work in each of these areas will provide essential pathways to well-being across the lifespan through better programs and interventions, more advanced technological tools, and more supportive systems and environments. Outreach activities, educational opportunities, and research studies spearheaded by the IEA and our partners will keep these vital domains at the forefront.

We are also excited to announce the new IEA space located on the 5th floor at Prisma Health System’s Oconee Memorial Hospital (OMH) in Seneca, South Carolina. Our team has worked diligently to make the space comfortable and accessible to community members, research participants, affiliated faculty, and students. Having dedicated space in OMH reflects our commitment to learning from older adults and those who serve them in a space that allows our services to be more readily available to individuals and organizations across South Carolina.

The coming year is sure to bring opportunities for collaboration between members of the community, IEA-affiliated faculty, Clemson students, and organizational partners throughout the state. I am pleased to highlight five extramural funded research studies.

  1. The first, Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Cognitive Training (PACT) is the largest cognitive training study to date in the United States. As the Principal Investigator for Clemson, I am pleased to bring this study to the Upstate region with sites in both Seneca and Greenville.
  2. The second, Reducing Falls in Rural Older South Carolinians is led by Dr. Marieke Van Puymbroeck and is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services/Administration for Community Living. This exciting project brings an evidence-based falls prevention program to older adults in rural Upstate South Carolina.
  3. Recruitment for the Elucidating the Necessary Active Components of Training (ENACT) study, a project funded by The National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging that examines potential cognitive, psychosocial, neural, and biological mechanisms underlying the transfer of several types of cognitive training to everyday functioning in older adults, began in spring 2022 and is continuing to recruit participants.
  4. Tracking Real-world Activities in Life Study (TRAiLS), led by myself and Dr. Christy Phillips with collaborators at Clemson University, Prisma Health, and Penn State University, will pilot a novel app-based measure of everyday function and explore associations between cognitive, physical, and everyday function. I am happy to bring TRAiLS to the local area this fall.
  5. Finally, the Deception Awareness and Resilience Training (DART) study is a two-year, $5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to create digital tools that help older adults better recognize and protect themselves from online scams and disinformation. This project aims to reduce online fraud among older adults, who lose billions of dollars each year. SUNY Buffalo is the coordinating site collaborating with researchers from Clemson University (Dr. Darren Linvill, Dr. Dawn Sarno, and Dr. Christy Phillips), Lehigh University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

With our focus on brain, mobility, health, and technology, I look forward to advances in research, application, and education in these areas to ultimately promote optimal engagement and healthy living among older adults. Thank you for the role you will play in achieving this goal.

Dr. Lesley A. Ross
SmartLIFE Endowed Chair in Aging and Cognition
Director of the Clemson Institute for Engaged Aging
Associate Professor of Psychology
Clemson University